Keeping the Connection – How and Why to Stay in Touch with your Former Colleagues

30048d8I recently received a request from a former colleague/friend who I have not worked with in over 5 years. She is currently considering not one, not two, not three, but FOUR opportunities! She wanted to talk through her options with someone. Of course she could have talked to family or friends. However, sometimes you need to bounce ideas off of an objective audience who understands what you do, what concerns you might have, and the standard compensation for your line of work. As she went through the options, I had an immediate gut feeling about what I believed was the right choice. While we talked, I asked several clarifying questions, and eventually we shared our conclusions, which were the same. Later, she emailed me that she was leaning toward the opportunity we agreed upon, and that our conversation helped her put things in perspective. Clearly, it was helpful to her. It was also helpful to me as I felt good being able to help someone I respect and admire, and I am honored that she values my opinion enough to reach out to me.

Our conversation got me thinking about how valuable it has been for me to maintain connections to my former colleagues. Since then, I have been reminded that I keep in touch with a fairly large number of very special people and even though we may connect several times a month, once a year, or even once every few years we are always ready to support each other. When I mention this to some people, they wonder how I do it and why. The answers are simple.

How?

Of course I use social media. It’s a great way to keep track of my former colleagues. But, I also use email, shared meals, phone calls, birthday greetings, and holiday cards to let people know I am thinking of them.

Why?

At one time, I spent a minimum of 40 hours out of my week with these people. I grew to like, respect, and care about them. I learned from them. And, when I say I learned from them, of course I learned about my role, industry, business, etc. However, I have learned so much more! I learned that my name, Tara, means “star” in Hindu. I learned about people’s experiences with racism in the US and abroad. I learned about different cultures. I learned that when my colleague in Scotland says “brilliant!” she isn’t complimenting me but is expressing excitement about an idea. These are all just bits and pieces of what I have learned. But, each relationship has brought me insights, meaning, and depth to my experience in this world we share. And, for me, this is important because I truly enjoy people.

Of course, there are career based benefits. We have had it pounded into our heads that networking is important, and there is no denying that. It is truly wonderful (for both parties) when you have a challenging work dilemma and want to bounce ideas off of someone objective who understands you and your business. And, never forget that your former colleagues are fantastic references.

However, for me, it is truly about the life experience. Each person I connect with opens my world which helps me become a better person, and in turn a better colleague.

Do you keep in contact with your old colleagues? Why, or why not? If you do, what do you see as the benefits? If not, what is stopping you? Please let me know in the comments!

Originally published on September 11, 2014

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