A lot of successful people have recommended taking people you admire out for coffee, especially when you’re starting, so you can learn from them or even get them as your mentor.
In the book Getting There, I learned that the billionaire Michael Bloomberg used to eliminate reasons they could refuse.
He would find successful people in the coffee shop near the business he wanted to work for. He’d buy a coffee, tea, and a coffee with cream. If they said something like “Oh, I only drink tea,” he had a back-up.
Here’s my interview with the author of Getting There:
Don’t get focused on one industry or job title
Quality and Quantity of Informational Interviews Is Important
At least 30
Reach out to at least 20 people a week
1. Be Humble Enough To Intern, Volunteer, or Take A Course
Show them that you’re interested in this. Show them that you’ve shown work experience.
How to get an internship if you’re out of school
A lot of people have this belief that you can only get one while you’re in school. While this is partially true, it doesn’t have to be.
Take out a decent number of people in the industry and job titles you’re looking for out for coffee. They will tell you what you should look to get and where/how. Based off the industry, it may be a volunteering experience, a course online, helping a free-lancer, or an entry level job.
2. Play The Long Game. Have A Good Mindset.
Don’t just give up after one interaction or throw the relationship away after you got what you want. The greatest fruit of your networking come after years of building a relationship with someone.
Also, give with little to no expectations. Most people are just asking without offering anything — that’s annoying. Let them know this up front. Don’t wait until the end. Not at the first meeting, but once you offer to do work for them.
“My only goal is to do an extraordinary job for you and in one month, if I have done that, all I ask is that you make some introductions to me to people in this area.”
“Honestly, I’m flexible on compensation. My goal is to get experience.”
Be honest with them or they will be suspicious of why you’re doing it.
3. Test Your Reaching Out Scripts with Great Variety
Your email might just be terrible.
Or the amount of people you test on is too small. Reaching out to just 10 people is not enough of a sample size.
Reach out to alumni
4. Expand Your Reach To People Who Are Connected To Core Individuals
Rather than trying to connect with a core group of people who are often really busy, it’s often easier to get connected with people who are themselves connected to these people.
By expanding your reach outside these core people, you can have an inside networking edge when you develop that relationship.
You can do this with internships or volunteering or working for them for a month.
The Core Process of A Coffee Shop Meeting To Opportunity:
- Reach out to alumni in the industry and/or job titles you’re interested in via LinkedIn, email, or some other way
- Ask questions that help you. Ask if there are any other people in the industry you should speak to.
- Meet with those other people.
- Takes about 30 to get a really good understanding of job titles and industries
5. Maintain the Relationship
This is one people screw up on.
Let them know how you took their advice and follow up with them weeks later. That’s more than anyone else does.
These relationships will be valuable in the future. Most people never contact these people again and they end up feeling like they were used.
Do you know any slimy people who pretend to be friendly just to get something like an introduction from you and never contact you again? Don’t be that guy.
Let them know your progress and send valuable things, maybe even interesting articles every once in a while.
6. Forget In-Person
It’s hard to get people to talk in-person.
Maybe they live really far away.
Maybe they’re busy.
I’ve asked successful people like Mark Manson or Nomadic Matt questions in person. Their responses are often something I can obtain online for free. Are you over-emphasizing an in-person meeting? Is the info already out there?
If you insist on meeting in-person, have a good why. Maybe it’s to bond and form a real relationship rather than pitch a book deal. Maybe it’s to fulfill that childhood dream of shaking their hand.
If you can’t get through to the person, examine what you can test and tweak.
Test out different email scripts.
Try ethically using the “either or” sales tactic: This is a psychological trick salespeople use. Use it ethically. Rather than using a Yes/No question that they can easily say No to, use an either or question:
“Can you meet with me?” becomes “Will you like to meet Wednesday or Sunday?”
Rather than the phrase “Will you like to email or get coffee?”, you can remove the “email” part and see how it goes.
Or try “Coffee or phone?”
Try adding a “P.S. although I’d prefer in person, I can call you on the phone.” to emphasize that you’d prefer in person (they may not realize!)
There are situations where geographically, you just can’t meet with them. They’re too far away. Realize that and shoot for the phone call.
The point is to use variety, as I mentioned before.
Another thing you can do is emphasize how short it is “Just a 10-minute call.” A smaller ask is more likely to get a “Yes.” But remember to respect your promise. You can stretch it a little to 12 or 15 minutes, but they’re going to have a bad taste in their mouth if you abuse that, which can ruin long-term relationships.
7. Don’t Spam and Be Annoying
I’ve learned the hard way. Others like Alex Banayan have too when he tried to meet with Tim Ferriss. There’s a difference between persistence and annoyance. Some people are testing you and possibly open to meeting with you. Others really just want you to stop bothering them.
