Congrats! Your right swipe on Bumble Bizz led to coffee with someone you admire in a field you’re interested in. Now the real work begins.
Here are five ways you might mess it up, and our suggestions for what to do instead.
1. Arriving unprepared.
This isn’t a date, so a little light internet sleuthing is expected and even encouraged.
Check the person’s Twitter feed. Run his or her name through News Google. If the person represents a company that interests you, do the same thing for the company. Read a few interviews and mention what you’ve read during the conversation you have with this person.
Your preparedness will show them two things: That you aren’t wasting his or her time by asking about things you could’ve found online, and that you care enough about the person and their company to do your own independent research.
2. Arriving late.
In many business situations, if you’re on time, you’re late.
Get there at least five minutes early. Consider hitting the restroom for a quick mirror check. If you’re in a subway city, take an earlier train than usual. If you’re in a car city, make a parking plan in advance.
One more thing: Resist the urge to scroll through your phone while you’re waiting. The last thing you want is to be lulled into complacency by Twitter or have a weird Instagram or Facebook post on your screen when your connection arrives.
3. Not dressing the part.
This varies from town to town and industry to industry. In Austin, where Bumble HQ is based, you could meet a creative director for coffee in jeans and a t-shirt and feel more at-home than if you wore a suit or heels.
In NYC in the same industry, you’d be expected to wear something a little more fashionable and (depending on the agency) edgy. Our advice is to Image Search the person you’re meeting and the industry you’re interested in to get a sense of how they dress, then proceed accordingly. When in doubt, dress up. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed in these situations.
You know how your favorite actor always manages to tell pithy, amusing anecdotes every time he or she does the talk show circuit? It’s because they practice, practice, practice.
Even if you’ve done a hundred of these meetings, it never hurts to imagine the questions you think you might be asked and work through some brief, to-the-point responses. You don’t need to memorize a script! Just come prepared with a few thoughtful, short answers. (You can always ask a friend for help, especially if they’re in the industry you want into.)
5. Inviting someone to coffee without a clear purpose.
What’s the point of this meeting? This is the #1 question for you to ask yourself before sending the invitation, and it’s important to open with this when you sit down with this person.
Are you curious whether there’s a job opening at their company? Are you hoping for mentorship? Advice? Whatever the case, it’s better to err on the side of transparency. Leaving someone without a clear understanding of why you’re connecting is an excellent way to leave a bad impression. (Or worse, no impression at all.)
Don’t leave the meeting without a clear action item if at all possible. Identify what the next steps are and when you’ll be expected to deliver what. Since you’ll be writing a thank-you note (an email is fine, but a handwritten note on nice heavy stationery is better), you can provide an update or clarify any confusing points at that time.
Bonus tip: Don’t, under any circumstances, order a muffin.
I did once. I was meeting someone about a job at a now-defunct bakery near Union Square in New York City. It was early, and I was hungry, so I ordered a blueberry muffin. As we talked, it seemed like every time I touched the muffin, a new pile of crumbs would explode. I had a relatively long beard at the time, which didn’t help. (Facial hair + crumbs = a lethal combination.) Now, I still got the job, and I found out later that the person I met didn’t even notice. Which leaves me with one final tip: Don’t get inside your head too much. Trust us: Be yourself, and you’ll do great.
Our most important piece of advice: Be yourself. You’ll do great!