Networking Coffee Etiquette 101

Lately I’ve found myself on the receiving end of “let’s meet for coffee” requests. Sometimes I know the person, often I don’t. If someone is persistent and makes it easy for me to meet up, I oblige. But like you, my time is valuable. I want the house decaf and 45 minutes of chitter chatter to be worthwhile for both of us.

For those initiating a career/networking/whateveryouwanttocallit coffee discussion, I may start emailing this list of etiquette rules before we sip Tazo together.

 Coffee Etiquette 101 ~ The Basics:

  1. Please come prepared. No, I didn’t scour and memorize or even print out (egads!) the resume you sent me last week. I expect you to succinctly articulate what you do/want to do, what sets you apart, your insights on the marketplace, and why you are someone I should recommend to others.
  2. Please don’t whine. It is not endearing to complain about: the coffee (too weak), the room temperature (too warm), the prices (too high), or the window seat (too sunny). No one wants to help a kvetch.
  3. Please don’t answer your cell phone. Seriously.
  4. Please don’t come off as desperate. Radiate a healthy dose of confidence. I don’t want to feel sorry for you. Awkward.
  5. Please don’t talk about yourself, your needs, your experience, your kid, your job hunt, your career challenges 95% of the time. These conversations are 2 way. “I” “Me” “I” “Me” gets boring real fast.
  6. Please don’t end the last 90 seconds of the conversation with “So … how can I help you?” Don’t put the burden on me to answer the question. You tell me! And if you can’t tell me, you likely botched #5.
  7. Please send a quick 1 sentence message thanking me for my time. Thank-you-for-your-time. 5 words, 5 seconds. It amazes me how many people forget to do this.

Too harsh? Too obvious? I don’t know. But I do know one poor gal/guy (I wish not to reveal her/his gender) broke 7/7 of the rules in one sitting. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The 7 rules above only scratch the surface of etiquette blunders. What would you add?

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her for coffee on Twitter @MartaSteele.