Let's Meet Over Coffee
Updated: Apr 20
Two steaming cups of coffee- so enjoyable to drink with someone while having a fun and leisurely conversation. But did you know that asking someone out for coffee because you're seeking some career advice is also a useful tool to advance your career, when used wisely?
When you ask them out, refrain from saying you want to "pick their brain" - it sounds much more professional to put it in terms of "seeking some career advice".
You should offer to pay for the other person’s coffee. Usually, the more senior person will pick up the tab, but as the “host” of the meeting, it’s appropriate to make the offer.
Most professionals will kindly answer your questions and provide guidance when asked - you see, most remember asking the same thing of someone else when they were first starting out in their career or when they last made a career pivot. That said, it's important to remember that it's a big ask to ask a busy professional to carve out time from their workday to meet with you.
If you’re doing the asking, respect the other person’s time (stick to 45 minutes at most) and ask well-thought out questions. That means doing some prep work before the meeting so that you come armed with a list of questions and topics you would like to discuss. Don't force them to come up with topics or make them carry the conversation. Ask them to share stories about their career path, seek advice on specific challenges you are currently facing, ask their opinion on important skills you should develop and if they know you really well, consider asking them questions that can improve your self-awareness ("What do you see as my strengths and good areas for me to focus on improving? How am i perceived by others in our field?"). Be professional and polite by doing your homework. When you do this, you'll feel more confident because you know you are well-representing yourself and won't feel as though you are wasting the other person's time.
Be on time - so that means be early so that you are there to greet them. It shows respect for the other person and their schedule.
Give the other person your undivided attention during your get-together. Put all electronic devices away. No, leaving your iPhone on the table faced down is not good enough. You want it out of sight so that it will be out of mind.
It's a great personal branding step to follow-up with a written “thank you” note. Yes, an email is perfectly acceptable but it's a bit - how do we say it- well, routine. Everyone does it. You want to stand out - to be remarkable. Small steps like this demonstrate to the other person that you are worth investing in and they should be part of your cheering squad.
Your goal should be to continue interacting with them. If they do offer you advice and counsel, let them know when you follow through (read the book or article they suggested, listened to the podcast they highlighted or met with someone else they connected you with). This continues the conversation and deepens your relationship. This is a good thing given that one rarely succeeds alone in business - or in life. We need others!
As the relationship develops, don't forget to think of things of value you can offer them - make the relationship a two-way street. Forward them articles you think they should see, be generous with your relationships or knowledge as you develop an expertise.
And when you become successful, make time for someone when they ask you out for coffee.
Have a marvelous week -