An introvert's guide to networking: The Coffee Date!

If you’re an introvert, networking in big groups where you don’t know anyone, like at a conference or official networking event, can feel like you’re living a nightmare. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build your network in a way that suits your personality. Enter: The Coffee Date!

Inviting someone out for coffee gives you the opportunity to chat one-on-one with someone whose career interests you. Most people are happy to share their career path and advice with someone who’s eager to learn more.

Here are my seven tips to nail your next networking coffee date:

  1. Choose a location that’s convenient for your date (not you). You want to make it easy for your date to say yes. Not sure what’s nearby? Ask him/her to choose the location.

  2. Get there early so you can go in, get a coffee or tea, find a table, and take a deep breath.

  3. Wondering what to wear? Find a balance between your formal interview look and a casual meet-up with a friend. (In other words, leave your tie and sweats at home.)

  4. If you struggle with small talk, prepare a few points beforehand—the latest Hollywood gossip, a good book you’ve read recently, or upcoming plans for the weekend.

  5. Have a purpose! Maybe you want to put feelers out because you’re looking for a new job, or you want to help them with an aspect of their career, or you want to hear about a recent trip because you’re thinking of travelling there soon. Whatever it is, keep this the focus of your discussion.

  6. Let go of any expectations you may have for the meeting. It may not lead to a job or career change right now, but if you stay in touch you never know what the future might bring.

  7. Don’t force it. Was the conversation awkward? Are your values not aligned? Is their career not the right direction for you after all? No need to force a relationship to happen, but always thank the person for their time.

I challenge you to take the initiative and email someone whose career inspires you or a former colleague who’s doing something interesting and invite him or her out for coffee in the next two weeks. Let me know if you try it and how it went!