Networking Over Coffee: Your Guide to Making the Most of an Informal One-on-One

Two businesswomen talking while having a coffee at restaurant.

These days, the art of networking has evolved beyond formalities and rigid settings. In all honesty, the setting is less important than the impression you make and the questions you ask.

If you want to build your professional connections and relationships, having a thoughtful conversation over a cup of coffee is a great way to do it. This approach to networking is less formal than traditional networking events and can allow for more relaxed and natural conversations. 

But what makes these coffee meetings truly impactful? The secret lies in asking the right questions. With more than 17 years of experience in talent acquisition, I’ve had my fair share of traditional and informational networking interactions. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the most interesting questions you could ask during a networking coffee chat. 

Icebreakers and Warm-up Questions

  • "What inspired you to pursue your current career path?" This question not only allows you to learn about the other person's professional journey but also provides insight into their passions and motivations. It can lead to discussions about pivotal moments, challenges overcome, and future aspirations.
  • "Tell me about a project or accomplishment you're particularly proud of." This question encourages sharing of achievements, fostering a positive and engaging atmosphere.
  • "How do you like to spend your weekends outside of work?" You may not think this question is pertinent to a networking chat, but being open and sharing personal interests can create a more relaxed environment for a meaningful conversation to happen.

Professional Insights and Challenges

  • "What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career so far?" This is an insightful question to ask and allows you the chance to gain wisdom from someone else’s experiences.
  • "What's the biggest challenge you're currently facing in your role?" By asking this question, you create an opportunity to discuss professional challenges and have meaningful discussions on problem-solving.
  • "If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting in your field, what would it be?" If you’re early in your professional career, this question allows you the chance to gain valuable insights and wisdom. Whether it's practical advice, words of encouragement, or cautionary guidance — listen up and take notes.

Future Aspirations and Opportunities

  • "Where do you see your industry heading in the next five years?" This question prompts a forward-looking conversation about industry trends and can give you insights into how to upskill yourself to align with future job market demands.
  • "Are there any specific goals or projects you're excited about in the near future?" This question encourages the discussion of upcoming endeavors and creates room for collaboration or support.
  • "How do you approach networking and building professional relationships?" This question may help you strengthen this connection in the future, using the techniques suggested.

Personal Growth and Development

  • “Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have influenced your career journey?” This question can help you get a leg up on industry insights or find new recommendations on thought leaders that can advance your personal development.
  • "If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?" Pay close attention! By asking this question, and you could learn something that changes your approach to how you think about your career.
  • "How do you strike a balance between work and personal life, especially in a demanding industry?" Discussing work-life balance can reveal strategies for maintaining wellbeing in a demanding professional environment.

Closing the Conversation

  • "Can we connect on LinkedIn or exchange contact information for future discussions?" If you’re not already LinkedIn connections with your coffee partner, this is a natural segue to solidifying the newly formed connection and keeping the conversation going beyond the networking coffee chat.

Networking coffee chats are not just about the caffeine — they're an opportunity to forge meaningful connections and gain valuable insights. The questions provided here give you the framework to have an engaging conversation that can turn a casual encounter into a foundation for future professional collaboration. Good luck and happy networking!

Want more job tips from UKG recruiters?  Check out all our career advice.