can I ask networking contacts to meet somewhere more convenient to me?

A reader writes:

I recently got a couple of networking contacts who are in the part of my field that I’d like to move into at some point. I reached out to the contacts and they were lovely and offered to meet for coffee, but I didn’t realize that one person’s office is a 45-minute drive from my office (in traffic, and I’m in a big city, so there’s always traffic). I can’t possibly do a coffee meeting that would take at least two hours out of my day (assuming we talk for half an hour). Is there a good way to ask if they could meet me halfway or take time out of their weekend to meet?

I’m the one who reached out, so I want to make things convenient, and I’m worried that asking this is a bit high maintenance!

Don’t ask them to meet you halfway. Because you’re asking for a favor, you should make it as convenient as possible for the other person, which usually means meeting right by the person’s office, and you being the one who needs to go out of your way to get there.

The weekend thing … maybe. Some people would be genuinely happy to meet over a weekend, and other people definitely wouldn’t be. But I think you can float that possibility as long as you make it really clear that you realize it might not work for them and provide them with an easy out.

So with this person, you could say something like: “Ack, I’ve just realized that because of where your office is relative to mine, I probably can’t meet on a weekday. (Since you’re doing me a favor, I don’t want to ask you to meet halfway; it would be a bit of a drive for you.) If you’re up for it, I’d love to meet during the day on a weekend if you’re up for that, but I realize that might not work well for you! If it does, let me know and I’ll come to you wherever you happen to be, but otherwise I’ll reluctantly put this on hold for now and check in with you if it ever gets easier for me to get closer to Llamatown during the week. I really appreciate you being willing to talk with me though, and I’m hoping to be able to take you up on that offer at some point soon!”

That gives the person the opportunity to tell you that she’d actually be fine with meeting you halfway, if in fact she is — but it doesn’t put her in an awkward spot if she’s not.

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. emma2*

    If meeting in person is problematic, couldn’t you have a phone conversation as an alternative? It’s not as ideal, but it seems like meeting in person is very inconvenient for both of you.

    Also, the headline says “someone” instead of “somewhere.

    1. hermit crab*

      I’m periodically contacted by current students in the undergraduate program I attended, which is a few hundred miles away from where I live now. I always offer them a Skype/Google Hangouts conversation.

    1. OP*

      Hi, OP here! In my industry/area, networking is much preferred in-person, rather than over the phone. However, I don’t think offering up a phone call would be a problem! Thank you for the suggestion!

      1. kms1025*

        Since you already asked for the meeting, I personally would do it this one time and negotiate future meetings.

    2. Jessica*

      Can you telework one day from a coffee shop or library in the other town, and do the networking meeting then?

  2. HR Manager*

    Definitely do NOT ask them to meet you halfway. I think AAM answer is good. I personally fall under the don’t want to meet on the weekend person. In fact, I’d rather someone like the letter writer come to my office than me going to a coffee shop (albeit one close to me).

  3. ZSD*

    Could you at least ask to meet at the end of the day? Instead of meeting at 11 AM and taking two hours out of your workday, maybe you could meet closer to 5 PM, which lets them (perhaps) go straight home after meeting with you, which is nice for them, and lets you lose only about one hour of your workday, which is good for you.

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      This is a good suggestion, but I think for a lot of people working in denser cities, that might make the timing even worse (e.g. everybody is leaving work at that time so the streets are far more crowded than around lunch).

    2. Mabel*

      Or on the other end of the day, perhaps you could meet for coffee or breakfast before work. You would have a late start that morning, but it wouldn’t take as much time out of the work day. (Where I live, traffic is usually much worse in the afternoon, so I’d be more willing to meet in the morning than delay my leave time after work.)

      Alison’s script works for almost any of these scenarios because you’re asking the other person what works best for them.

      1. Person of Interest*

        Came to say the same – first thing in the morning is usually easier for me because it also doesn’t interrupt my own day.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes; I’m almost always happier to meet someone for breakfast at 7:30/8.

      3. LBK*

        Ha – personally, there’s not a chance in hell I’d wake up early to go to a networking meeting unless you’re buying me the best breakfast in the city.

