Your network is like a plant. You need to water and nurture it to help it grow. You make it bloom by meeting new people, and establishing relationships with them. A great, casual way to go about getting to know someone is by arranging a coffee meet-up or chat.
Once you have the time and place agreed upon, follow these tips to ensure you maximize your next coffee meeting.
Do not be late. Try your best to arrive early so you can pick a seat. Contact your guest to let him or her know where you located. Be respectful of the other person’s time by being punctual and to make a good first impression.
Craft your story. It is important to construct your personal narrative, and set your careertrajectory. Your story will help to guide the conversation because it gives the person an idea of how they can help you. Most importantly, do not sell yourself short. Whether you realize it or not, you have done some pretty amazing things. No one can believe in you, if you do not believe in yourself.
Have a conversation. Remember that it is a conversation. It is not necessarily an interview, and it is not all about you. Do talk, but, also actively listen and glean tangible advice from their experiences. Connect with the other person, and if you can, share resources and ideas.
Do not start at the top. It is understandably tempting to request a meeting with the CEO of the startup you would love to work for; however, it is important to meet the people who work within the startup. Learn about their experiences, interests and passions. Build and maintain relationships. If they like you, they will vouch for you when it is time to make a hiring decision.
Go beneath the surface. Do not waste time on questions with easy-to-find answers. Go deeper. This means you have to do research before the meeting. Do not bother with, “How many people work at your company?” Forget about, “What do you do?” Instead, ask “What challenges do you face in working with your team?” or, “What do you wish you had known before taking your current position?”
Follow up. Make sure to thank the person for meeting with you. Email, tweet, and a handwritten note will be appreciated. Let them know that their time is valuable, and you appreciate it. Also, ask for feedback. Follow through on anything you agreed to do for them, and remind them of anything they agreed to do for you.
Your first coffee meeting might not be the most comfortable or most productive. Regardless, the most important takeaways are to learn and start a relationship. Mastering the purpose of a coffee meetup will put you one step closer to your dream job.