You definitely need quantity but…
Don’t be sleazy or copy-paste.
People will sniff it out especially if you’re emailing people in the same company. Personalize emails.
8. Prepare Ahead of time
I have been burned on this a couple times.
If you do not prepare and do your research ahead of time, it can offend the person you talk to. If they work for a company, you should do good research on the company so you do not ask basic questions that can be answered by just reading online.
There are times when you do your research but the internet is not enough. For instance, the company website could just have too much corporate lingo and terminology for you to understand it. Really make sure this is true and that you’re not just being lazy.
If so, clearly let them know this before you ask any basic questions.
9. Set Proper Expectations — You May Only Get One Question
Mark Manson is the best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, which has sold millions of copies. I paid ~$60 for a book tour event with him. I drove 40 minutes to get there. I was in a sea of 100 attendees. I had no expectations going in. I figured I wouldn’t even get to talk to him in person. I wasn’t far off from the truth. But there was a moment when he opened up to Q&A, and people were too taken aback or nervous to ask the first question. I’d seen this happen before when I attended a session with the founder of Occulus Rift, and I sprung to the microphone. I was able to ask a question about online business that helped a bit. Later, I stayed back in the website members only session to grab a quick picture with him.
In the book The Third Door, Alex Banayan explains how he journeyed to Omaha to ask Warren Buffett a question after writing him letters for months and getting rejected. Like Tim Ferriss, He hacked Buffett’s shareholder meeting by realizing the stations they used to randomly pick a question to ask Buffett weren’t equal. The stations in the way back had a lot less people submitting questions, so he got all his friends to submit the questions he wanted to ask Buffett — and all of them got selected.
I’ve listened to the majority of the 40+ annual shareholder meetings that Buffett has had. The one thing I’d mention is that 90% of the time, the questions that are asked are similar to something that’s already asked or answerable if you just read one of his books or annual letters or listened to a previous shareholder meeting. That brings me to my next point, which is make your moment with this person count! Don’t invest six months to meet with someone to ask something that he already answered in a book he wrote that you could’ve bought.
10. Ask the Right Questions
If you get the chance to sit with them, make it count. Don’t ask stuff you could’ve found yourself through Google. A great example of this is finding out about what it’s really like to work at a company.
On the outside, a certain company could be really glamorous but really, it’s a huge mess and pain.
One of the best ways is to connect with people who used to work there because generally speaking, they are more willing to tell the truth since they don’t work there anymore.
Another thing you can do is ask for connections. The phrasing and timing is important. Only do it if your meeting is going well and ask it in a way like this: “Is there any one else you think I should talk to? Would you be willing to introduce me?”
You must ask the right questions and tell them the right things about you so they know what you actually want.
They don’t know you. They can’t guess what you’re after.
Be honest and ethical.
A great example of failing at this is having an initial or follow-up meeting and failing to express that you’re interested in the company they work for when you are.
Now, there are purposes of a coffee meeting where this is not what you’re after.
But there are informational meetings where this is the case. By failing to be clear, it can happen where they think you are after one thing (just to learn more about the industry or get advice), when you’re really after something completely different (to finalize and make sure you like the industry or to get a recommendation into the company they work for if they think you’re fit).
Bonus Tip: Be Creative to Stand Out
This woman in the Instagram post below became Sara Blakely’s mentee by showing up to her speech with a wild sign. Sara has admitted she has been approached in other creative ways, like being presented bags of Cheez-It’s since she loves Cheez-It’s. Notice how this woman had intention. She had a business herself and found a businesswoman to help. She wasn’t just meeting with her to meet with her.
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Meet Emily… she held this sign up during my speech in San Fran for the @guy.raz How I Built This Summit. Pretty clever Emily! She invented “belts” for your shoes. Different styles that turn basic pumps into the latest trends. Lets give this new entrepreneur some love. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 And yes I will be mentoring her. ❤️ @straplets @emikeni #WomenSupportingWomen #Innovation #Shoes #Entrepreneur #BetOnYourself
Coffee meetings work.
Your hunger and passion for success will dwarf your competition.
Most people aren’t doing this.
If you do it right without being leechy or value-taking, people will recognize it and you will even be able to eventually jump past people with a lot more years of experience than you.
Although I learned a decent amount on my own, I ended up learning a lot of the specifics that we covered today from Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job course, which cost thousands of dollars. It’s not right for everyone and required a TON of hard work on my part.
Your goal is to get at least 25-30 in person meetings in 1 to 2 months. That is a healthy standard.
What is the #1 thing you learned from this and what will you start doing immediately?
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