7 easy ways to get back in touch with your professional network
Gearing up your job search? Reconnecting with old bosses is a must. And it's not as hard as it sounds.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other is gold.”
That saying also applies not just to friends from your third grade scouting troop, but also to your professional networking contacts.
Ideally, you’d keep in regular contact with your entire network throughout your career journey, so that they’re on tap when needed them for a reference or introduction. But we’re all human, and life often gets in the way of our best laid plans.
Of course, as you start revving up your job search, you’ll want to get in touch with your key contacts to let them know you’re looking. But how? Reaching out to old contacts after a long time can be awkward. There’s a chance that they might not remember you very well. And when you’re quick to tap an old contact for resources after letting the relationship go cold for a long time, you may come off as self-serving.
The key to getting what you need without getting a bad reputation in the process is to look for light touches as reasons to reconnect. Try one of the following. And then when you do get around to asking for help, don’t dance around it or apologize; just be straight about what you need.
1. Embrace the awkwardness. “It’s been too long” is a good way to start, and can even be the subject of your email, says Michelle Tillis Lederman, and author of Nail The Interview, Land The Job. “Pretending you’re best friends and it’s natural to call is inauthentic, but when you admit that it’s been awhile and you want to catch up, it’s more genuine. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable.”
2. Lean on a mutual pal. Another way is to look at your business networks to find out who you have in common and use that connection to reach out, Lederman says. For example, you could say: “I was just thinking about so-and-so—it turns out we both know her! How did you meet?”
3. Get personal. If you’re connected more personally on Facebook, you can wish the person a happy birthday or ask about the pictures from their last vacation. Doing so will naturally lead back to a conversation about what you’re doing professionally, Lederman says.
4. Celebrate something professional. Since it's been a while, you probably haven't been tracking every career move your old boss or former colleague has been making. Assuming you can come up with a legitimate way of having found out the news without looking like a stalker—"I got a LinkedIn notification that you've been promoted!"—a congrats email is a very positive way to get in touch.
5. Request a professional opinion. To push the connection further, follow up with action steps. “I’m making changes on my end and would love your perspective” doesn’t mean you’re asking for a job, just advice—and people love to give advice, Lederman says.
6. Make a date. Marc Prosser of Brooklyn-based Fit Small Business suggests you “treat it like a first date” and ask them to grab coffee or drinks. “Offer them an opportunity to get to know you again before making any big requests.” Because you’re basically starting the relationship over again.
7. Wash the other hand. If you’re already connected on social media, break the ice by sending the person an article that covers a topic in their field, suggests Shane Robert Walton, owner of Denver-based Green Vine Marketing. Include a note that says the article reminded you of them.