Why and How to Stay In Touch With Former Colleagues
Congratulations: After five years at your current company, you’ve just landed a dream job with another firm! You’re elated and excited, but at the same time, you’re also a little sad. You’ve had a good time here. You’ve enjoyed working alongside your colleagues, and you’ve also enjoyed socializing with some of them after work. So when the team throws you a goodbye party on Friday afternoon, it’s no surprise that more than one colleague is tearing up; you’re feeling emotional, too! Personal emails and phone numbers are exchanged, tentative lunch dates to get together are set and everybody promises to stay in touch.
But six months into your new job, you realize that you’ve been so busy, you haven’t spoken to any of your old colleagues. None of those tentative lunch dates ever materialized, and you can’t remember where you wrote down everybody’s email addresses. And you find yourself thinking that maybe you should just let it go because it’s been such a long time. After all, everybody’s moved on, right?
Think again. According to Forbes, losing touch with colleagues from a previous job, whether it was a temp, full-time or part-time position, is the last thing you should do if you’re serious about your career. Here are three good reasons to stay in touch.
Nobody can vouch for your background, skills, qualities and performance like your former colleagues. They’ve worked with you day in and day out under a variety of circumstances to achieve a range of goals. Even if you never socialized with one another in your free time, your colleagues know you professionally. And when you need references for anything from a new job to a board position in a professional association, they’re the ones who can step up to the plate for you—and when they need you, you can reciprocate.
Former colleagues with whom you had a good working relationship can be allies for the rest of your professional life. By keeping in touch, you can both benefit from each other’s contacts and knowledge about what’s going on in your field. And if you’re reluctant to spend time and energy on people who don’t immediately expand your network or open doors for you, note that Business Model Innovation expert Deb Mills-Schofield advises shifting your focus away from immediate results. As you move on through life and expand your network, so will your former colleagues. You never know when a connection will line up to your advantage.
You’d have loved to sign a contract with the firm you temped at for two months, but they weren’t hiring. A year later, a former colleague contacts you with the news that now, they’re looking, and you’d be perfect for the position. Or perhaps you’re considering a lateral career move to another company, and your former boss just happens to have a solid contact at that company. Or maybe you ran into a former co-worker at the gym, and she tells you about an upcoming business opportunity that could benefit your company.
Let’s face it: By the time you read it on the Internet, it’s already old news. Timely information is heard in hallways, over dinners and on the back nine every day. By staying in touch with former colleagues, you stand a better chance of hearing about advantageous opportunities—and acting on them—before they become yesterday’s news.
How to Stay in Touch
Now that you know why to remain in contact with former colleagues, you might be wondering what is the most appropriate. Fortunately, there are many ways to (re)connect:
- Pick up the phone, and call them.
- Send them cards on holidays and birthdays.
- Notify them of major personal and professional life events, such the birth of your baby or a promotion.
- Use social media to connect easily, no matter where you are.
- Send them links to articles or blogs they might find interesting.
- Organize office reunions.
- Have lunch together.
No matter how you connect, just reach out. By keeping lines of communication open with former co-workers and strengthening your relationships with those you find most important, you could be doing wonders for your career while staying social along the way.