Asking a complete stranger “to pick their brain” or “grab a quick coffee” may sound completely daunting and strange, but the truth is most people working today have likely been on the asking end once or twice themselves, so they get it.

To get started, reach out to your own network 

Asking your friends and family (and then asking them to ask their friends and family) could land you a direct email introduction into your dream field. But if you have to dig a little further, that’s okay! Your own network could have some interesting connections you didn’t know you had; and networking outside your desired career path can be valuable, too – think of it as increasing your contact list, and great practice for interviewing.

Expand your network

If you’ve come up short on direct contacts, don’t get discouraged. Try LinkedIn, company websites, or google for email addresses; or even a polite call into reception could get you the contact information you’re looking for.

You have their email, now what? 

You want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. So keep your email brief (a couple of sentences, max) but direct; introduce yourself, explain why you want to meet with them, what you hope to gain from the meeting, and an easy suggestion of how to meet (a 15-minute coffee, near their office, is a great option) and most importantly, be gracious of asking for their very valuable time.

Check out our email templates for coffee chats

Prepare for your coffee chat

There’s no such thing as being over-prepared – even with a “casual coffee” and thanks to the internet, you can find out a lot about someone with a few quick searches. Make sure you know exactly what they do, what the company does and how this can fit in with your desired career path.

Treat it like a job interview 

Show up early and dressed appropriately for the industry. Come with thoughtful questions, an “elevator pitch” you believe in and know by-heart, and with an answer to where you see your career going. Above all, be authentic and genuine.

Keep it warm (but not too warm) 

Following up after you meet is a great idea, but like dating, you don’t want to scare them off. A courteous email to thank them for their time is a must, but after that, give them some space.

What not to do in a coffee meeting: 

You want your coffee chat to be productive and flow naturally. You don’t want to waste their time by coming unprepared, or late, or forcing them to do all of the talking – you want them to leave thinking that you were enthusiastic, prepared and took their time seriously.

When you’re starting out in the working world, networking is key to growing your knowledge and contact base. And in fact, it’s more likely to find you a job than just applying online. So although it may take several rounds of these coffees (or lunches) to get you into your dream job, keep at it!

Still unsure of how to talk about yourself, or put your best foot forward? Prepped can help guide you through the process of discovering your personal brand and how to network to get you the job you want.

By: Ashley Bennion

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