• Talk About A Coffee Chat (And Its Do’s And Don’ts)

    Two women talking in a cafe

    When it comes to talking about grabbing a cup of coffee, there are many stories to talk about.

    I am a caffeine addict. I need coffee every morning when I wake up, and I need another cup in the afternoon around three o’clock. Sometimes one more cup before an important meeting. 

    Coffee has become more than just a beverage. It is now a sort of fashion activity when coffee shops start to invest in the branding, interior design and marketing. Besides the renowned brands such as the Starbucks and Blue Bottle, there are more and more unique café opened on streets with their own signature flavors. Now coffee and café are essential in our lives.

    Two cups of coffee latte

    For people in Taipei, a cup of coffee could mean a breakfast, short rest in the office, or an afternoon leisure. However, a cup of coffee could be more official for New Yorkers, and a “coffee chat” is always a good opportunity to do professional networking.

    When I was still a student in Columbia, we often got the chance to have a coffee chat with an alumni or employer. Now when I am having coffee, looking at people talking in the café reminds me of the experiences of having coffee chats in New York.

    The coffee chat is also an informal interview which requires preparation and business etiquette. We can know more about the job the person is doing and the company he/ she works for. We can get the first hand information and see if this is the company we would like to work for, or this job fits our career paths.

    Though the coffee chat is not as formal as an interview, the person we have coffee chat with is still a potential employer or an alumni that we need to make a good and professional impression on, so preparation is still needed. However, you don’t have to make it as serious as an on-site interview because there will be coffee to comfort the discussion and the atmosphere. Just follow the following simple do’s and don’ts and you will perform well and at the same time, impress the employer.

    DO: Get Dressed

    Search online to see what people working in the company wear on the company website. Most of the time, the right attire for a coffee chat is usually smart casual, and could change for meeting people from different industries. For example, you might need business attire when meeting with financial people. For me, when I had coffee chats with people from technology industry, I wore a navy blue pencil dress which the style is simple and chic.

    DO: Ask The Right Questions

    If you would like to get information from a coffee chat, ask the the right questions. For example: How long have you been working in marketing? What is the most challenging part of working as a product manager? As a financial analyst, how do you convince people of your analytical result? These questions focused on a specific job position which let the person talk about their stories in actual experiences and at the same time, let you evaluate yourself if you fit in these positions in the realistic situation.

    DO: Be Prepared

    The key factor of asking the right questions and to make a good impression is to be prepared. Once you know whom you will be having the coffee chat with, google the industry and the company the person is working for, and visit their LinkedIn profiles to know the person’s career path. For example, you might be interested in how a person transferred his career path from a startup to a big company, or how he got his projects done with good results in three months. The study and preparation before a coffee chat are essential and helpful, and can flourish the chat in every aspect.

    DO: Follow Up

    After a coffee chat, send a thank you email to the person to let them know you appreciate their time and experiences shared. This is the way to continue the professional networking after a coffee chat. Moreover, since not every person will say yes to a coffee chat request, every opportunity to make a professional connection is valuable. So try to make the one-time coffee chat into a long-term connection by sending a polite, genuine and warm thank you email!

    A cafe with several tables and people are sitting and talking to each other

    Don’t: Ask For A Job

    A coffee chat is a chat, but it is also an informal interview which the person is here to share experiences and provide you directions for your future career. You can ask for advice and guidance, but not jobs from the person. Since a coffee chat usually happens when the person hardly knows about you and vise versa, asking for a job is too sudden and impolite. It also shows that you are only taking the advantage of the person, and this will hurt your reputation in the job hunting process as well.

    Don’t: Talk Too Much

    During a coffee chat, be sure that you are not doing all the talking. It is a good chance for you to know more about the details and real situations about the career, or the company you are interested in, so let the person talk and share his/ her stories to you. You can share your major and area of interests, and bring out what you know about the job and the company the person is working for, but then, ask questions for the person to share so you can learn. 

    Don’t: Force It

    Not every person will reply or say yes to a coffee chat. Once you start your job hunting, you will find out that most of the resumes, LinkedIn invitations and coffee chat requests will have no replies. However, this does not mean that you are not qualified. Because everyone is busy with everything, don’t force or push a person to meet you. Just move on and try to reach out to other contacts.

    Okay these are some clear do’s and don’t when it comes to a coffee chat. Have you ever attended any coffee chats? Share your experiences with me in the comments and wish you a good luck when going to coffee chats!

    Signature of Sienna Wang

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