• Matt Black

Going from 'Just Coffee' to 'Key Contact': Why Informal Convos Get You Hired More Quickly

There’s more to you in-person than on-paper.

While the action verbs and adjectives peppered across your resume and cover letter are definitely your friends, they can only take you so far.

What they can’t do is serve as a substitute for an infectious laugh or a big, bright smile. They also don’t capture the passion you have for [insert industry here] or describe how hard you worked to achieve [insert result here].

You tell me, what’s more memorable?

Reading about some of your accomplishments or listening to you describe them, showing off your passion for the subject matter at hand?

So how come so many people are apprehensive when it comes to “making the first move” and setting up networking meetings? In talking with countless students and young professionals, there’s a genuine fear to do so – which I feel stems from a fear of rejection, the dreaded “what if they say no?”

The truth is, some will ignore you… no point in sugar-coating that.

But, others won’t.

And it’s those others that you really want to capitalize on.

Look at it this way: asking a potential employer or professional in the industry you’re exploring to meet over coffee helps humanize you and your candidacy/brand.

And the value of building relationships before you ever craft a cover letter or polish your resume can’t be overstated. If you wait until your dream job is posted to reach out, you’re nothing more than a small fish in a vast ocean of candidates.

Consider these other benefits that asserting yourself and setting up informal conversations can bring about:

Practice really does make perfect

No pressure, but spending time speaking to people “in the know” can help you prepare for future interviews or meetings with contacts who can get your resume in the right hands.

Now, I’m not saying you should be going in with canned material, or rifling off stock questions that are going to put your coffee mate to sleep…

But the more time you spent learning about an industry or role, discussing your interests, your experience or what you bring to the table that might help somebody out… that’s all gravy!

Of course, you need to be respectful of other people’s calendars, so don’t go booking meetings just for the sake of it. The individuals you approach should be relevant to your career goals or industry, and you should always spend some time on their LinkedIn profile in an effort to verify that they’re going to be able to help you.

Bottom line – the more time you spend asking great questions and soaking up as much knowledge as possible, the more polished you’re going to look when it’s the real deal.

You’ll also be an expert in telling your own story the more time you spend sharing it with others.

The ‘Know, Like and Trust’ factor is real

The number of opportunities out there is truly staggering, especially for those who know where to look.

So what’s the problem, right?

Well, people hire (or refer!) people they know, like and trust.

One of the most effective ways to make this happen organically is pretty straightforward – you’ve got to put in the face time!

I can’t remember the last time I met somebody and before they even opened their mouth, I had already decided that I knew what they were all about, really admired them and would leave my [imaginary] children with them.

Because I’ve never done that.

Your prospective key contact isn’t likely to either. By sitting down for a coffee or bite to eat, or even picking up the phone and spending 15 minutes describing who you are and what makes you tick, you’ll be able to make an impression and move the needle in your favour.

Never underestimate the power of being transparent, likeable and trustworthy.

Open doors you may not be able to

There’s also a hidden silver lining that you might not even think of as you’re out there networking and preparing for informational interviews or coffee meetings.

You never know who this other person knows.

The ‘but’ in “well, there’s no spots on my team at the moment BUT…” could turn out to be your new best friend – next great career opportunity.

Well-connected professionals are usually interested in helping others break into their industry, or at the very least, helping noobs open doors and get in front of people who may be able to assist.

But it’s hard (note: STILL possible) to land meetings with high-level executives when you’re coming in cold and as an unknown.

However, the effort you put into networking and your informal conversations can compel your prospective key contact to put in a good word on your behalf. In some cases, this can be like winning the lottery and really help establish you as a potential candidate down the road.

Still not so sure about picking up the phone to set up some coffee appointments? Learn my “5 Ways You Can Practice ‘No Fear’ Networking” and let me know if there’s any way I can help.


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto