Coffee Meeting Conundrums

On one of the HR/recruiting industry blogs I subscribe to a writer commented that this recession has been a blessing for Starbucks due to all of the unemployed people holding networking meetings there. How true!

Since I occupy my time and try to remain professionally productive with independent freelance projects out of my home office, I don’t have coworkers or a traditional office environment to interact with others on a regular basis. Therefore, I make a point to get myself out and about as often as possible for a dose of human to human, technology-free conversation.

Usually, I attend between 8-12 structured networking related events per month. That is a decent amount for an introvert, right? These are in various categories – some industry related, some general business mixers and some geared toward job seekers. I crave variety!

Often what tends to happen after these initial group meetings is that people like to follow-up by scheduling a one-on-one coffee meeting. While I’m all for these “get-to-know-each-other-better” sessions, there are times when it can feel overwhelming.

On occasion, I’ve struggled to actually get “stuff” done because I was so overscheduled with networking and follow up meetings. I don’t want to decline meeting requests, but realistically there are times that it just doesn’t fit in between other commitments. Even worse, I don’t like to have to cancel or reschedule if an unavoidable calendar conflict comes up.

I’ve spoken with several others who have the same issue, but no one really seems to have a perfect way to balance it all. Just last week I attended a presentation where one of the people on the speaker panel said that they used to have around 40 coffee meetings per week. That number made me gasp! For the next few minutes my mind was racing trying to figure out how they did it. I still have no idea and can’t even imagine attempting that.

I’ve experimented with blocking off specific chunks of time to schedule back-to-back coffee meetings at the same location. I’ve tried to bundle coffee meetings right before or right after other events I was planning to attend. I’ve taken time off from the whole thing altogether, then returned more refreshed to fit these into my schedule. But inevitably I eventually reach the point of being maxed out again.

There are plenty of experts on the local networking circuit with different philosophies about how to network with a purpose or target high value connections, etc. Quite a few gurus actually offer training programs on various angles to networking the “right” way.

They may suggest focusing on quantity vs. quality or visa versa. They may recommend that you strategize and prioritize key contacts and targets – then do everything in your power to reach those influential people.

Personally, I don’t put that much pressure on myself or anyone else to be purposeful, valuable or influential. Rather, I approach each interaction with an open mind and a simple goal of meeting new interesting people or reconnecting with those I’ve met before. I try to keep it simple, straight-forward and enjoyable.

Certainly some networking purists would scold me for showing up without a purpose, target or any idea or interest in who is or isn’t considered a quality or priority prospect. Likewise, I’m sure they would find my unstructured, inconsistent process to planning coffee meetings equally inadequate.

What do you think?

Article authored by Kelly Blokdijk, Talent Optimization Coach & Consultant with TalentTalks – “Creating a Voice for Talent” TalentTalks partners with job seekers to build competitive career marketing strategies and compelling professional branding materials to create a lasting positive impression. TalentTalks consults with the business community on innovative and customized human resource and organization development initiatives to enhance talent management, talent acquisition, corporate communications and employee engagement programs. TalentTalks routinely posts job market and job search related content on Facebook and Twitter – fans and followers welcome!


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