How to build your network in a digital, remote world

Andrew Yeung
4 min readJan 2, 2021

It was a lot easier to expand your network prior to 2020. Industry conferences, networking mixers, and business happy hours were regular occurrences. Back then, you simply grabbed a friend or colleague and just went. The recent pivot has caused a lot of us to change our approach; I’ve been engaging more on LinkedIn, Tweeting more on Twitter, and posting more on some of the anonymous professional social networks. But the one tool I’ve embraced the most is the virtual coffee chat. It’s the art of finding someone you’d like to learn from and reaching out in a humble and intentional way.

Recently, I’ve had a lot of folks reach out to me with questions on initiating and driving coffee chats. I wanted to write this article to provide guidance to those new to the networking and coffee chat world. I remember how intimidating it was when I first started. Reaching out to someone out of the blue seemed unnatural… and even transactional.

Having the opportunity to do ~300 coffee chats this year has taught me a few things about the process. Here’s my approach:

The Process

I like to break the process up into 4 steps: Planning, Outreach, Coffee Chat, and Follow-up.

Planning is where you clarify your intentions, do your due diligence, and prepare your conversation topics. Outreach involves identifying and reaching out to the folks you want to meet with. Follow-up is the step you’ll take post-conversation.

1. Planning

Clarify your intentions & goals

It’s critical to understand your intentions and clarify your goals for wanting to have a coffee chat with someone. What are you looking for?

Some examples:

  • Build a professional relationship (e.g. to meet a mentor)
  • Get your foot in the door at a company
  • Meet a potential client
  • Learn about a specific business area

Your intentions will guide your approach and goals for the coffee chat. One goal that is universal across all intentions is to build rapport. This should always be top of mind in your approach.

Andrew Yeung

Strategy Lead at Meta, Facebook. I share ideas to improve your performance, productivity — and better good humans. I also throw tech parties in NYC.