Can I Buy You A Coffee?

When you are looking for a job (or to change jobs), it makes sense to reach out to potential employers to build your network, learn about possible opportunities, and obtain valuable career advice.

The problem is that many job seekers are approaching this step the wrong way and are unsuccessful in getting meetings that could help their careers.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what not to do.

Here are two emails I received from people I do not know:

I was laid off recently and am now in the job market. Can I buy you a coffee and pick your brain for 30 minutes?

Since executive searches is how my staff and I earn our livings, my mind automatically goes to Is 30 minutes of my time only worth $2? Surely this person didn’t mean to send the message that they value my time that way.

Or this email:

A friend of mine suggested that we get together for coffee. I just finished my MBA and am looking to make a job change. Is there a time we could meet at [ABC] Coffee Shop? My treat 🙂

This person asked me to drive to a coffee shop about 15 minutes away. Then, spend time meeting so I could help her with her job search. Sorry, but this meeting is not going to happen. I don’t care if it’s her treat or not.

So, what approach should you take to get meetings with people who can help in your job search?

First, forget the coffee. The phrase, “Let’s get together for coffee,” is a friendly gesture that we use a lot. Coffee chats can be nice but awkward for people you do not know well. Also, some people don’t drink coffee.

Get an introduction from a person you both know. Try to identify a mutual contact and ask that person to make the introduction. Your chances of getting a meeting if you use this approach will improve significantly.

Ask for a limited time commitment. Keep your request reasonable. Twenty minutes is a respectable amount of time.

Be accommodating. Seek a face-to-face meeting but, if that fails, ask for ten minutes of their time on the phone. Offer to speak early morning, late in the day, or while driving home—whatever works for them.

Never tell the employer how they will benefit from the meeting. There is no disguising that you are asking for their help, and you should not suggest that they will benefit from the meeting.

Be specific in your request. For example, if you are new to an area and looking to make connections, find people who have made successful transitions themselves and will give specific advice on how they did it.  

One last thing. Your approach needs to be convincing when reaching out to somebody who has no vested interest in meeting. Showing that you appreciate their time is the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of getting someone’s help.