Long black, flat white, decaf soy latte…most of us live for the stuff.

Our barista is often more respected than our barrister. And definitely more serious.

But what you may not realise is that this humble bean can hold the key to your career success.

It’s all down to that old networking kingpin, the coffee meeting.

A casual coffee with a clever colleague, a potential mentor or a business idol is fabulous for helping you cultivate big ideas, getting your name out there and could even hold the key to your greatest career move.

However, if you find yourself avoiding this form of networking because it feels just like a blind date, you aren’t alone.

Sweaty palms, rehearsing clever things to say, last minute nerves and doubts about why you are organised it in the first place.

All totally normal.

But none-the-less unhelpful when it comes to getting you on the fast track.

At Naked, we actually call it The Corporate Date and like any important date, it needs a little pre-planning.

And the rest is down to chemistry.

Below are 7 tips to that will help take the nerves and uncertainty out of your next coffee catch-up.  

  1. Do your research: One of the beauties of the age we live in is that you can find out just about anything about the person you are meeting. Chances are you know a bit about them – that’s why you wanted to go for coffee in the first place. But 10 mins spent Googling them will do wonders for the conversation and make you look like a clever cookie.
  2. Be clear about what you want to get out of it:  If it’s their advice on your next career move or their knowledge on a particular sector, just ask. This is also about respecting their time. Once you have the small talk down, be upfront (but polite!) about how you hope they can help you. It will be respected.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take notes. No one will be turned off if you take out a pen and paper at the beginning of the conversation. (But it’s always good manners to ask). Taking notes shows you care about what they have to say.  And will help you with number 7.
  4. Think of something you can do for them. Good networking is like the NAB advert – More Give, Less Take. What can you do for them? Did they mention they worked through Christmas because they are going to Bali for the first time in March?  Follow up with a short list of the coolest Seminyak restaurants & bars. Ask that mate who goes twice a year or spend 5 mins on TripAdvisor.
  5. Better yet.. Connect them to someone else.Connecting people is by far and away the BEST form of networking. If they said they are looking for someone with experience in Tech PR, introduce them . If it turns out to be a valuable relationship for the two of them – they will have you to thank. That’s great capital.
  6. Offer to pay for the coffee. If you asked them for coffee it is good manners to offer to pay. If you are more junior or at Uni it’s highly unlikely they will let you anyway!
  7. Follow up! Ah the follow up. Arguably the most important and often the most overlooked part of the coffee meeting. It almost deserves a 7 point post of its own.     But here are our top 3 points for a good follow up:
  • Send an email within 12 – 24 hours of the meeting. Not an exact science but any later and you risk being forgotten. Set a reminder in your phone on your way back to the office with a couple of notes about the meeting.
  • Express gratitude for their time in a well written email. AND if it was the greatest coffee of your life and this person is your new hero – write then a letter. Everyone loves getting real mail and this will earn you a place in their mind and help you stay in touch longer term.
  • Deliver on you on your promises: If they say they’d love to see the TEDTalk you mention, send it to them in the email. Or if it’s something down the track – again, set yourself a reminder.

The key thing to remember is that you are building valuable relationships and always remember the number one rule when it comes to your network…
BUILD IT BEFORE YOU NEED IT!

Fiona Triaca and Erica Davis have almost 20 years of corporate experience between them, in industries including finance, stockbroking, sales, media and copywriting. Together they founded Naked Ambition, a company dedicated to accelerating the career development of young professional women, setting them up for long-term success.