At my summer internship, coffee chats appeared to be the fuel that drove so many relationships in our corporate headquarters! Whether these chats were coordinated with managers, coworkers, mentors, or employees of completely other departments, the knowledge I gained from my chats proved to be some of the most valuable of the entire summer. Keep reading to find out how to extract the greatest value from these interactions…

What is a “Coffee Chat”?

Coffee chats are typically 30-minute conversations scheduled between 2 employees of an organization. Especially at large corporate offices, these “chats” may mean a quick run to an on-site coffee shop or sitting area, walk around the perimeter of the office or even a meeting at a desk. Do these chats always involve coffee? Nope! Likely, both employees will bring the coffee they’ve already purchased earlier that day; the title just sets the tone for a casual, friendly atmosphere. During these conversations, employees may get to know each other, gain introductory information about their jobs, ask for feedback, or learn about completely different areas and positions within the organization!

Capitalizing on Coffee Chats:

  • Preparation and Purpose: In order to gain a meaningful amount of knowledge from your conversations, make sure that you are setting up chats with employees that you have a true interest in (whether that be their role, background, accomplishments, etc.). When entering into this conversation, you should have previously conducted a quick search on their background, and a light gauge of their current work so as to avoid taking a large portion of time dedicated solely to introductions.
  • Generosity: Even though you may not be purchasing any coffee, always make sure to ask and offer!
  • Ask Specific Questions: As it relates to our point above, you should not be asking questions like, “How’d you get here?” or “So, what do you do?” If you’ve initiated a chat, it is likely for a specific purpose to learn more about an employee. For example, if you’re speaking to someone on the public relations side of the business, focus questions around, “How have you handled our company’s relationship with X topic/company/etc.? How much of your time to you spend avoiding negative PR vs creating positive PR?” Always make the employee feel valued! After all, they dedicated a portion of their day specifically to you.
  • Maintain the Relationship: A coffee chat might be a periodic occurrence, but communication should not be. Make sure to maintain the relationships that you’ve worked to schedule and cultivate! Whether this means a weekly check-in, email update of your recent accomplishments, or quick link to a relevant article, make sure to keep consistent contact and follow-up after your thank you note!

Employees are incredibly fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to network with one another and dedicate work-time to meet and chat! Take advantage of these opportunities and capitalize on your time through prior research, preparation, and purpose.

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