5 Tips on How to Reconnect with Stale Work Contacts
In the last couple of months, I’ve received a number of questions from both professional jobseekers and recent graduates about how to connect and/or reconnect with people you know that may not be in your social networks. If you are out of a job or in active job search mode, many jobseekers may feel awkward about reaching out to people.
Here are some comments I’ve heard from a few folks:
“I haven’t kept in touch with old colleague from my previous company, they may question my motives if I send them a LinkedIn invite out of the blue”
“I never had a personal relationship with former boss so I feel strange reaching out to him.”
“I just graduated, I don’t know anyone to add to my professional network”.
“I’m afraid since I left the company, that they have forgotten me. It feels a little like outta-sight-outta-mind”
Career Coaches agree that even if reconnecting with stale networking contacts is uncomfortable, it is a vital part of job hunting. It’s good to keep in touch when you can, but don’t worry too much if it has been months or even years! Life happens, people get busy – everyone is busy. Your contacts will appreciate hearing from you when you get a moment.
“We often don’t realize that we have a treasure chest full of relationships we’ve built over the years, and once you reconnect, you may actually light a potential networking fire,” says Linda Gunther, Human Resources and Organization Development Professional. “Remember that people you may think have forgotten you actually think about you and wonder what you are doing now.”
You can find a lot written on the web, articles or books about the art of networking. Here are 5 tips that can help you as you reconnect with an old friend or former colleague.
Insight #1: STEP OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Whether you’re rebuilding a workplace bond that’s faded or digging up your old rolodex full of business cards of acquaintances whose faces escape your memory, don’t feel guilty. Remember that you had a rapport with them at one point, and that has not gone away just because you have not been in touch.
The best thing to do is reach out to former co-workers or colleagues, ask how they have been and let them know your current situation. “Do not be shy if you need to remind them who you are, how you met them and how you used to interact with one another using details from the past. Plant the seeds of trust,” said Lidia Lopez, a recent job seeker.
If the idea of tapping someone out of the blue makes you squirm or nervous, try to connect first with a mutual friend and ask how your prospective contact is doing. When you do connect with your former acquaintance, mention that you’ve spoken to the friend you have in common. Try to keep the discussion natural and informal.
If calling people during a time of need makes you feel desperate, then try to attend a social event like a Meetup group and network with people that you may have a similar interest and may help you with job leads.
“When meeting new people, I always introduce myself and ask questions about their background and interests. Update them on what you are currently doing and what your plans for the near future.” Lopez said. “The important thing is to make a connection.”
Insight #2: IT’S OK TO ASK
For many, asking for help is challenging. You don’t want it to seem as if you’re asking for a handout or for charity. However, most people understand what’s going on with the economy, and they’ll probably be happy to hear from you. Ask friends and neighbors for help – they are all connected to someone that might know of a job opportunity that may not otherwise come to your attention. Just be up-front about your intentions when you reach out to them.
When you reconnect, ask for something that’s easy to give, like advice, information, a lead or insight. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help if they are only asked.
It is also helpful to set up the stage and be transparent about the purpose of a meeting. Suggest a 10-minute call or an invitation for coffee to talk about something specific.
Insight #3: GET CONNECTED
Social networking sites like Meetup, LinkedIn and Facebook can alleviate some anxiety about dropping a line to someone you were chummy with years ago. These social networking sites are career gateways and often lead to contacts even faster than job boards.
“Not sure where to begin with reconnecting with ‘stale work contacts’, start with old college professors, university mentors, old bosses, organization members, former colleagues,” Lopez shared, “You be surprised how many people you know and how easy it is to reconnect with them using today’s social networking tools.”
But career coaches warn that online connections can seem impersonal, and that phone or face time is usually the best way to ask for a favor. Use networking sites to make the initial contact, then try and set up a short appointment or phone call. “Social Networks are great but it doesn’t replace the human touch of networking,” said Mary Alvarado, a volunteer career coach, “Invite them to an informal setting such as a coffee shop. It helps re-establish the relationship.”
Create a 30-second commercial (elevator speech) you can use anytime someone asks “what do you do, what type of job are you hoping to find?” Use it often both in person and online.
Insight #4: BE THANKFUL
Personal touches like thank you cards will show you appreciate the assistance and support. Also, this little gesture may keep you at the front of someone’s mind. Forgetting to follow up could make them forget about you when a job pops up.
When you have finally get the job, don’t forget to thank them or updated them with your new status. And keep the network fresh. Don’t just reach out to an old friend or former colleague only when you need something which leads to my last tip.
Insight #5: PAY IT FORWARD
In turn, please be gracious and understanding when you suddenly hear from an old colleague out of the blue after a number of years. Be responsive and make the time to help them since someone else made time for you. Jobs are not necessarily filled by just applying online. Jobs are filled by people who know people. According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking. This percentage of networkers represents smart jobseekers who understand that looking for and finding work takes work.
Good luck and happy job hunting!
I would like to personally thank Lidia Lopez, Mary Alvarado and Linda Gunther for taking the time for sharing their experience with me and offering insights to reconnecting and networking with former colleagues, friends and/or bosses.