Networking has never been in my comfort zone. I’m not a member of any alumni association. Until recently, I rarely used LinkedIn. Heck, I just turned 40 and I’ve never once attended a high school or college reunion.
I always figured that, in the age of the Internet, any friend, colleague, or former coworker that wants to track me down can easily do so in several different ways.
Of course, as we all learn as we get older, it’s alarmingly easy to lose touch with people. Your old acquaintances have kids, maybe they take a job across the country, or you simply start running in different circles. Next thing you know, years have gone by since you’ve last spoken.
It’s a sad fact of life that I’ve become all too aware of in recent years.
So, when I was asked to reach out to former business colleagues for five days straight, I decided to seize the opportunity. What I discovered was a pleasant surprise: that, although years and miles might separate us, it’s never too late to make a valuable reconnection.
Over a handful of days, I reached out to those I had lost touch with through means like email, texts, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. With rare exceptions, responses were often stunningly quick. One former coworker responded within seconds after I reached out via Facebook Messenger. It just goes to show how many people in modern society are tethered to their smartphones and, thus, social media.
I first decided to sit down with a recent boss of mine. I wanted to let him know how I appreciated the manner with which he led his company: by showing that he cares through his frequent check-ins about how your newborn daughter is doing, how your recent vacation went, or how embarrassingly bad your fantasy football team is. I also let him know that I’d welcome the opportunity to work with him again down the line, should stars and circumstances align.
My old boss seemed genuinely touched, and appreciative. He had rarely received such feedback from employees.
The second person I reached out to was a former coworker who, quite frankly, has a job role I’m envious of, for a multinational corporation that raked in nearly $80 billion in revenue in 2019. I wanted to not only catch up with her but learn the secret to her success.
Her biggest tip was to work hard to nurture relationships with current and former coworkers, she said, and to maintain those connections.
“Duh,”I thought to myself. “Why didn’t I embrace that concept earlier in my career?”
During this week of reconnections, I also sent a heartfelt thank-you email. The recipient was an office manager for one of my old employers. She was one of those selfless workers who always seem to take it upon themselves to solve coworkers’ issues.
I told her that every company needs someone like her, that’s an invaluable jack of all trades. She seemed appreciative that I had taken note of her tireless work, which was often done behind the scenes.
Next, I reconnected with a marketer whose expertise has educated me on countless occasions. I wanted to express my gratitude for the insight she had so often provided me. She thanked me and sounded eager to work with me on future projects.
Finally, my modern-day tour ‘round the Rolodex led me to text an old friend and coworker whom I hadn’t spoken to in ages. I discovered he was looking for a new job. I offered advice gleaned from my experience and told him that reaching out to former coworkers was a great first step.
Throughout my week of reconnecting with colleagues, I found the experience nothing short of reinvigorating. It refueled my passion for my work. Now, networking is a strategy I’ll use far more frequently.