By Raiden Huang.
Any level of success I’ve experienced thus far in my life, I attribute to the people in my network. Whether that be internships, part-time jobs, clubs, etc. I wouldn’t have attained them without the help of others. Now going through finance recruitment like many other students, I’ve been fortunate to find a gem of a thought leader and entrepreneur in Erik Mosney. I truly believe Erik has come up with a solution to optimize networking.
– Raiden Huang
Raiden: What is Caffinate?
Erik: Caffinate is an online marketplace that makes it easier to connect with people outside of your network. We support ambitious networkers who are looking to make connections, but don’t know people in the “right” places: whether it’s to ask for feedback on a job offer, dive into a company’s recruitment process, or gain valuable insights that will help propel your career forward. As the new way to schedule coffee chats that advance your career with professionals from the world’s top companies, Caffinate operates using an optional fee system and requires an agenda before booking a meeting, to incentivise both sides to engage in a high-quality exchange of information through an easy to use platform. Anyone can request a meeting with any of the professionals on Caffinate, it’s just like buying a coffee online – and our professionals actually want to meet you.
Raiden: Where does the idea for Caffinate originate?
Erik: The idea for Caffinate really comes from my experience as a networker in university trying to connect with professionals at companies I wanted to work at, and now as an established professional, I find myself fielding these same coffee chat requests. I didn’t have any family connections to investment banking or private equity while in school (my desired career path) so most of my networking was cold outreach on LinkedIn or through email with a <10% response rate. Getting the cold shoulder after spending hours drafting personalized outreach to just about every investment banker in Canada was depressing and made me feel like this type of work was inaccessible to a disconnected student like me. I just wanted to increase my conversion rate on outreach and I wished that I could email transfer one of these professionals to purchase a call with them – why not? I could buy just about everything else online. Now that I am working full-time, I definitely understand some of the rejection I got was just based on people leading busy lives and not having any incentive or time to get back to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had uncovered a broken system. Caffinate is a way for me to give back and solve the problems that I incurred as a networker, and as a professional, as it relates to cold introductions. A community of professionals who are motivated to build relationships with networkers can be a very powerful thing and will result in greater career success for everyone. Caffinate is a product built for my 20-year old self, my current self and my future self as I, along with many others, try to leverage the power of networking to accelerate our careers.
Raiden: How has networking influenced your professional life?
Erik: I definitely owe my entire career so far to networking, as you will find most others do. Coming from a non-target university for the finance industry, I found that I was consistently being passed up for investment banking opportunities and it was largely because I didn’t have any connections within the banks who could be cheerleaders for my application. I did all the right things (good grades, student club leadership roles, relevant internship experience, etc.) but without a flagged application, I always got the rejection email. Looking back I should have just done what I tell students to do now – make a list of every firm you want to work at, make as many high-quality connections as you can at each group, wait for them to have an opening and stay top of mind. The reality is that you are competing with so many qualified people for a limited amount of positions and you will lose to candidates who are more connected to the group that is hiring, even if you are in better academic standing, have better extracurriculars, etc. If you are well-connected you will learn about opportunities that aren’t posted, understand the career blueprint in more detail, have access to interview preparation resources, have more opportunities to interview and have more decision-makers cheering you on internally. All that said, what if I had all of these connections when I was in high school and knew how important going to a target school was, or how important internships were? The people you are competing with do have these connections early in life and they will use them to their advantage – how will you stay competitive?
Raiden: What’re you looking to accomplish with Caffinate?
Erik: My main goal is to empower networkers with a heightened level of access to established professionals, and incentivize these members to give back to the networkers they once were. If I could help facilitate one connection that leads to someone starting down their dream career path I think I could confidently call Caffinate a success. Caffinate’s success starts with creating a community and culture that established professionals want to be a part of such that they are motivated to offer their time to others. I don’t think many professionals believe that they have anything of value to offer to networkers, but sometimes just listening and giving your insight on breaking into an industry or your career story can have a major impact on somebody else who might look up to you. Right now these career-oriented conversations are largely reserved for the well-connected and the overly ambitious, but I hope to democratize the networking process so that there is equal opportunity for everyone to create their own connections and compete against nepotism. I hope to use Caffinate as a tool to accelerate my own career because I realize that I will always have to be a networker in order to get to where I want to go.
I’ve come to realize the distinction between the feeling of productivity and actually being productive. Ultimately, what I know to be true is that tangible action matters a ton. Regarding Caffinate, I’m very hopeful that the intentional aspect of each conversation will lead to real career progression for many.
Want to try Caffinate? Book a coffee chat now!