Okay, so you’re about to jump into the world of coffee chats. Eek. If you’ve never done a coffee chat before, it can feel anything from awkward to straight-up terrifying.

What are you supposed to do? What are you supposed to say? What if you say the wrong thing? It’s brutal. 

But you’re in luck. In this post, we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of coffee chats to help you build some connections and maybe get your foot in the door. 

What is a coffee chat?

First off, what the heck is a coffee chat? 

A coffee chat is a casual meeting, often between two people, where you simply have a conversation about your career and goals. It’s a great way to practice networking and making connections with people in the industry you’re trying to get into. 

While it’s often done over coffee (as the name suggests), you can do it over lunch or drinks too. I personally found doing them over video chat was easier, but to each their own.

Why are coffee chats helpful?

So why put yourself through it in the first place? Why have coffee with some random person? How does it help? Well, there are lots of benefits of doing coffee chats including:

  • Make new connections
  • Build your professional network 
  • Get the inside track on your dream job
  • Get career advice and guidance 
  • Learn about new opportunities 

Sounds pretty good, right? Now that you know the why, you just need the how. So without further ado, let’s jump into the dos and don’ts of coffee chats. 

The dos and don’ts of coffee chats: 

Do start with a familiar face

Whether it’s your dad’s friend or an old TA, starting off with somebody you already know is a great way to warm up and ease into the world of coffee chats. If you’re already familiar with the person, chances are you will feel more comfortable and relaxed going into it. 

Don’t make it too long

When it comes to coffee chats, there’s no hard and fast rule on how long they should be. However, it’s still important to respect the person’s time. So don’t spend hours and hours asking them questions— people are busy. Instead, ask for a 20 to 30 minutes tops.

Do come prepared

You have questions. They have answers. Before your chat, prepare a whole list of questions. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • How did you get into this job? 
  • What does a typical week look like for you?
  • What’s your favourite / least favourite part about your job?
  • If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be? 

Don’t ask yes or no questions 

It’s good to come with questions, but having said that, you need to know the right questions to ask. While a simple yes or no question like “do you like your job” might seem okay at first, it only gets you so far. So asking more open-ended questions often leads to longer, more meaningful conversations. 

Do be authentic 

Okay yes, coffee chats are intimidating, especially when you’re talking to a professional you don’t know all that well. How formal should you be? What should you say and do? Don’t worry about all that. Just go in there, relax, and be yourself. 

Don’t multitask  

While I’m all for a good online shopping or scrolling session, there’s a time and place for it and it’s not during a coffee chat. Taking notes as the person talks is okay, but aside from that, do your best to stay engaged and present.  

Do express gratitude 

After a coffee chat, always make sure to thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule. You can do this while saying goodbye and when following up with them over message after the fact so you can continue that relationship in the future. 

Don’t straight up ask if they’re hiring

The big thing is not going in and asking for a job.  Yes, they are there to help you and can possibly get you a job in the future, but for right now, all you’re looking for is to build your network and get career advice. 

Final thoughts on coffee chats

Coffee chats aren’t easy. But with this list of dos and don’ts, you will be a pro in no time. 

Most importantly, don’t forget to take some time after every coffee chat to properly recharge. You deserve it.