Coffee chats with professionals are considered a more informal way of networking. However, many students see it as a daunting prospect. Here are a few tips regarding coffee chats that others have shared with me over the course of my university experience:
Prepare ahead of time
Research the professionals in question and bring a list of questions to ask. Set a specific goal or objective that you want to get out of having this coffee chat. Maybe you are curious about their employer. Or maybe you want find out more about their career path. Make sure to jot down quick bullet points beforehand so you remember to mention everything.
Arrive a few minutes early
Showing up to a coffee chat a couple minutes before the scheduled time is always a good practice. Arrive 5-10 minutes early and try to find a spot where you can watch the door. Once they arrive, greet them at the counter/line-up to buy coffee.
Keep track of time
Bring a watch so that you can track the time without looking at your phone. When planning a coffee chat, be clear about the length of time. 5-10 minutes before the end, ask a wrap-up question about what they think you should do next. For example, you can ask them to recommend another person to talk to next. Close the conversation on time (respect their time!) with a firm handshake and a “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.”
Follow-up and send a thank-you note
By the end of the day or the following day, send a brief thank you email or LinkedIn message. Indicate how/where you plan to connect with them later. This could be “Looking forward to seeing you at Telfer Connects”, or “I’ll send you the link I mentioned” or “I’ll let you know how it goes with [person they recommended you meet]”.
Be sure to register for the “Let's Talk Coffee Chats” session through Career Launch in March to continue the conversation about coffee chats!