Want to meet for a Coffee Chat? Tips for Networking with Someone You Don’t Know

Me Looking Professional

Networking is one of those notorious words that cause students’ blood to boil and their minds to retreat to the corners of their brain in an attempt to somehow escape hearing the word.

Maybe this isn’t you, but it was me. Before my co-op, networking was one of those things that I knew I should do, but felt “ungenuine”, so I convinced myself I didn’t have to do it.

What I should have and now have recognized is – that I was scared of it, and it was out of my comfort zone. I have no shame in admitting it because I have gotten through that phase, and I am proud of my progress. How did I get through?

Well, one week at work, I decided I might as well tackle it once and for all by asking 3 different strangers out to coffee. Never having had a networking coffee before (coffee is a name for meeting and is not required, especially virtually), I recognize that this approach was a bit bold, but I am very thankful to have done it. Because of the current circumstances, these were all virtual.

Photocred to NeONBRAND on Unsplash.com

If you are at the pre-3-coffees-in-one-week stage where you are quite uncomfortable with asking a stranger to coffee, here are 3 tips:

1. Do your research – When I say ask a stranger to coffee, I don’t mean just anyone. Connect with someone that you have a genuine interest in talking to.

There isn’t a rule to this, but maybe they have an experience you want to hear about, or work in a space you don’t know about, or at a company you are considering applying to.

If you find someone that you are interested in having coffee with, I like to skip to tip 3 and see if I have enough questions to warrant a meeting (if I can think of 3-5), I know I’ll be good for the 30 minutes.

Photocred to Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.com

2. If you are asking a professional for coffee on a future date, give them some topics you’d like to discuss. This allows them to help you direct the meeting by already coming up with ideas of what they’d like to tell you about.

3. Prepare a list of questions, but bold or highlight your important ones. While this isn’t an interview, having a list of questions will provide stability for your conversation, eliminate the possibility of awkward silence, and having bolded important questions will help guide your meeting.

When you are running short of time, such as I was in my second meeting, the bolded highlighted questions in my notes allowed me to cover everything I considered important.

Overall, doing these 3 things have enabled me to first get out of my comfort zone, then provided me with a process that extended my comfort zone to a point where I can reach out to someone and feel confident that I can have a successful meeting with them.

Don’t forget to thank people for their time and buying a coffee or giving an e-Starbucks card can go a long way to show appreciation.

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