Networking is one of the most equally loved and despised aspects of career growth.
Some individuals live to network, while others avoid it at all costs. There are many folks who shine in online networking situations, but clam up at networking events.
While we may live in a digital world, face-to-face networking hasn’t lost its importance. In fact, the presence of online networking makes in-person networking even more powerful in terms of driving a unique connection. Taking the plunge and setting up a networking coffee date may be seem scary — it’s easy to to shy away from this kind of meetup in the world of instant messaging, email, and online forums.
But never fear! The following tips will help you find success at your next networking coffee date:
1. Come prepared.
Simply “winging it” won’t get the job done. There’s nothing worse than meeting up with someone to find out they don’t have much to say — especially if you’re networking during your job search. Do your research and prepare a topic and questions. It’s best not to act like you’re reading a script, but make sure to keep the conversation flowing.
2. Eliminate pressure.
Face-to-face networking can leave even the most extroverted person feeling pressured. When it comes to making a social or professional connection, it’s easy to place a lot of stress on yourself. Eliminate some of the pressure by remembering that confidence is key to the self-marketing involved in networking. Why wouldn’t this person enjoy connecting professionally with you?
3. Don’t expect too much.
While it’s important to prepare for a networking date, you should also try your best to keep any expectations in check. If you go into the meeting expecting this person to immediately call their manager and ask them to hire you, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Remain open-minded and focus on really getting to know the person before you jump to any conclusions.
4. Get comfortable.
Offline networking can be a little tense if you’re not used to it. Try to make yourself as comfortable as possible on your networking date. This doesn’t mean showing up in sweatpants–instead, try to keep the professional conversation light. Networking doesn’t need to be stuffy, you can casually chat about sports or pop culture if it’s something the other person is also interested in.
5. Remember: desperation isn’t cool.
Nothing turns off another person more than desperation. Making a connection should come naturally. Try not to force yourself on the person you’re networking with. This individual will be able to tell if you’re desperately trying to weasel your way into an opportunity or if you’re truly looking to connect with them. Show your interest by spending time asking questions about their current work, career, or industry.
6. Focus on developing a relationship.
Making a lasting networking connection depends on building a relationship. One coffee date with someone doesn’t solidify a relationship–it takes energy to successfully connect with others. Spend time getting to know this person and learn as much about as you can. If you’re truly interested, you’re off to a good start and a networking relationship with surely follow.
7. Respect their time.
Keep your networking date on a schedule. If you tell this person you’d like to chat for 30 minutes, then you should wrap things up in the appropriate amount of time. If you’ve connected and you’re still chatting well past the scheduled time, this may be a good sign.
8. Keep in touch.
End your networking chats by talking about staying in touch. Consider talking about getting coffee again or even asking if they’re planning on going to an industry event you’re interested in attending. Once you’ve left the coffee date, shoot them an email thanking them for their time and be sure to continue to reach out to them. Connections need to be mutual.
In-person networking can be scary at first, but face-to-face connections are certain to positively affect your career. Set up a networking coffee date today!
Do you have a trick for better in-person networking? Share below!
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.