Outside, the people of the Inner Richmond park their bikes, remove their helmets, and step inside the funky atmosphere of Velo Rouge café. Old photographs litter the yellow walls, tilting just slightly in this direction and that. I pick at my curry Peasant Pie and nibble at my salad. There’s no doubt that both are delicious, but I’m distracted. I can’t help but glance back behind the counter where a man in an apron slowly pours steaming water over the dark Blue Bottle coffee grounds. I inhale deeply.
Almost before the cup reaches my hand, I can taste the subtle bitterness, that sharp bite beneath the smooth. The fogginess in my head clears after the first sip and I’m alert, suddenly so much more aware of the steps of other patrons and the rustle of the newspaper the man to my left is reading.
There’s no doubt about it. I LOVE COFFEE.
But I had no idea that it could influence my life in a much bigger way than just waking me up in the morning. Before reading Michael Bloomberg’s career story in Gillian Zoe Segal’s Getting There: A Book of Mentors, a book filled with the career and life stories of various successful professionals, I only thought of coffee in terms of how it was going to affect me physically.
It turns out that coffee can actually change the entire course of your career. Here’s what I mean:
One of the main points that Michael Bloomberg touches upon when talking about his career journey and how he became the success he is today is that he never once stopped working. Work wasn’t something he was trying to get out of. It was something he wanted to do.
So much so that even after he was laid off, he would come in early and leave late, six days a week. He decided to do this not only because he wanted to be able to say that he had always given 110% but also because he discovered that by coming in at off-hours, he could meet different people that normally would be out of his reach.
He explains that a lot of the best CEOs or executives will come into the office early or stay late—earlier than their assistants even. Without these so-called “gatekeepers,” it’s a lot easier to actually make contact with the people that you want to speak to.
Here is where the coffee comes into play. A young Michael Bloomberg would always buy two cups of coffee with a side of cream and sugar. In those wee hours of the morning or late after most everyone had gone home, he’d roam the halls and if he noticed someone in an office, sitting alone and maybe reading their newspaper, he’d ask to speak with them for a bit. That’s why he’d invest in two cups instead of just one. He would go in with the coffees and introduce himself with “Hi, I’m Mike Bloomberg. I bought you a cup of coffee. I’d just like to bend your ear.”
In Getting There: A Book of Mentors, he explains that most people won’t turn you away if you just bought them a cup of coffee (of course there are a few of those people out there who don’t drink coffee, in which case you can make a note and buy them a tea instead).
Not only does this make you a familiar face to many more people working in your industry, but you’ll get to learn from the stories they have to share with you. We’ve written a lot about the benefits of informational interviews and best practices for these small meetings here.
Making a name for yourself in your field can be seem impossible, especially as a recent graduate. You’re just starting out and probably working in a position that isn’t quite what you had in mind (just something to get your foot in the door). But it is in this situation that I think we could all really benefit from Michael Bloomberg’s career story. Whether you’re working in a very, very entry-level position or if you get laid off, show up with the same determination you would have if you were showing up for a dream job. Arrive early, stay late, and don’t forget the coffee.
What do you think? What does Michael Bloomberg’s story inspire you to do? Are you thinking about giving this trick a try? If you do, let us know how it goes!