4 tips for following up with a professional contact after what feels like forever

What happens when you go to a conference and meet a ton of new faces, but fail to follow up with them? Or when you let a year go by without contacting your mentor, who has been so invested in your development all along?

Shooting off an email into the great unknown after a really long time can feel like you’re crawling out from under a rock— especially if it’s because you suddenly need something. Here are four tips for following up with a professional contact after a long time.

Don’t be awkward about it– just be briefly apologetic

Quickly — but sincerely — touch on the fact that it’s been a while, but don’t harp on this point for too long. This will only make things more awkward for you.

Put it this way: the quicker you mention this, the quicker you can move on to the substance of your message. Just address the elephant in the room first.

Ask about how they’re doing, of course

Don’t make it all about me, me, me — we all know that communication is a two-way street.

Plus, you definitely owe it to this person to ask about how they’re doing after such a long time. They’ll probably be more inclined to respond, and have a warmer reception to your message. When in doubt, use the golden rule: I’m sure you’d want an old colleague to ask about you when sending a message your way after quite some time.

So ask about what they’ve been working on lately, and if you can be of any professional help.

Quickly fill them in on what’s been going on with you

Don’t send them a massively detailed laundry list of every single thing you’ve been up to since you last met or spoke. Instead, let them know about a couple highlights— especially if they’re related to something they encouraged you to do in the first place.

Include either a link to your portfolio or instructions on where to find your most recent work so they can pick and choose what to check out.

Next time, don’t wait until you’re in need

Unfortunately, this doesn’t look good on your end. It’ll look like you’re using them for their professional advice, even it’s about much more than that to you.

Next time, make reaching out more of a regular habit. It’ll help you keep the doors of communication open. That way, when you need something, you won’t have to start out cold.