The Power of Coffee Meetings in Job Search

Joy is experienced in her field. She is currently out of work, and has been searching for a new role for several months. She has sent out hundreds of job applications, but has yet to get any interviews. She has re-worked her resume several times, tailored her cover letter, optimized her applications for electronic scanning, and still nothing. Like many job-seekers in her situation, she is feeling a bit helpless and frustrated.

Joy has been told multiple times that she should network, but she is unconvinced. She doesn’t really see how it will help, and is not sure how to do it effectively. She decides to contact a career advisor for help. In their first meeting, Joy and her advisor discuss networking and coffee meetings. Through their session, Joy is convinced that coffee meetings can be effective for job search and personal growth. For homework, Joy’s advisor asks her to recap the benefits in writing, and think about a game plan for one-on-one networking to be discussed the next time they meet. For Assignment #1, she prepares the following:

The Benefits of Coffee Meetings

Applying for jobs online is not the most effective use of my job search time. The job market is competitive, and the chances of being selected from several hundred applicants for an interview are slim. I need to increase my odds of getting interviews by applying for the right jobs, getting referred, and bypassing the usual application process. Coffee meetings (or informational interviews) can help me in a number of ways:

  • Research: I can learn about industries, companies, departments and roles from company insiders. I can learn about products and services, organizational culture, career paths, team needs and desired skills and attributes. These can help me write better cover letters and tailor my resume. They can also help me decide which industries and companies to target for job search, and which I should avoid.
  • Advice: I can learn the best way to get into an industry or organization, what skills I need to develop and courses to take, and which departments or managers or jobs – based on my interests, goals and abilities – I should target.
  • Creative input: If I meet new people, rather than existing friends and acquaintances, I can get more creative ideas. People who know me already (strong ties) may edit their suggestions based on my personality and work history, and what they think will and won’t work for me. New connections (weak ties) will be freer with their input, so I am more likely to get “outside-the-box” ideas to consider.
  • Hidden job market: A large proportion of vacancies are unadvertised, and are filled through the networks of hiring managers and recruiters. By meeting people with power to hire, I can be part of their networks and learn about “hidden” jobs. If I apply for these jobs, I’ll be competing against fewer applicants, increasing my odds of interviews.
  • Referrals: Whether hidden or posted publicly, I can ask an internal connection to support my application and perhaps hand-deliver it to HR. A connection’s recommendation will help me avoid the electronic scanning and filtering process, ensure that my application will be reviewed with positive intent, and possibly even guarantee me an interview.
  • Confidence and motivation: When I meet people and tell them about my skills, past jobs and accomplishments, I’ll be practicing interview and self-marketing skills. By repeating positive stories about myself, I’ll be self-motivating as well. By learning more about companies, departments and organizational culture, I’ll be more confident and positive when tailoring my resume and preparing cover letters.
  • Overcome discrimination issues: If I’m a mature worker, millennial, immigrant, over- or under-qualified, or have employment gaps, a recruiter may stereotype me negatively when assessing my application. Meeting and knowing an insider, stating my case and getting their support can help overcome potential bias or doubt about me as a candidate.

Networking through coffee meetings is an effective medium- to long-term strategy for finding a new job. It may take time, but it is worth doing. As we discussed in our session, it’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows what you know. In a coffee meeting I can show what I know to someone who can help me in my search going forward.

Combining this strategy with job applications for positions that fit my experience, skills and goals is the best way for me to find a fulfilling role. I’m looking forward to our next meeting and learning how to how to get coffee meetings, and what to ask and discuss.”

Joy emails her assignment to the career advisor as soon as she is done. She attacks her job search with new enthusiasm, and begins researching coffee meeting strategies for their next meeting.

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