When building your professional network, reestablishing a relationship with former employers are a great place to start. Here's how.
Networking is a challenge for many of us. And by "many," I mean me. Well, me and also listener Jean. She writes in:
"I'm a new college grad and I have trouble networking. Every summer I worked at a different place. I want to keep in touch, but I don't want to seem like I'm intruding. Months and years go by without me being in contact. I'm afraid they might not remember me, or don't care enough about me to reply to the email that literally took me months to send (as sad as this sounds). What is the best way to keep in touch with ex-employers without seeming annoying?"
Keeping in touch with people over the years is valuable. Your network is your biggest asset, especially when you're looking for a job or, conversely, if you're looking for good employees to hire. If you become a consultant or are self-employed, that goes double. The further along you are in your career, the more your network matters. People who know you and think well of you become your main source of opportunity and advancement.
They Remember You
You're afraid that they won't remember you. That's pretty unlikely. At the very least, the IRS forced them to record your social security number and report your legal name. And given today's privacy trends, the NSA probably had them position an entire surveillance van outside your cubicle, just in case you're doing something you shouldn't be...
If you made a good impression—either through the quality of your work or through being great to work with—they'll almost certainly remember you. If you didn't make an impression or made a bad impression, then there's probably no need to stay in touch. They aren't likely to be a high-quality member of your network going forward.
If You've Been Out of Touch, So Have They
You're also nervous because it's been a long time. I get that way too. I think, "I haven't called Neicole in years. If I call now, she'll think than the several years of silence means I hate her guts, and I must only be calling because I want something. She won't trust me, and will send a surveillance van to monitor my apartment to see if I'm doing something I shouldn't be...like sharing pictures of that time in high school when...never mind."
I think of this fondly as the delusional, paranoid, self-centered aspects of myself coming out to play. If you take out the part about the surveillance van, pretty much all of that is pure fiction.
Here's reality: Neicole is so busy worrying about her 4 kids, her business, and her half-completed fallout shelter that she hasn't thought of me in years. My call is not confirmation of some evil plot on my part. Indeed, she's delighted to hear from me.