Whether you're following up with a new connection or seeking advice from an established mentor, you can gain valuable insight through reaching out for a cup of coffee.
While coffee chats are usually informal interactions, they can often lead to more substantial relationships over time. At Global Professionals Practicum (GPP), we've seen coffee turn into mentorship relationships, invitations to exclusive events, and unsolicited job offers for our clients.
Use coffee chats as a forum to connect one-on-one, offer advice or pick someone's brain for ideas. As mentioned in our previous article (Decoding Networking), getting one-on-one time with the person you want to connect with is one of the most effective ways to make an impression- especially if you're at a large event.
Make Cold Introductions Successfully
The best way to make a cold introduction is to avoid making one in the first place. Even if you've never met someone, you can warm a cold email or call by mentioning a familiar person, institution or common interest.
Your introduction should show that you have knowledge of the person's work, and offer a specific reason why you'd like to talk. Ensure that the message imparts urgency and courtesy by offering to meet the other person at time and location that is convenient to them.
If you are calling someone who has a busy schedule, they are more likely to pick up their own phone outside of office hours- before 9:00 AM or at 6:00 PM.
Always Be Prepared
Be ready to introduce yourself, and be informed for your coffee chat.
If you are seeking advice or information, be prepared with smart questions- something that can't be answered by a quick Google search.
You should have a general idea of what the person is like (public LinkedIn and Twitter accounts offer insight into what they are like as a person or what they feel strongly about), and be up-to-date about what's happening with their company.
If required, be prepared with a clear, specific ask or value proposition.
A statement such as "I'm interested in consulting firms" is too general. A specific call to action such as "I'm looking for an internship as a consulting firm like firm A, or firm B. Can you recommend anyone there who can speak to me about the recruiting process?" is much better.
The Coffee Chat
Always arrive early at where you'll be meeting and follow these three rules for a successful chat:
Be genuine: What do you honestly admire about this person or their work? What is it about them that sparked your interest?
Be ready to listen: In particular, listen for opportunities where you might be able to add value. As mentioned in our previous article (Smart Networking), the key to smart networking is creating value for others and helping make them more successful. This mindset will ensure that you become successful- by adding value where you can, you become invaluable to to people you collaborate with.
Be considerate: If you're approaching the end of your scheduled coffee chat, give a quick reminder to help keep track of time. Those with busy schedules will be particularly appreciative!
Always Follow Up
As a general rule of thumb, I advise our clients to follow up with someone within 24 hours of making a connection. I would recommend sending a brief email - it should express your gratitude, mention a memorable part of your meeting, and reaffirm any commitments either of you may have made.
If you really want to impress, you can follow your email with a hand-written note to add a personal touch.
If you were introduced by a third party, communicate any outcomes from your coffee chat, and express your gratitude for the introduction.