We’ve probably all experienced this moment in the interview process: you’re asked to provide references, and you have to track down the latest contact information for an old supervisor. You draft an email letting them know that someone may be calling them soon, and provide an update on what you’ve been doing in the five years since you last spoke. Awkward, right?
But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can—and should—maintain genuine communication with former supervisors, co-workers, and clients.
Why is it important?
Having people in your life who know you and your work is something valuable. Not only can they serve as references in future job searches, but they can provide professional guidance and connect you to opportunities in other organizations as well. In the case of former clients, staying in touch can also keep you foremost in their minds for any future working relationship.
But keeping in contact doesn’t always have to be about landing a job. You never know—you and a co-worker may cross paths again in another city and you could become close friends (as per this writer’s personal experience).
Keep it genuine
Sometimes “networking” can feel artificial and forced. And with people you didn’t really have a relationship with, it often is. So be selective and genuine, and try not to overthink it:
- You don’t have to stay in touch with everyone you’ve worked with. If you feel uncomfortable about contacting someone, they’re probably not a person who knows you well enough to speak to your strengths.
- If you were friendly with your boss in the office, you should definitely treat that relationship as a real connection when you leave the job. Once you’ve left the work environment behind, you may even find it’s easier to connect and speak more freely.
- Exchange emails, and perhaps schedule an occasional lunch to catch up. Then, rather than asking for a recommendation out of the blue, you’re simply giving a good acquaintance a heads-up about your job search.
Make it a regular habit
If you make keeping in contact a part of your regular routine, it will become much more natural. It only takes a few minutes to reach out, ask questions, and share your updates.
- While social networking can be a great tool, don’t limit yourself to those interactions. Sharing an update on LinkedIn is not the same as writing a personal email (or meeting for coffee).
- If catching up regularly is hard for you to prioritize or remember, you may find it helpful to set monthly goals for reaching out to contacts.
- At the very least, make sure to send out holiday or New Year’s greetings, and don’t forget to share any exciting news about work or life changes. And remember that good communication works both ways—if you see that your old supervisor was recently promoted, reach out to offer congratulations.
How do you keep in touch with former colleagues and supervisors? Tweet at us!
Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.