The 6 Keys to Coffee Shop Networking Success

Pulp Fiction

On Wednesday night, was invited to be a guest speaker and present to the Graduate Management Consulting Association (“GMCA”) at the University of Toronto. The topic of our presentation was how to build a fierce cover letter and the importance of translating the skills you have into the skills of the job you are applying to. We also touched briefly on the importance of networking. Here we continue that discussion and present the “6 Keys to Coffee Shop Networking Success”.

Every industry has its own bubble and within that bubble lies a unique language, set of rules and values. In order to build a successful cover letter or resume you NEED to understand the language of the bubble. As you build your cover letter and resume, it is vital that everything written in these documents directly relates to the specific skills that people in the industry care about. If you are able to translate your skills adequately you will be successful in building an awesome cover letter and resume.

At the end of the presentation our presenter spoke to the group about the importance of networking. As mentioned, in my previous blog post, networking is one of the most important things anyone can do to differentiate themselves. Passionately, Josh delivered to the crowd a recipe for how to succeed at coffee shop meeting with an industry professional.

Successful networking is different than studying. Successful networking is how you get referrals, find the hidden job market and build your personal brand. I have listed the steps below that will make anyone more successful in networking. This is the exact approach our founders use to make a lasting impression when they meet someone.

Anyone who has a question about cover letters, networking or resumes, if you ask your question in the comment section below one of our founders will reply to you.

One last thing and I cannot stress this enough, you need to practice these steps to be successful. Start practicing for your coffee meetings just like you would for an interview.

The Six Keys to Success

  1. Articulate Your Objectives
    • Go beyond high level career goals and outline your specific objectives for this meeting
    • Remember that in nearly all cases, getting a job offer is not a reasonable objective
    • Appropriate objectives include:
      • Learning more about the organization and what they look for when recruiting
      • Learning about a specific project or initiative the person worked on
      • Obtaining a referral to another person of interest
  1. Present Yourself With Confidence
    • Remind the person of your educational background and any relevant job experience
    • Follow with a high level overview of your career objectives
    • Talk about yourself with confidence and avoid any self-criticism or doubts
    • If you don’t believe in yourself then why should the person sitting across from you???
  1. Prevent Autopilot Responses
    • Ask non-standard questions in order to prevent the person from giving the same answer they have given at every other networking event they’ve ever been to
    • Generic questions lead to generic answers and prevent you from leaving a lasting impression
  1. Establish a Personal Connection
    • To make a lasting connection you need to have at least one line of discussion that is informal and not related to work or school
    • You can do this by either bringing up a personal interest or hobby or by fishing for information from the person you’re meeting with
  1. Burn it Out Before it Fades Away
    • It’s hard to have a 2 hour discussion with someone you’ve never met before
    • If you’re 95% through a meeting you agreed would be 30 minutes long and things are going great, slowly wind the conversation down
    • Ending on a high note will help the person leave with positive opinion of you
  1. Tell Them You Will Follow Up
    • As things are wrapping up, thank them for your time, and tell them how you will follow up with them
    • Be specific regarding how and when you will contact them and what you intend to send them

Meet you at the top!

Walter White

17 thoughts on “The 6 Keys to Coffee Shop Networking Success

  • Hello Josh and Jay,

    Thank you very much for the insightful posts as well as for Wednesday’s presentation. I also believe in the crucial importance of informational interviews, in particular when it comes to exploring the job market in a new field.
    Regarding to this and related to your point 2, having an atypical career can certainly be perceived as both a strength and a weakness. It might be tricky to articulate it in a meaningful way over a 15 minutes coffee.
    Do you have any advice for preparing this part of the conversation? Can you think about any related question that one should be prepared to answer?

    Again, thank you for you enthusiasm and your help. I look forward to more posts.

    • Thanks for reaching out Pierre-Jean.

      First off you need to do your homework and learn as much as possible about the career you are trying to break into. This will help you understand how to relate your experience to the job you are seeking. If in advance of the meeting you can come up with a simple and concise manner to convey the relevance of your background it will help the person you’re meeting with get more comfortable with thinking of you as a coworker.
      The challenge most people with non-traditional backgrounds are confronted with is where do I begin to even learn about the area I am interested in. If this is your first coffee meeting with someone in the area you are interested in and you have limited knowledge of the field, stress to the person all you want to do is learn more about the job you would be applying to. Be genuine and ask questions that will help you understand what people in that field do and how they do it.
      A strong way to start your conversation if you have a background in something like science may be:
      “Thanks for meeting with me today Michael, as you may remember I am currently doing my PhD in science at UofT and I am an active member in GMCA. While there, I got the opportunity to work on a case competition and got very interested in the world of consulting. After graduating, I want to transition into consulting, so I’ve been developing my network to get a better understanding about what the job is like and how to get in.”
      Feel free to follow up with us at if you would like to discuss further.

