“Coffee chat” has become a buzzword over the past few years, but just because the term has recently increased in popularity doesn’t mean coffee chats didn’t exist before. Today I’m going to walk you through what a coffee chat truly is! I know this may sound silly, and you’re probably thinking, “it’s having a chat, over a cup of coffee”. Yes, you are 100% correct, but it is also much more than that. A coffee chat is an opportunity. It could be the catalyst that you need to fuel the fire that is your career. It could be a gateway to a job. It could be a gateway to a lifelong friendship or mentorship. I know I’m getting cheesy now so I will stop with the possibilities of what a coffee chat could lead to; however, I do want you to realize just how important coffee chats are. They allow you to talk to individuals in a casual setting. They take all the nervousness out of it because it’s casual – it’s just coffee.
Despite how casual coffee chats are, they are extremely powerful. Whether you’re sending out cold coffee chat requests to individuals you’ve never spoken to before, or you are looking to reconnect with someone whose story intrigued you from an event, the art of a great coffee chat is an important skill to master if you want a diverse network of your own.
Now more than ever, coffee chats are crucial. So many students have reached out expressing concern about attending networking sessions and not being able to stand out with the world being in its current virtual state.
You might’ve seen our previous blog post from my awesome colleague, Jasleen Subherwal, about how to stand out at virtual events, and I’m here to tell you how to take that one step further and solidify that relationship with a coffee chat.
Why are coffee chats so important? They’ll help you to:
- Grow your network
- Improve your networking skills
- Connect 1-on-1 with an industry professional
- Give you a better chance of standing out
- Build a genuine long-term relationship
Now that you’re sold on why they’re so important, I’ll walk you through the process of a coffee chat - from how to ask for one, to how to act during one, and what to do afterward!
As mentioned before, asking for a coffee chat is an art.
First, you need to draft a well-written message with a clear action item. And you’ll have to tailor your request depending on who you are asking!
Here are some tips to incorporate within your initial request:
- Define your intent or overall purpose of the coffee chat. Take some time to succinctly describe what you would like to discuss/learn about during the coffee chat.
- Specify the duration - 30 minutes is the most common; however, if you know the person may be extremely busy, ask for a 15 to 20-minute chat instead.
- If the request is to someone you’ve connected with previously or met already, include a comment to remind them how they know you, or remind them of something you may have mentioned when you first met them that differentiates you from others! For example, if you two met during a networking session and you happened to mention your hobby, make sure to include that to remind them who you are!
- If this is a cold request, tell them why you’d like to talk to them. For example: I’m intrigued by your career journey and wish to create a similar one for myself.
One way to stand out is to give them the option of doing a video call instead of a phone call. Being able to see each other’s body language and facial expressions will go a long way in building a genuine connection. Don’t forget to bring a cup of coffee (or tea) with you!
After deciding on an agreed-upon time, send them a calendar invite if you have their email. If not, shoot them a quick message the day before and ask if the scheduled time still works for them! By doing this, you are showing empathy. You are showing that you are understanding of their busy schedules and respect that last minute things come up. This reflects how you would interact with clients and coworkers if you ended up working at their organization afterward. Empathy is super important!
When sending this coffee chat request, I urge you to ensure you’re not making the following two errors:
- Misspelling the name of the person you’re requesting a coffee chat with (if you do, make sure you correct yourself as soon as you notice)
- Don’t write a paragraph! Keep it short and simple.
Okay, so you’ve followed my tips above and whoever you asked for a coffee chat said yes to your request…. now what?
Go in with the genuine intention of learning and building a relationship. Not all (not even most) coffee chats will result in a job, but this is okay because each coffee chat contributes to your personal and professional development. Whether you’re learning something about the industry, the recruitment process, how to stand out, etc. If you learn one new thing from a coffee chat, consider it a success!
Here are some tips to keep in mind during the coffee chat:
- Make sure your phone is on mute! Keep it out of sight, off the table, in your pocket, in your bag, anywhere that it doesn’t distract you.
- Remember your goal and the purpose of the coffee chat. And remember that the person on the other end is also just a human - there’s no need to be nervous! Of course, you want to get as much value out of the chat as possible, but you also want them to leave the chat with a good impression of you.
- Try and connect on a personal basis! Look beyond their job title and try to find out who they are as a person. On the flip side, show them who YOU are as a person, not just a candidate. Talk about your passions and your hobbies. They speak volumes about who you are. You want to get hired for who you are and not just based on your resume.
Now, I know I mentioned before that you don’t need to be nervous because coffee chats are oh-so casual, but you still need to dress business casual. Make sure you know your audience and dress accordingly! Business casual is my go-to; better to be on the safe side.
Don’t just ask good questions, ask great questions!
- Always come prepared with a few questions that you genuinely want to know the answer to. Make sure these are questions that can’t be answered with a quick Google search, LinkedIn profile review, or through the organization’s website!
- Feel free to take notes when the other person is talking. This is totally okay! They will see that you’re very engaged and genuinely interested in what they have to say. Of course, don’t go overboard with this, you still want to listen to the things they have to say, give them plenty of eye contact, and write down the main points after they’re finished their sentence.
- At the end of the coffee chat, ask them for suggestions on who to speak to next! If you’ve had multiple conversations with this individual and they have someone in their network that may be valuable for you to talk to, they will be more than happy to extend this contact to you. You just have to ask!
Another piece of advice is to be mindful of their time. If you had specified the end time of the chat in your initial conversation, make sure to acknowledge when you’re approaching the end of your conversation to show them that you are respectful of their time.
Send a thank-you note and express your interest in staying connected in the future. A good idea can be to include something in this thank you note that you spoke about during the coffee chat (e.g. “Here’s the name of the Podcast I was talking about in case you’re interested in listening!”). Or ask a follow-up question about something they mentioned, “Can you send me the name of the restaurant you mentioned?” This will not only leave them with a good impression/memory of you, it also gives you something to talk about in the future!
Pay it forward! If you land the job of your dreams through networking and coffee chats, offer to share your tips and tricks with other individuals who could use it!
Things to remember:
- A coffee chat is NOT, I repeat, it is NOT an interview! Do not treat it like one. The whole point of a coffee chat is that it allows 2 people to connect in a casual setting. Don’t make it too formal. After all, you also want the other individual to have a good time. Learn about who they are, their story, be yourself, and don’t go in with the sole intention of getting a job.
- Getting good at coffee chats takes patience and lots of practice! Try setting up coffee chats with your friends or other students who are working at organizations that you are interested in working to practice. Once you’ve mastered these, then you’ll feel way more confident when asking the CEO of a company for a coffee chat. Remember though: job titles are just that, titles. They are still people, so don’t be nervous.
- Never get discouraged! If you don’t get a reply, it does not mean the individual is not interested in talking to you. Your message/email could have gotten missed, they might be in a busy season, or maybe they’re shy or nervous themselves!
When to follow up, and how?
If you don’t get a response to your initial request, feel free to follow up after 1 or 2 weeks with a kind note.
You are now an expert on what a successful coffee chat entails. So, what are you waiting for? Go and send that request you’ve been mulling over! Good luck!
Interested in a coffee chat with our team but not sure who to reach out to?
Check out our Campus Events page and join one of our virtual sessions to meet some of the leaders of our campus programs!