How to Make the Most of a Coffee Meeting
So you've scheduled a coffee date with someone you've been meaning to chat with for a while. Whether it's a potential mentor, someone you admire, or a networking connection, this person has something to offer towards the advancement of your goals, passions, and career success. How do you make the most of your half hour latte sesh this person has set aside out of their busy schedule for you?
Lucky for you, we're gotten pretty damn good at caffeinating ourselves and being on both sides of the table.
You'd be surprised at how often people don't actually prepare for meetings with someone they want to either learn from or build a new relationship with. Relax, this isn't trivia or a test to which you can confidently list off the exact programs the person’s graduated from. You should, however, prepare the exact kinds of questions you want to ask them. 15 minutes in, and you have no idea what ask them next? This is an all too common faux-pas that happens all the time. Let's not waste their time and let's not waste yours.
Before your meeting, prepare a list of at least 6 to 12 questions you want to ask this person. Think outside the box; the more insightful and thought provoking your questions are, the more you will get out of your meeting with them.
Here's a couple great "go-to" ones that will almost always have you wanting to frantically jot down notes:
Are there any common misconceptions about your role that I or most people might not be aware of?
If there's one thing I should focus on over everything else, what should that be?
I've done a, b, and c, and planned d, e, and f so far. What should my next steps be?
Are there any helpful resources or habits that have helped you a lot?
What's the most rewarding part about what you do?
Why did you choose this path?
Side note: Grilling the person right away is also a major don’t. Depending on how much time you have, read the situation accordingly and insert an appropriate amount of polite introductions/small talk before during and after.
Brief them on the position you're in
If it's advice you're after, your coffee date will be able to tailor their advice accordingly knowing exactly where you're at on your journey from point A to point B. The less they know about you, the less relevant or valuable your chat might be. Whether you're just embarking on a new career path or maybe you're well established in a certain industry but feel stuck. The more this person knows about you and your experience/problem/status, the more they will be able to help you. More often than not, I find myself having to ask questions to figure out exactly what someone wants to learn from me rather than the other way around.
Consider the value you can offer them
While you might not think you've got much to offer to someone you look up to or aspire to be like--that's usually not at all the case. Someone working high up in a certain field that's been there for a while may be looking for a fresh perspective from the younger generation coming into the field. Maybe they need an extra hand around for certain projects or extra busy days and someone like you could be super helpful.
Don't underestimate your own value and the unique skills, connections, and knowledge you might have that they might not.
Showing up early and grabbing their coffee order beforehand even shows that you're not just interested in what's in it for you. And that's a skill in itself that people look for when hiring or working with you.
Follow up afterwards
Don't be that one-coffee-stand-and-go type of girl.
Always be sure to follow up after the meeting with a sweet thank you email. Demonstrate initiative and your appreciation of the person taking time out of their day to chat with you and show that you'd like to continue the relationship.
Even if the meeting didn't turn out to be as useful to either of you as you thought, maintaining that connection never hurts. Something might come out of it in the future that you don't foresee right now.
Q: What’s your go-to coffee conversation question? Let us know in the comments below!