  • Thanks very much for the talk at GMCA. It was an informative and thought provoking look at how employers view your resumes and cover letters.

    The emphasis on networking was also very interesting. You touched on this a bit in your talk, but can you comment on effective methods of reaching out to secure an informational interview, and what kind of people to target?

    • Thanks for the post Alex!

      Please take a look at our new post we put out today: “You DID Start Networking in High School – 3 Steps to Network Your Way to a Job Offer”.

      To really get you started though, a good strategy is to reach out to people using LinkedIn. First, message someone who is in the same level as you would be applying to, so an associate if you’re applying to an associate role, for example.
      An effective message to someone is concise and to the point. Say hello, introduce yourself, state the reason you are reaching out, and what it is you would like to learn from them.

  • Dear Josh and Jay,
    thank you for your to-the-point blogs! It was great to learn from Josh on Wednesday at GMCA – especially his real life experiences were extremely valuable.
    Once again I heard that, beyond everything else, career opportunities stem primarily from personal networking.
    Despite my strong analytical skills and good business sense I do recognize that because of my personality this crucial area is my biggest weakness – it is very difficult for me to connect with people on a personal level and in only few minutes one usually has.
    You mentioned few points at the event, such as Dale Carnegie´s book. Do you have some additional tips for people that have problem to engage in small-talk?
    I did see that you are really great at talking, what do you usually suggest to people that are more listeners than talkers?
    I like to engage in meaningful and insightful conversations with people I know or people that interest me but talking about pop culture, celebrity gossip, most TV shows or professional sport is absolutely foreign to me because I do not care at all.
    If I can say something, usually it´s something critical (goes back to my analytical skills and critical thinking) which I find is not very appreciated in small-talk situations.
    Thanks a lot for any tips and feedback!
    Have a great weekend!

    • Hi Ondrej, I just finshed two books, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. Both are nice complement with each other, since Keith Ferrazzi is very outgoing and Devora Zack identifies herself as an introvert. I recommend both in addition to Dale Carnegie’s books. Especially the latter if you also identify yourself as an introvert. Personally I also find it difficult to engage in small talks. But I find it interesting to learn about other people’s stories, that is to say, of course, I also need to open up and share my stories, I am still learning how to balance privacy and establishing connection.

    • First, I would like to stress that Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a must read. It can help you learn more about how to interact with people and com.
      To answer Jie’s first comment in regards to engaging in small talk, asking people about their stories or what they do is a great way to engage in small talk.
      What I personally like to do before I meet someone, is I like to learn as much as I can about them as possible. I check their LinkedIn profile, Google their names, and ask any of my networks if they have engaged with the person before. Once I have done this, I figure out a topic of conversation that I know will interest both of us, and I bring this up in our conversation. As Carnegie states, “in talking with people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ.”
      People enjoy speaking about the things that are important to them. If you research them before meeting, you will be able to ask them questions about things that are important to them. This will help generate small talk and will allow you to follow-up with questions to their responses, while adding your own personal information as well.

  • By converting a weapon that typically reeks havok, into a tool to deploy books to underprivileged children, the art shown in the link below lends itself to the power of literature.

    The artist Raul Lemescoff, is an eccentric artist in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he calls this creation ‘a weapon of mass instruction’ that he uses to battle ignorance and spread knowledge.

    I can’t help but see a similarity between this and what Breaking Bay Street does for young professionals. What are your thoughts on this? How are the ideals of Breaking Bay Street similar/different? Also, what are your top 5 recommendations for aspiring consultants?

    • Thanks T Slice. BreakingBayStreet certainly believes in the power of transformation so I see a connection there. See below on our take for your top 5.

      Top 5 Recommendations for Aspiring Consultants

      1.Meet 10 Consultants for Coffee
      2.Understand what those 10 Consultants do and how your skills relate
      3. Become involved with project work (entrepreneurial adventures to research projects)
      4. Join or start a consulting club
      5. Familiarize yourself with the Harvard Case Method

  • Thank you Josh for the presentation, I truly enjoyed it.
    With regards to networking, what’s in it for the person you are networking with? How can I make the person whom I networked with keep in touch with me (or want to keep in touch with me)? Any tips? Thanks.

  • Thanks for posting Xavier. Sometimes it’s hard to see how the person sitting across from you gets any benefit out of the interaction, but trust me they do!
    First off, the market for new recruits is extremely competitive. Part of the reason that the busy people that you are connecting with take the time to meet you is because they want to attract top talent to work for their firm. Finding a great candidate, connecting them with the right people inside the firm and ultimately getting them to sign a contract can be a very rewarding experience for the person meeting you, both on a personal level and within the firm. Doing this may even be part of their job description.
    Two other reasons that they benefit from the interaction are that they expand their own network and hopefully that they get the chance to meet an interesting person! Maybe one day they will want to work at your future employer’s firm and they will remember that you owe them a favour. We will tackle “keeping in touch” part of your question in an upcoming blog post so stay tuned!

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