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Etiquette for a Coffee Chat

04/19/2015 11:14 EDT | Updated 06/19/2015 05:59 EDT
Monica Rodriguez via Getty Images
Man on desk holding cup of coffee, close up

If you're 5+ years into your career, chances are you've been asked to meet over a cup of coffee. Someone wants to know how you got into your career, what your educational background is, and of course, the kicker, if you can help them get their foot in the door. While I typically say yes to these coffee chats -- I think it's good karma energy to give back -- you have to be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best. For those looking to chat someone's ear off, here's a guide to not pissing them off in the process.

1. Come prepared

Do a little research beforehand. Whether it's through Google or LinkedIn, know a little bit about the person you are about to have coffee with. Your questions shouldn't revolve around where they completed their undergrad, you should know. Jot down a few pertinent questions that you really want answered, and make sure to bring a notepad and pen. Nothing irks me more than someone who asks for a half hour of my time, but isn't writing anything down.

2. Buy the coffee

You may be on a tight budget, but my time costs $$. The least you could do is offer to purchase my cup of coffee, as it shows a lot more than what that $5 will staying in your wallet. I remember being a recent graduate and taking many people out for coffee. That $100+ was money well spent!

3. Time check

Like I said, time is money. People typically have a tight schedule, so make sure you stay on top of things. If you're approaching your scheduled 30 minutes, give a quick reminder. If the conversation is going well, they may even say they can spare an extra 15 minutes!

4. Don't ask for a job

Agreeing to coffee isn't agreeing to a job interview. Ask questions, grab advice, but never go in looking for a position. If there is one available, and you're qualified, the person sitting across from you at the table will be sure to let you know. Otherwise it leaves you on a sour note (worse than spoiled milk in their coffee).

5. Be thankful

My favourite coffee chat was with a dear friend of mine from high school who I hadn't seen in years. We ended up chatting for over an hour about my career and my inspirations in life. She made notes, was engaging, and had specific questions she wanted to ask. After, she said thank you - and meant it. That sincerity has always stuck with me.

6. Ask for a referral

Same friend as above asked the best question to close out our coffee chat - "who do you know that I should have coffee with next?" My mind raced, and I gave her a few guys who I found to be incredible business men with a true passion for their craft. She wasn't asking to see my rolodex, she had a purpose for why she wanted to meet another person for coffee and I felt comfortable setting her up.

Most of all - be confident, be you, and always meet new people. Who knows what will come of a quick cup-of-Joe!

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