The message came through LinkedIn. “I’ll be in New York again shortly,” it said, “and wanted to know if you want to grab a drink.”
I’m bad with names. His company vaguely rang a bell. We weren’t Facebook friends. “I’m sorry if this sounds bad,” I wrote back. “But how do I know you?” He explained that we’d met at an event a few years back. “We had a back and forth going on,” he said.
That only confused matters further. Were his intentions personal or professional? He had reached out through a professional site yet had used a dating keyword: “drink.”
Once it was standard to say, “Can I take you out to lunch to discuss my new project/company/product?” But in a world where we all feel like we “know” each other through social media, everything is “Wanna grab a drink?”
Lea Goldman, editor of Marie Claire magazine’s MC@Work section, scolds this guy for his ambiguity. “Had he asked you for coffee, do you think you'd be nearly as confused?” she says.
A little digging can’t hurt when you receive a murky message. Something like, “Did you want to discuss a project?” could easily clear things up. Even asking “Is this professional or personal?” might be awkward—but not as awkward as showing up for a date that isn’t one.
And if you’re looking for a professional connection, one way to ruin things early on is to give the impression that it’s a romantic overture. It’s not a good way to start a relationship—unless you’re in a bad romantic comedy.