Got a networking coffee planned this week? Or maybe you read this post and decided that you’re ready to start flexing those networking muscles? In any case, good for you!
To help you get excited and feel prepared, I’ve put together some lessons I have learned and things I’ve seen in action to help you prepare for, and rock, your next networking coffee.
(For those of you getting started) Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you don’t know
Find yourself scrolling through LinkedIn only to stumble across someone with your dream job, or working in your dream field? Send them a message. Let them know who you are, what you’re looking for/why you want to get together (more on that below) and ask if they’re open to meeting with you. I think you’ll be surprised by how often people say yes.
Know why you’re getting together
Interested in learning more about a certain field? Setting up an informational coffee? Connected with someone you think is really inspiring and want to stay on their radar (or maybe even turn them into a mentor)? While it may seem like “coffee” is a fairly standard invitation, this get together can have a number of purposes and you should be intentional about why you’re setting up the meeting and what you’d like to get out of it. This will also help you with your coffee preparation. Speaking of which…
Now that you know why you’re getting together with someone, take some time to think about how you’re going to get (or give) that information. So take some time and think about your story (blog post about this coming soon!), your questions and your ask (if you have one). Plus, let’s be real, grabbing coffee with someone you’ve never met can feel like a blind date, which can add a little bit more pressure. Walking into a coffee with a clear intention and feeling prepared will help you take some of the pressure off yourself so you can let your amazing, authentic self shine right on through. Just leave those blind date cue cards at home…
You worked hard on your outreach, so don’t let it fall off the radar. I like to send a quick note the day before confirming that the coffee is still on and include the details – date, time, location. People are busy and sometimes things don’t make it into their calendar, they forget what day it is or something more pressing has come up that is taking their focus. This allows you to ensure that they will actually be there for your coffee, or can prompt a rescheduling if it’s needed (hey, things happen).
Show up early
You get one chance to make a first impression – don’t be late.
Say thank you
This person just took time out of their day to talk to you – that’s pretty amazing. Whether you walked away full of inspiration, or you just didn’t click, it’s important to remember that one of the most precious resources we can give is our time. So be appreciative – both during your coffee and after. I always make sure to send a short email expressing my gratitude (ideally within the same day). Get specific if you can – adding a personal note or thanking them for a specific insight shows you paid attention. If they agreed to an action item (like connecting you with someone, sharing your resume etc), this is your chance to remind them and thank them again!
Also, if someone made a connection for you, don’t forget to thank them.
On the action item point – if they’ve asked you to send your resume over and you’re still polishing it or you know you have a busy few days coming up, be transparent. Say thank you and let them know you’re working on it/heading into a hectic few days but that they’ll have it in their inbox by a certain date. And reiterate that in your post-coffee thank you!
You never know where these connections may lead you. I’ve met with people for information gathering purposes and ultimately wound up working for them. I’ve set up coffees expecting it to be a one-time get together, only to have that person turn into a mentor, and met with people I thought would be mentors turn into one-time coffees. You will get great advice and introductions and people who don’t reply. It happens. But you never know when you’ll sit down with someone you just click with until it happens – so keep pushing, keep putting yourself out there and maybe switch to decaf if you have more than one coffee in a day 😉