I strongly advocate for Generation Y to leverage social tools to build their professional and personal network. However, by far, coffee is the best networking tool ever created. When applying for a job or trying to get a feel of what it would be like to work for that dream company, set up a coffee meeting with an employee. You can have the finest degree from ivy league but if you don’t know how to subtly convey your skill sets over coffee while not sounding like a douche, life will be hard for you.
Top 3 Coffee Meeting Tips
1. Try picking a time that noise levels are not at their peak. You want to actually have a conversation not a shouting match with the contact.
2. Keep things general and let them drive the conversation. Don’t sound desperate, play it cool and ask questions about their success at the company. Listening is key.
3. Don’t always target the highest person in the company to meet. Mark Zuckerburg seems like a really nice boss but he will not have time to enjoy a cup of coffee with you. Perhaps a jr engineer at FB may be interested in talking with you? go for it.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask “what advice do you have for me on how to work for company ___. Don’t try to emotional black mail them, just try to understand how they got into the interview process.
5. Be Grateful. know one owes you anything, especially time.
Bonus: Show your personality. Don’t be rigid, this person is not your boss. Make natural jokes and poke fun at yourself, these are key traits people like to see.
And What Do I Wear?
Depending on the level of the employee and the context this meeting is happening in, try to keep things professional but casual. For men this means blazer with no tie, t shirt underneath, and a pair of clean jeans. For women this means a nice dress shirt, simple jeans, and light makeup (whatever type you would wear to work normally) .
But How do I speak?
1. Smile when talking
2. Make the right amount of eye contact, I would say 50% when you’re talking and 70% when he is talking.
3. Posture is key, you’re not joining the army but don’t slouch and please naturally do use your hands while speaking.
4. Clean and Fresh Breath. Listerine Strips do the trick.
5. Speak slowly, pause at the right times, and don’t be afraid of silence.
All of these tips and points take a lot of practice for the majority of us. I still make mistakes after probably enjoying 600 coffee meetings over 8 years. The goal is not to be perfect but rather present yourself in the best way possible. I hope you now feel empowered and have a better idea of what to do during a coffee session. You can continue to add 20 random people on LinkedIn per day but it’s the coffee tool which will help you build networks and improve your chances of landing that dream job or even career.
PS if you would like to have coffee with me, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org