How to use coffee meetings in your job search
Perhaps you’ve already heard about them. Everyone talks about coffee and network meetings as being part of the job hunting process. But what are they exactly? Who should you invite? How do you set up a meeting? What should be the purpose of the meeting? We've gathered our best tips for you in this article.
What is a coffee meeting?
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear. Your contact at the coffee meeting will not have a job offer ready for you. Instead of thinking of a job as the end goal, focus on gathering information, inspiration and maybe even new contacts that can help you move forward and expand your job search. Basically, the coffee meeting is about generating new opportunities for yourself and garnering insight through conversations with others.
Your objectives with the meeting may include:
- Learning more about the company that your contact works for
- Learning more about the sector your contact works in
- Getting advice about your job search from someone who has chosen a career path that you’re also interested in
- Learning more about how to expand your job search
It’s important that you make the purpose of the meeting completely clear for your contact. The more specific you are about your expectations, motive and objectives for the meeting, the better your contact can help you.
Who to ask?
The people you ask for a coffee meeting won’t necessarily be someone that already knows you. The most important thing is that you share a common starting point. It could be a shared acquaintance, same degree or a shared experience, for example a professional event you both attended. Use what you both have in common to set up the coffee meeting.
It can be hard to ask “strangers” for help. It’s easy to feel like you’re imposing on someone and that you’re wasting a possible contact’s time. But remember that many other people have been in the exact same situation as you. Newly graduated and looking for a job. Maybe it wasn’t even that long ago that they made the transition from student to unemployed graduate, so they’ll be able to empathise with your situation.
You may also feel that it’s an unbalanced situation, where you need the contact but they don’t need you. But who doesn’t want a reputation as someone who helps others? For many people, this will be reason enough to agree to meet with you. The person you ask might view it as a sign of recognition and take it as a compliment that you come to them for advice.
Three steps to the coffee meeting
1. Before the coffee meeting – preparations
When you have found a relevant person to contact, it’s important to learn a bit about them and the company they work for. It’s also important to prepare a brief presentation of yourself and the reason for the meeting.
The next step is to pick up the phone and make the call. Be clear about how you found them and what you would like to discuss. Be absolutely clear about the framework for the meeting and your expectations for it: “I’m calling because I’d like to know more about the sector you work in. I got your number from…”. Ask them if they can spare half an hour to meet you for a coffee. Perhaps suggest meeting at a place close to their workplace. After the phone call, it’s a good idea to confirm the meeting and your expectations of it in an email.
2. During the coffee meeting – maintain focus
Start by thanking your contact for making time to see you. Give a short presentation of yourself and repeat what you want to know more about. This is where you should draw on your thorough preparation to uncover the question you have chosen. “What are the challenges of this sector? What could be a solution? Why did you choose the path you did? How do you use your competences from university in everyday life?”
Always remember to maintain focus on the purpose of your meeting – be specific when you ask questions and ask your contact to elaborate during your conversation. Think about the meeting as an interview where you’re the journalist. Keep track of time and keep the meeting short and efficient. You could end the meeting by asking whether your contact knows other people in their network who could be relevant to meet, or whether there’s something you can do to thank your contact for meeting with you.
3. After the coffee meeting – follow up
Send a follow-up email where you thank your contact for the meeting, acknowledge your contact for spending time with you and attach your CV, so that it’s easy for your contact to forward it to other potential contacts. Also, connect with your contact on LinkedIn, so that you’ll be part of each other’s network. Remember to write down your new knowledge, so that you can use it in the future. What went well? What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?
Don’t be afraid to venture into it, even though it may seem difficult the first couple of times. Enjoy your next coffee meeting.