    3. BlueChelle*

      If they’re morning people, first thing could also be an option. One of my colleagues just agreed to a networking breakfast due to similar transportation concerns. They agreed on 8 am, which is when our workday normally starts. That way, my colleague isn’t changing their normal routine and it means that the person requesting the meeting will be driving down before our big-city rush hour is in full swing. Would definitely depend on the individuals though – I am the opposite of a morning person and would prefer to defer important meetings until I am no longer zombie-like.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was going to say this—I can usually catch folks who are far away if it’s before 6 (even if they have kids), and it’s easier for me to leave early one day than go missing for 2 hours in the middle of the day.

      But definitely don’t ask them to come to you—they’re already giving you their time, and in most cases, it will sound a bit entitled/tone deaf to request they come to you (caveat: if you have significant family or caretaking responsibilitie, or other major life stuff, you can ask for the weekend, as Alison noted, or for a phone call).

    5. Naruto*

      I agree, meeting at the beginning or end of the day is another solution. If you meet at 9 am or 5 pm, you don’t have to drive both ways during business hours. You’re still missing a chunk of time out of your day, but it’s less than the two-plus hours you would miss by meeting at 11 am or 2 pm.

    6. OP*

      I think a morning suggestion is great! I’m a somewhat of a zombie, but I’d rather do morning than a late afternoon meeting. (I used to work by where the networker’s office is and it would take me sometimes 2 hours to get to my house, which was 16 miles away…)

  4. pomme de terre*

    Yes, as the person who’s asking for the favor, it’s on you to make it convenient to her. I had a co-worker whose gf was a new grad and looking to get into my field and wanted to talk to me about job hunting. I said fine, and then said gf was a nightmare wrt to scheduling the coffee and it was pretty off-putting.

    Allison’s wording is good — you might get lucky and the contacts will live near your office or something that makes a midpoint (or close to you) meeting OK. But it’s on you to make it easy for them.

    Meeting in person is usually better for things like this, but a phone call is also fine if the logistics really can’t be helped. That’s what I ended up doing with the co-worker’s gf.

  5. Bye Academia*

    What about setting up a phone call instead of coffee? When I was doing informational interviews, all my contacts were happy to talk about their work and actually preferred a phone call. The profession involves billable hours, and it was faster for them to take a call in their office than go somewhere for coffee or lunch.

    Whether a phone call would make sense might be field dependent, but it could be worth asking. I would start with Alison’s script about the fact that you can’t meet in person on a weekday due to the relative office positions, and ask whether they would be willing to talk with you over the phone instead.

  6. fposte*

    Is the problem that you can’t take the time out during a workday, or will it be a problem if you have to travel to the city or to the far side of it on the weekend, too?

    I’m hoping it’s the first, but I think that needs to made clear (as it is in Alison’s script) if so; I was originally reading this as somebody who just thought it was too far, period, and I was 1) thinking I’d side-eye this if somebody asked me and then said I was too far away and 2) thinking that a weekend wouldn’t solve that problem.

  7. Lady Bug*

    OP do you have personal or vacation time available to use for a day or half day to meet this contact? I’ve done this in the past where there is no way I could meet up with someone during my working hours and still make it convenient for that person. Even if you just spend an hour networking, you can take the rest of the day to catch up on errands or relax.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree–personal days can be good for this.

      The other option is to arrange to come in to work a little bit late, and meet them for coffee near their office.

      Or, I had a friend/networking contact once who could “bend” her morning commute so that if I “bent” mine as well, we could have coffee before work.

    2. Hannah*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. If this is a really great networking opportunity, it may be worth using a personal day on. If you don’t get paid time off, then whatever you would call it to miss work for an interview or doctor’s appointment, that’s what I mean by personal day. If you wouldn’t waste a personal day for this meeting, then I would say by no means should you ask the person to meet on the weekend. I would just change the script to ask if you could chat on the phone rather than emergency in person.

    3. OP*

      Unfortunately, I don’t have PTO to use. I do like the “bending” commute suggestions, because I can definitely do that and the “meet in the morning” suggestions above coincide with that!

