I just came back from the most amazing coffee date.
It was a meet & greet with another professional at my work. Our offices are on the same floor… who knew! For thirty minutes, we connected over coffee. We shared our likes and dislikes, anecdotes about our lives, and laughter. On our way back up, we ran into her coworker who has a role I covet! I’m meeting with her in 2 weeks.
My best advice for young professionals and graduates out there: fill your schedule with meet & greets- preferably over coffee.
If you are wondering how, here is what I have found works best for me.
1. Always start close to home.
Ask your manager or mentor who you should meet. Meet with your parents’ friends or college professors, or your fav college professor’s successful best friend (professors with besties… cute). Don’t discount your current network’s network or take it for granted. It’s a better experience when you have an acquaintance in common, and both parties can go in with some sense of who the other person is.
2. Don’t meet with people just to network.
Personally, I’ve found that when I meet with people just to “network”, it is always uncomfortable and the conversation is stilted. I know that I don’t really care, which means they know I don’t really care. It’s a waste of their, and your, time.
What are the reasons you should network?
Network if you are interested in a specific position and you want to know more about it. Network to learn about a company, about a career track, or because you are simply interested in what they do.
3. Make it an activity.
This is why grabbing coffee works so well. First, it puts you in the “it’s just casual” mindset. You don’t have to be nervous, you get coffee everyday. It’s normal, it’s casual. Second, you have something that breaks the ice. “What are you getting?” “I’ll get a cappuccino” “I usually order a cap but I’m getting a latte today because…” Etc. You get the point. Third, and most importantly, you have something to do with your hands and your face. Feeling nervous or not sure what to say? Sip your coffee.
Other activities that work well: Happy hour (for the bold), networking organization events (I’m part of a Young Professional social org in my city), or a walk break.
4. Know what you want to know.
Why are you meeting with this person? What do you hope to get out of it? I find it’s essential to think of a couple questions before your meet & greet. Also- it will help you direct the conversation of you have a couple things you want to talk about.
I suggest beginning with some questions about the person (How did you start here? Did you know you wanted to be XXX?) because who wants to be thrown into the deep end when they are just feeling out the water?
End your meet & greet with a simple thank-you, and if you don’t already- get their contact info for any future questions.
Remember- this type of networking should be enjoyable- even fun. It should be no-pressure- try to relax and just be interested in what your new connecting is saying!
Good luck & Have Fun!