Maybe you think, “It’s been so long since we spoke—I would hardly know where to begin!” One of my clients just discovered that’s not a reality, it’s an attitude, and by just reaching a bit out of his comfort zone, it doesn’t have to be the case.
He heard through the grapevine that a former colleague had changed careers. Although it had been years since they seen each other, they had had a good working relationship so he picked up the phone, called, congratulated the person, said let me buy you breakfast. They scheduled an early breakfast meeting for a few weeks later and spent an hour bringing each other up to date on the ups and downs of their industry, mutual friends, future professional plans and outside interests. Much had changed in both their work and lives, and when my client and I talked about his “reaching back as well as reaching out” networking activity, he reported, “After an awkward 5 minutes, it felt like yesterday rather than 10 years.” Will this lead to more breakfasts, business leads, or a new job down the road? Who knows, but it did refresh and reconnect two people whose paths had crossed along their career journeys, some of the intangible rewards of networking.
If you are stuck on how to reconnect with someone in your professional network you may not even want to pick up the phone to call. My advice: Don’t dwell on the fact that you haven’t kept up with them for several years; instead, focus on the future! How:
- Share what you, they, and your mutual friends are doing now and plan to do in the years to come. Ask about their current activities and future goals and plans.
- Ask where they see their professional (or post-professional) lives leading. What interests will they be pursuing in years to come?
You may discover new ways to help each other—my client found out that his former colleague’s new role will take him to several west coast cities my client was familiar with; he shared names of reliable restaurants (a bonus for any frequent flyer) and offered to make an introduction to a few of his professional contacts in Seattle.
Bottom Line: make this re-connecting meaningful. Even with the best intentions, it may be quite a while before you reconnect again, and you want the person to feel that in making this lost-and-found connection, you made “the right call!”