  8. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Just speaking for me personally: I’d be a little….what’s a notch less than miffed?…at being asked to meet on the weekend. I’d probably still meet, or make it work, but my weekends are crammed with errands and chores and I usually need to get to the mountains for a few hours to stay sane, and spending an hour on a networking meeting would be kind of an imposition most weekends. If nothing else, I’d recommend that the LW insist on paying, and offer to meet at the closest Starbucks to the person’s house.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yeaahhh, I would too. Basically, the OP doesn’t want to take PTO (or can’t) so that she can spend 2 hrs meeting me during the week, but she wants me to take my time on the weekend? Nope. I think it would be fine for the person the OP requested to meet to say that their work weeks are jammed and suggest a weekend, but not the other way around. We’re not friends meeting for a Saturday lunch, at least not yet. It seems to push the networking relationship too far forward IMO. Definitely not something I’d ask for the introductory meeting.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          You shouldn’t be asking for things outside of professional norms, regardless of whether the other party is free to say “no” or not. To me, this is outside professional norms enough that it reflects on the OP as being a little out of touch. (Maybe there are industries where it’s not, but for me, mornings before work or lunch would be normal, and anything else seems odd.)

        2. Naruto*

          I might say yes, but be annoyed. If I could do it, I probably would. But I’d be less inclined to go out on a limb for the letter writer in the future, because that’s just a weird thing that’s outside of professional norms, and frankly my weekend time is already so limited that I just don’t want to waste it on people I don’t know and am doing a favor for!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, that’s interesting. No way in hell would I say yes to meeting someone who was asking me for a networking favor at a time I didn’t want to do it — I think that’s a situation where you can be 100% comfortable saying no. I wouldn’t be in the least bit miffed that they asked though, but that might be because I know a lot of people who sometimes do those meetings over the weekend.

            1. Mabel*

              Depending on how it’s phrased, I wouldn’t be annoyed that they asked, but unless I had a strangely free weekend day, I would say no to that.

            2. Shortie*

              Interesting. Perhaps it depends on the field and whether people work for themselves or in a more structured environment. As someone who works in a structured environment, I would definitely say no as weekends are sacred and I’d also be highly annoyed that someone would ask, even if they gave me an easy out.*

              *Because I work regular hours Monday-Friday…making it obvious that weekends are sacred…and can’t you tell I’m a Guesser not an Asker… :-)

              1. Cap Hiller*

                Yes I find it interesting if there are fields in which this happens! I wouldn’t be annoyed, but I’d think it was weird. I’d politely say it wouldn’t work. I recently had a college student at my alma mater ask to “meet over lunch” and frankly, I barely get to see colleagues I like over lunch. Again, I wasn’t annoyed, but it felt presumptuous of my time as opposed to just asking to meet and allow me to suggest the specifics.

            3. K*

              I think this might be an Ask Culture / Guess Culture issue, and the OP risks losing goodwill with the contact (as suggested in the comments above) if the request for weekend scheduling is made. More unfortunately, the OP will probably not be aware of this lost opportunity – as several have noted, the contact might take the meeting, but decline to help in future due to the apparent thoughtlessness demonstrated by the OP in that context.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          For me, it’s that I tend to give people a sort of… er… goodwill allowance, where I’ll do something inconvenient for me one time to help them out. And it’s not that I’d say yes but then be annoyed… but having spent their goodwill allowance, that’s pretty much it, and any additional annoyances will mean that I’ll probably say “gosh it sounds like this isn’t working out, let’s cancel.”

          So it’s not so much a straightforward yes/no as a “everyone gets one inconvenience point to spend, but that’s it, so it’s a good idea to spend it wisely.” In the middle ground between ‘perfectly fine’ and ‘dealbreaker.’

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be miffed but I would be disinclined to prioritize meeting up and would probably view the person asking to meet as a bit daffy. If I know someone has significant life stuff that limits their ability to meet, I’m a little more understanding, but weekends are prime real estate, so there has to be a good reason (other than inconvenience) for me to start to encumber that time.

    3. OwnedByTheCat*

      I’d be…miffed enough that I would say no. My weekends are sacred and *busy* so to do any work-related activities when it was a favor for someone would be a burden on me. For some people it might not be a big deal at all, but it would be for me!

    4. irritable vowel*

      I would never in a million years agree to do this on the weekend, and I wouldn’t think much of anyone who asked for a weekend meeting. OP, you just need to ask what the person prefers, rather than suggesting something so outside of the norm. If the only thing they’re really able to do is a mid-afternoon coffee meeting (or whatever you originally suggested), then you’ll need to make that work on your end if this is something you want to pursue.

