No one knows your capabilities, work ethic, and background better than your former colleagues and bosses. And not only do past workmates know you well, they also have their own list of contacts which may include people at other organizations where you are applying for a job. They can be professional references, sources of recommendation letters, introduce you to new opportunities, and be your professional advocates. For all of these reasons and more it is useful to keep in touch with your past coworkers. But keeping contacts open when it isn’t part of your regular routine can be time consuming and sometimes a bit awkward. So how can you best reach out and touch base so as not to appear random or self-serving?
Take a look at the following list that can help you to stay in touch, leave a positive impression, and keep your networking opportunities wide open.
1. Making a call or sending a card on major holidays is not only polite but also professional and it can be completed alongside your other holiday mailings. Cards should be non-denominational and generally not humorous. One good sign that you’re doing things right? Your list of cards grows every year.
2. When you experience a major professional life change, reach out to your old supervisors and let them know how appreciative you are for their help and guidance in getting you to where you are. You can even send a not for a non-job-related event and accomplishment if it can be tied into a shared experience with your past employer.
3. If you experience a personal life change, such as a move or a marriage, send a note alerting your old bosses and colleagues of your new contact information. Letting them know about major life events can help show that you remain interested in staying in touch and adds a personal demeanor to your professional contacts.
4. If you ever come across a bit of industry news or learn about a particular issue that a former colleague worked on or found important, send an email alerting him or her of the news to show that you remembered its relevance. Try not to send these articles or other news bits too frequently, but try to find something useful every few months.
5. With social media it is much easier to stay in contact with old colleagues than in the past but may be seen as intrusive if your relationship wasn’t developed at a personal level. Stick to LinkedIn accounts if your relationship is strictly professional, but if a friendship had developed it is probably safe to add them to Facebook or Twitter.
While it isn’t necessary to use each of these forms of communication for each of your contacts, you should pick one or two means of connection depending on the relationship you wish to foster with each person. And even if it has been an extended period of time since last speaking with some of your past work mates, that’s all right. Start with a short note reintroducing yourself and updating on your professional life or send a holiday card to renew a line of communications.