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Good idea for job seekers: Meet relevant people over coffee or lunch. Here are the best techniques

networking your way into a job, networking while job seeking, inviting influential people to coffee, inviting influential people to lunch,
Ask interview subjects to coffee or
lunch to network your way into a job.
Any of my close friends will tell you … I am the lunch queen. 

I work hard, but I love to get away for an hour to see friends or family. I also like to give advice if I feel it can help people … so the combination of helping job seekers over a quick lunch has always appealed to me. 

That’s why I have never minded when someone in the St. Louis area has sought me out on LinkedIn, or was referred to me by a friend, who took the initiative to invite me for a quick bite to eat.

If you are considering asking someone for coffee or lunch for an informational interview, keep these guidelines in mind:

Pre-Meeting Guidelines

  • Determine who would be good to meet and why. Ask friends for suggestions and referrals.
  • Do your research about the people, their company, and their field.
  • Invite the selected people to connect with you via LinkedIn. Explain in your invitation why you want to connect (they are in the same field, in the same LinkedIn group, work at a particular company, etc.)
  • Once they have accepted your invitation, look through their connections to see if you have any mutual connections.
  • Send them a LinkedIn message requesting to meet briefly. Be sure to mention why you selected them. Here was a particularly well written message I received from a job seeker, tweaked for the purposes of this blog post.

Dear Kathy:
I’m meeting with (YOUR FIELD) professionals to seek information, suggestions and contacts that could be helpful as I consider career options and opportunities. I noticed your LinkedIn profile and that we share some common connections, including XX and YY, and thought that you might be willing to meet with me over coffee or lunch. Please be assured that I’m contacting you for information, not a job. I’m also happy to help you in any way that I can.

I'll contact you later this week to see if we can schedule a brief coffee or lunch. I understand your time is valuable, so please be assured that I will be respectful of your time. I'm available whenever and wherever it's convenient for you.

Thanks so much. I look forward to connecting with you.

Primary phone number
Cell phone number

Invitation guidelines

  • Suggest coffee or lunch (not just one of the options). Some people prefer to meet before work or during a break, while others can get away easier at lunchtime. Some people may not be able to get away to meet, but will be more willing to meet with you at their work because you were generous enough to ask them out.
  • Mention mutual friends or LinkedIn connections in your invitation. People will be much more open to meet with you if you are a friend of a friend.
  • If they do respond positively, do all of the leg work to firm up the appointment. Suggest dates, times, and locations (research what coffee houses and/or restaurants are nearby).
  • Listen for their concern areas. If they say they have only limited time, select a place that is fast and very convenient to them.
  • If possible, try to meet with them at their company cafeteria so you can get a feel for the company, possibly meet other useful people and maybe even get a tour of their building. 
  • If they can’t or won’t meet with you, don’t take rejection personally. People may have many reasons for not being able to meet including being overwhelmed by their workload, insecure about their usefulness, or worried about being away from their work area for too long.
  • Send them a confirmation email that includes the meeting date, time, and restaurant name and location. Also include your name, cell phone number, email address, and types of positions you are seeking.
  • Email them a reminder the day before or the morning of the meeting. Include your contact information in case they need to reschedule. Tell them what you look like and what you will be wearing so you will be easy to spot.
  • Don’t be discouraged if they cancel even at the last second; reschedule a new date as soon as possible.

Meeting Guidelines

  • Check out the restaurant a day or two before at the same time of day so you can make contingency plans should it be too crowded or noisy, or parking too problematic.
  • Arrive early so you can lay claim to a table in a quiet area, within view of the front door.
  • Since you invited the person, you pay (but keep in mind the place does not have to be expensive).
  • Bring more than enough money for both of your meals and the tip. If you plan to play by credit card, make sure the restaurant takes credit.
  • Bring a note pad and pen to take notes.
  • Bring your resume. Also give the person your business card (if you have one).
  • Have a basic plan of what you want to cover, but also be interested in them and their career. Work to develop a relationship.
  • Ask them for their suggestions and referrals.
  • If you are interested in their company, ask how they got their job there and how they like the company. Also ask them for their tips for how to get hired there.
  • Keep the meeting brief; be respectful of their time.

After Meeting Guidelines

  • Send a thank you email the same day. Thank them specifically for any suggestions they provided. Tell them what actions you will take because of their suggestions.
  • Send them follow-up emails every couple of weeks to let them know the status of your job search. Particularly let them know the status of any efforts you have undertaken based upon their suggestions. For example, if they suggest you contact someone, let them know the outcome of your conversation with that person.

While the cost of buying a few coffees or lunches can add up, the benefits of connecting with relevant people who can help you find work is well worth the expense … and you can write the expenses off on your taxes. So invite people to lunch or coffee … it can help you land a job that you love

Have you tried inviting people to coffee or lunch to help you in your job search? Share your experiences and comments via the Contact page.

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  1. This article is just the new idea I was looking for. I belong to an industry organization that list about 400 people, phone numbers, and email addresses. I have had about a dozen informational interviews. I felt awkward being more direct in asking for the names of people who could hire me.

    Now, thanks to Kathy, I have a great script and I can move forward with my job hunt.

    Thank You.
    David Drescher

  2. It's important to come in with a gameplan.


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