Why the LinkedIn “coffee chat” or “informational interview” is important.
For many international job seekers, LinkedIn networking can be a challenge. How to reach out. How to connect and then what to do after connecting. It’s awkward and confusing, and in fact, this is because the practice of LinkedIn networking is rooted in American business culture. And this creates obstacles for people who come from a different cultural background.
However, I still strongly encourage international professionals and students to use LinkedIn, even though it’s difficult. Here’s a short list of how LinkedIn can give you an enormous advantage in your job search: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-benefits-using-linkedin-sarah-rycraft
The “coffee chat” is not an opportunity for you to ask for a job. Rather, it’s a chance to get to know the person and for them to get to know you. If does well, the coffee chat can lead to a referral in the future, but that shouldn’t be your immediate goal.
In this post, I’m going to explain how to participate in a coffee chat or “informational interview,” what to talk about, and how to get the most out of it.
Ok so, you’ve arranged the coffee chat with that interesting manager or employee from your target company and you’re on the zoom call in that precious 15-20 minute session.
Here’s what you want to talk about:
1.Lead with a question about some intriguing or impressive point from their career. To do this, you’ll have to visit their LinkedIn profile. Look at their About, their posts, their Experience. Find something that genuinely makes you curious or is related to your career trajectory.
Example: “So I noticed that you’ve done a lot of work in the finance sector. How did you get from there to health care?”
Or, “I noticed that you’re a huge advocate for making technology more available in rural areas. That’s something I’m passionate about as well! How did you become interested in that?
The important thing is to make it about them, not you.
2.Show that you share something with your counterpart: background, passion, hobby, professional values, an approach to a problem, etc. Since most people nowadays keep a blog, make social media posts, comment on professional matters on LinkedIn, or make videos, it should be a simple matter to find something you can align with.
You can include these similarities in your personal introduction statement. “I’m a UX designer from Argentina and I also have quite a lot of leadership and product management experience under my belt. One of my passions is for DEI work in Silicon Valley – I really want to make this a key part of my future career.I’ve been working primarily in Latin America but am working to enter the US market.”
Or you can fit this common area of interest into a question:
Example, “I’ve been working in the tech space for a long time, and like you I’m very interested in getting more representation and diversity in key roles. How are you and your team approaching this?”
3.Find out what challenges or problems their team is currently dealing with. Show curiosity and in the conversation that follows, share your expertise and passion. Maybe talk about a similar issue you’ve faced in the past and how you approached it. If you have no experience in that area, talk about something related and ask questions to learn more.
Important: take notes on this challenge. You can then later follow up on the conversation by sending them a proposal (the so-called Value Validation Project) for a solution based on the chat. Here’s an explanation of what this is and how to do it: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/set-yourself-apart-from-job-search-crowd-how-value-validation-lee
In any case, the important thing here is to show curiosity and a positive mindset. Don’t be shy or think they don’t want to hear your ideas.
Speaking of positive mindset,,,
4.Convey curiosity, optimism, and positive energy throughout the chat. Remember that although this is a professional conversation, human beings are very emotional creatures. The emotional energy that you bring to the chat will make an impression on them that they’ll remember long after they’ve forgotten about your amazing coding skills.
If you’re truly interested in a role at their company down the road, expressing a sunny, positive and engaging disposition will ensure that they remember you. The emphatically optimistic ’emotional vibe’ is like the proverbial ray of sunshine.
This positivity will make you the one they’d want on their team when times get tough. This seemingly unimportant “emotional” factor can make a difference down the road when a hiring decision is made. So, smile and be engaging and remember, it’s should be fun and relaxed.
Stay tuned for more articles on how to optimize your use of LinkedIN.