The Complete Guide to Ace Your Next Networking Coffee Chat
We all have fears about networking and reaching out to new people. yet now, more than ever we need other people to get our work done, find a job, or increase sales.
In the era where everything is done remotely, you can still network your way out to get a job. Although networking may seem like a scary prospect, it’s important to consider the variety of desirable skills that you will gain from networking in your job search… I’ll touch on different topics about networking.
- Why networking is key to finding a job?
- Who can you network with?
- 10 Tips to get over your fear of networking
Why networking is key to finding a job?
While you can research general information about how to find a job online, you can often get great details about the job hunt by speaking with someone who has already gone through it in person. For example, attending a meetup event where you speak with professionals who work in your dream company can help you understand what the company’s interview process looks like, what they value, and what is it like to work there.
Networking helps you to connect with people who might hire you or who might recommend you to a hiring manager for a job. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are friendly and casual at first, and not try to ask for a job desperately. Make sure to follow up on all conversations to thank the individual for speaking with you and to highlight your interest in staying connected.
Obtaining Interview Experience
While an interview and a networking event are not the same experiences, you can gain some insight into how to speak with people professionally. Having a professional conversation with someone when you want a job is different from casually chatting about a work experience. By speaking with professionals at the networking event, you can learn how to tailor your vocabulary, syntax, and diction to more professional settings.
Learning about the Industry
Even if you have gone to school for a particular degree, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an expert in the industry. During the networking event, you have the opportunity to learn more about the field and brush up on some old skills.
Building Social Skills
Regardless of the type of job that you’re looking for, you likely need some level of social skills. Even if you spend most of your time working alone, you need to ace the interview to obtain the position. By networking with other people, you can better learn how to speak with people in a professional manner.
Networking is so important when you want to find a job. Obtaining a position at a company requires some level of communication with other individuals. Networking events give you the opportunity to do so, and you also get to experience more of the field during the event as well.
Who can you network with?
When it comes to networking, there isn’t a strict rule about who you should or shouldn’t be networking with. To be completely honest, the more people you network with, the better, so don’t limit yourself!
Key Networking Websites
- Twitter: It’s my go-to place to find people for coffee chats. They are usually a lot more open to receiving DMs on Twitter.
- Linkedin: Easier to find people with specific criteria, specific company, specific job title…
- Angel List: Similar to Linkedin but geared towards Startups.
- Alumni groups: If you’re a university or a bootcamp graduate, reach out to previously graduated members.
- Here to help: This notion page was created by Shawn and has a list of people open to help with coffee chats, mockup interviews, resume reviews etc.
- Lunch Club: An AI platform that facilitates casual conversations between professionals.
- Code Newbie: An organization that fosters a supportive, international community of people learning to code.
- Code Buddies: A Slack community for those that are learning how to code.
- ADPList: Website to book 1:1 with mentors from all over the world.
- Mentoring Club: pro bono mentorship for software engineers and engineering managers.
- Coding Coach: Pro bono mentorship for software engineers.
- Mentors in Tech: Mentorship for community college students in the US who want to break into the tech industry.
- CodeMentor (paid): paid mentorship at reasonable rates, tailored for software developers. Most of the revenue goes to the mentor (mentors are charged a service fee).
- MentorCruise (paid): paid mentorship from senior engineers and engineering managers working at various companies. The platform takes a transparent, 20% cut from the rates you pay.
10 Tips to get over your fear of networking
1. Dare to take the first step
They are people just like us. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out, you have nothing to lose.
In reality, when it comes to making the first move, the stakes are pretty low. Find someone whose resume looks interesting, either by scrolling through your 2nd or 3rd degree LinkedIn contacts or by reading bios on the website of a company you’re interested in working for. Send them a message or an email explaining that you’d like to get coffee and pick their brain. Either the person agrees to talk to you or they don’t. And if they don’t, they are probably just busy. It doesn’t mean that you suck.
2. Talk to everyone
Take any chance you get to talk to people at all levels of experience, peers, as well as other students — not just people with hiring power. You’ll always get something out of it, even if it’s making an acquaintance.
Young professionals will have insights into the management and company culture that are different from senior executives. People with impressive resumes can be intimidating to reach out to, and are often the busiest, but if you manage to land a spot on their schedule, take advantage of it! Even if the advice isn’t what you hoped to hear, or if you find out the day-to-day isn’t as glamorous as you imagined, you are now better informed than when you started. That information will help you plan your next step — whether that’s asking better questions at your next networking meeting or pursuing another job type altogether.
3. Provide context when asking for the chat
Provide context when asking for the chat. For example, if you found the person via Twitter, LinkedIn, or through a friend, explain why you are connecting and what you are looking to get from their time spent with you (learning opportunities about them, their company, their industry, their career path, etc).
4. People like talking about themselves
People are genuinely happy to help, they love answering questions about themselves.
Whether one-on-one over coffee or at a crowded networking event, you can easily get someone talking by asking questions about their personal experience with their job, their company, their career path, or their industry. Everybody feels more comfortable discussing things they are familiar with, and what’s more familiar than our own experiences? This is great news if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like talking about yourself because it means you don’t have to say as much. But don’t forget that it’s really important to show that you’re interested in what the other person is saying, and to share enough about yourself to be memorable — otherwise, you risk losing the connection you went there to make.
5. Don’t ask for a job
Remember that you’re there to learn, not ask for a job. If you take the attitude that you are networking to learn more about people and professions, you’ll feel less pressure than if you think about networking as a means to a job.
6. The more you practice the easier it gets
Just like most activities, the more you practice, the easier it gets! Get out of your comfort zone and reach out to people. You never know who you may meet and in the end, you might enjoy networking more than you imagined!
7. Prepare ahead
Always prepare ahead, research who you’re about to talk to..what is their work experience? Are they self-taught?..a fellow Bootcamp grad? Check out their website, their LinkedIn, and their social media feeds. Having some info on them can make approaching them less daunting and it’s a great way to come up with inspired icebreakers, talking points, and questions.
Have a set of questions ready, it will help you feel more at ease and fill in the awkward silence. Sure, there are awkward moments at times, but just gotta keep asking questions. Here is a list of more than 100 questions I’ve prepared and I usually pick 3-to 4 among them.
Be specific in your questions so the person can give you more actionable advice
8. Show Up!
Show up 5min earlier; you may find that the other person is already on the call, and they will appreciate your punctuality. If for some reason you need to cancel, send them a message. Even if it’s 5min before. People are generally understanding and would be significantly less inclined if you don’t show up and don’t send anything. That’s RUDE.
9. Speak less Listen more
This one is probably the most crucial. just don’t keep talking about yourself. Let the other person speak and get their thoughts on the same topic by saying “what do you think?” Listen to them closely and try to avoid interruptions.
Take notes. It will help you keep in touch with the person and build a relationship with them.
10. Follow up
Follow up by thanking them. Just a simple “Thank you for your time” suffice. WHY? Because gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to make a connection.
Immediately after the call send a message thanking them for their time. Use social media to stay connected. Reach out once a week, once a month, or once a quarter. Be inclusive and include other people in the comments you make. Build relationships as quickly as young people do online, and don’t be hesitant to involve another person.
BONUS TIP: Have Fun
Last but certainly not least: have fun with your chats and be yourself! In the tech world, it’s easy to lose sight of the human connection with others since we’re always in front of the computer.
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