Sept. 28, 2017

Coffee Meeting with Strangers

It’s hard to make important career related decisions by yourself. Remember you’re not alone. Coffee meeting with strangers can help you invaluably.

Like everybody in this world, I was faced with a decision to make and I felt like I needed more information or an expert advice. Instead of making uninformed decision or making none at all, I reached out to people that I found on the internet and met up with them over coffee.

I personally reached out to strangers in the following occasions:

  • Reached out to a sustainability start up in Sydney to try to understand what the sustainability design industry is like
  • Reached out to a freelance architect to understand whether his experience lived up to my imagination
  • Reached out to a person within my organisation to figure out how I can grow in my current organisation and my current job
  • Reached out to a waste-management non-for-profit organisation in Nepal to see how I can get involved

How did it go? All of them were extremely nice and helpful. They talked about their experience and provided a lot of advice. This clarified my thinking which has helped me to make much-informed decision.

How to reach out

I would begin by writing them a friendly email. You can find a lot of advice on how to write a coffee meeting email online.

Example of an email I wrote 3 years ago

“Hi Bob

My name is Andrew Kim and I’m currently in my final semester of studying architecture and engineering at the University of Sydney. I came across Hack Architecture when I was researching about Renew Newcastle and The Collaborative Space and I just wanted to say hello.

I was always very interested in Renew Newcastle initiative and its efforts to revitalise the city. It’s very inspiring to see people get together and use this opportunity to trial creative projects and business models.

As I am about to finish my studies, I’m constantly thinking about what I kind of architect/engineer I want to be in the future. I always imagined myself working in small creative environment, collaborating with other people like graphic designers and artists much like The Collaborative Space.
And after discovering that an architect (you) also has an office in this space, I wanted to get in touch.

Would you be interested in meeting over coffee sometimes next month? I would love to hear of your experience of relocating to Newcastle and working in The Collaborative Space. And also what you think of the city, of other Renew Newcastle projects and about any collaborative things that you’ve gotten involved with.

Thanks ,Bob, looking forward to hearing from you.”

(Bob is not his real name and Collaborative Space is not the real name of the space)

He replied back and we agreed to meet in Newcastle. I met up with him and I got to learn about his practice, the shared collaborative space and everything in between. All this experience and advice was inspiring and informative and decided freelance architecture is not yet for me and that I need to be really business savvy and have many contacts.

My General Advice

  • You need to stop thinking that you’re inconveniencing the person you’re emailing. I believe that in general, people want to help others in ways that they feel comfortable. If they don’t want to meet up with you, they would probably just ignore you.

My Advice regarding email

  • Ask respectfully and without any strings attached
  • Don’t expect anything to happen after
  • Always follow up with an email thanking them for their time and that you learnt x, y, z

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