    5. CM*

      If the person is willing to come to me, I prefer to meet on the weekend because it’s really hard for me to cram anything else into my week, between work and kids. In fact, I’m considering a weekend-only policy for requests like this. Last time I agreed to meet somebody, it was really annoying to schedule and took up a big chunk of my workday.

      I think the OP could reasonably offer the weekend as an alternative and say something like, “Thanks so much for offering to meet with me. I realized that, since your office is 45 minutes away, I won’t be able to get away in the middle of a workday to meet with you. Would you be willing to meet before 8:30 a.m. or by phone? I’m also available on the weekend and would be happy to travel to you.”

  9. Dizzy Steinway*

    I think the person doing the favour should always be the least inconvenienced. Personally I’d be okay with being asked about weekends if – and only if – it was acknowledged that this might not be convenient!

  10. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I’m currently on a networking push to try and shift my job search into an area I haven’t targeted before, and what I’m quickly realizing is that it’s really hard to avoid losing major chunks out of your week (and GD do I wish I’d done this in law school, when time was a bit more open) even if you don’t have long distances to deal with. Thankfully I have a very flexible schedule and can afford not to get a full 40 hours in. I think it’s just the cost of networking, honestly. I like Alison’s suggestions here.

  11. Kyoki*

    I really like Allison’s script because its breezy and open-ended. I live in a pretty large-Midwest city and traffic can get bad so I would much rather meet on the weekend for an hour or so. I actually met with an undergrad senior a few weeks ago who wanted to know more about my field and what I do.

  12. K*

    I usually love Alison’s wording, but I think this misses the mark. I’d be slightly offended that my time is worth it only “if it ever gets easier for me to get closer to Llamatown during the week.” I’d expect someone asking for a favor to have at least googled me to see where my office is located. I think offering a phone call as an alternative is much better.

    1. OP*

      I didn’t include this background in the letter, but I recently moved jobs and I used to be very close to where this networking contact worked, which is when I sent the reach out email. Unfortunately, it got lost in their spam mail and they just recently emailed me about it offering up mid-afternoon coffee.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Oh, that really helps with your follow up! “As it turns out, I’ve moved offices and am now in [location], which will make it difficult for me to make that time. Could you do something in the morning, before 9?” or whatever.

        1. OP*

          This is perfect phrasing, thank you! I was just mulling over how to phrase it in the email to avoid making it seem like I was annoyed they didn’t get back to me sooner (which I am definitely not! Any positive response, no matter when it turns up, is okay with me!)

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I think this makes all the difference as well. Explain that you would have loved to do mid-afternoon coffee before, but now that you have moved to an office 45 minutes away it makes the logistics more difficult.

          If you have any flexibility in your workday, I would ask if they could move the meeting time closer to the beginning or end of the workday, so that way you are coming in late or leaving early rather than leaving mid-day. But since they are doing you a favor, ask which is better for them.

          Also, if the issue is that you don’t have much PTO *yet* because you are new but you think you could swing it later, you could also suggest that unfortunately since you just moved jobs you don’t think you could do a mid-day coffee meetup right now, but would it be ok to check back with her at the end of summer or in the fall (or whenever you think you’ll have more flexibility/PTO) to see if she’s still available?

        3. GrandBargain*

          And asking it that way makes the contact gently aware that, if you do both decide to stick with the original time and location, you are making a real effort to be there and flaking out would not be ok.

  13. Kaybee*

    I used to work at a place that was considered really cool by students in my program my alma mater (and would seem hilariously nerdy in the real world), so I had A LOT of these requests. I was happy to talk to anyone who was interested in the field/organization, but it absolutely needed to be convenient for me. I would have perceived a request to drive 40 minutes roundtrip as not very respectful of my time. Especially since I didn’t have a car then and doing such a trip on public transportation would have taken a lot longer. I had a lot of phone calls with folks who weren’t close, and that was fine. Phone calls also provided a lot more flexibility in terms of scheduling. I think that’s your best route.

    In terms of a weekend meeting, unless you know that these contacts live relatively close to you, it could still be quite the ordeal in a metropolitan area that always has traffic. Personally, I would not be on board with a weekend networking request unless I was really connected to the person in some way, say a friend’s sister.

  14. Jaguar*

    (Since you’re doing me a favor, I don’t want to ask you to meet halfway; it would be a bit of a drive for you.)

    I’d leave that part out. It reads like asking for a favour without asking for the favour. I’m totally not asking you to drive a bit to meet me. What an absurd suggestion, after you’ve been so nice to meet me, to ask you to do something like that. We’ll have to find some other solution to this difficult problem, since that’s not an option.

    1. gladfe*

      Yeah, I agree. I think asking about a weekend is fine, but that parenthetical reads as a pretty heavy-handed hint to me.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      I agree and was going to post the exact same thing. I think it reads like hint, hint

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Agreed. The rest of the language sounds great, but if someone said this to me it would trigger some annoyance on my part.

  15. Bibliovore*

    I get a lot of these requests and I would be cranky if asked for a weekend meeting. However, as others have said- blocking a half hour early morning phone call would not be a big deal and if the networker phrased it- now that I have had a chance to look at my schedule, given the traffic time, would a phone meeting work better for you?

  16. MommyMD*

    Also, if someone balked at the drive to meet up with me, I would think they are not serious and probably forget the whole thing.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. It signals that they want me to do the most a favor (or at least something inconvenient for me), but value their time more than mine.

      1. OP*

        Hi! As stated above, this actually occurred because I contacted them when I worked 15 minutes away and they responded now that I’ve moved offices. I’m definitely not balking, I just had a change of situations!

  17. Willow*

    Could you meet before work? That way, you don’t have the round trip in traffic, just one way. If you are allowed to get to work late sometimes.

  18. Elizabeth H.*

    I think the email is a little too wordy and explains too much, and I agree with others you don’t want to sound too much like you didn’t think it through. I would 1) suggest a phone conversation – even if you’re close together this could be more convenient 2) thank her again and say that while you are appreciative you think you may have to wait and reach out again in a week or two when you know when you will be able to schedule the trip there, and add “unless you would be interested in meeting for coffee on a weekend.” then as others have said, take half a personal day or something if you really want to make the coffee in person.

    1. Teapot Librarian*

      I want to know how to go about getting a job in Llamatown. What’s the cost of living like?

          1. The Mayor of Llamatown*

            We do currently have an opening for the chief llama llibrarian at the Llamatown Municipal Llibrary. :)

  19. Lobbyist*

    I think if you are asking them to meet you, go to them at a time of their choosing and a place of their choosing. If you asked me to meet and then AFTER I agreed said you didn’t realize where I was (when presumably you looked me up ahead of time) I would be annoyed and unlikely to want to help you in the future. Likewise, I would not agree to meet you on a weekend. If you don’t have time to meet me, don’t ask.

    1. OP*

      I definitely agree with this and would feel the same, but as stated above, the background is that I requested the coffee when I worked 15 minutes away, now I work 45 minutes away. I realized where they were, just not the timing of their response!

  20. Dizzy Steinway*

    By the way, try not to value this in terms of the time or effort needed for this meeting. If it helps you get the career move you want, it will have been worth the drive.

    1. OP*

      Good tip! I think this is also why I was struggling. This meeting definitely wouldn’t have tangible benefits until far in the future. Basically, I’m a first-year teapot analyzer and I couldn’t make a career move to the path of the networking person until five years from now. However, my lovely husband knows a lot of people who know higher-up teapot analyzers, so when his connection mentioned a networking contact for me, jumped on it. Before I knew it, I was being sent the networking contact’s email with the caption “they know you’ll be requesting a meeting soon.” Since, at the time, the office was 15 minutes away, I figured it was very beneficial.

  21. Anonymous37*

    Do you have to pretend to be Cathy from the newspaper comic strip when attempting to reschedule, or is that optional?

  22. Buu*

    If you have the holiday why not take a half day? Then you don’t have to worry about getting back.

  23. OP*

    Update: I replied to the networking contact and asked them if they were okay with a morning meet time. They replied with his office location (which wasn’t in his e-mail signature), so it was a smooth transition to explaining where I was in relation to Llamatown and asking if 9 AM was too early (but that, of course I would meet at their office or a nearby coffee place that was convenient to them.) It was not, so I’m set to network without bothering my bosses (my schedule is flexible for a 10 AM arrival, but not for me to take PTO at this time)! Also, hilariously, another networking contact (who lives close to me, but works far from me) just rescheduled me to a Saturday meeting.

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