In the career world, who you know often matters more than what you know. If you are good at networking and building relationships with people you meet, the connections you form can elevate you to new levels of professional success -- and you might make some friends while you’re at it!
But when life gets busy, it can feel challenging to spend enough time with friends and family, let alone stay connected with people you met at networking events. And just like personal relationships, business connections can fade over time if they’re not actively maintained.
It’s easy to let these networking connections fall by the wayside. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be difficult to keep those relationships alive -- it’s easier than ever to stay loosely connected with your old contacts by periodically reaching out with an email or LinkedIn message.
Why should you stay in touch with old contacts?
Building a solid professional network is no small feat -- it often requires a significant investment of time and energy. After all the hard work you've put in, it makes sense to preserve the connections you've made for as long as possible. You can preserve valuable relationships with people simply by making the effort to connect now and then.
Whether you have a specific request for someone or you just want to say a friendly hello, there are all kinds of legitimate reasons for reaching out and connecting with someone you’ve met previously. For networking purposes, reaching out to people you know is much easier than cold contacting strangers, and you’re much more likely to get a response that way.
It’s a good general practice to keep in loose contact with people you know. Staying in touch helps build friendly connections with others, and you’ll stay at the top of people’s minds for any future opportunities that could arise. Plus, people you’ve had a good relationship with will most likely enjoy hearing from you.
Who should you reach out to?
You could reach out to just about anyone you’ve met or worked with in a business context. Former coworkers, associates, and bosses are all fair game. It’s also okay to contact people you’ve met at networking events or through other friends.
In particular, you may want to focus on strengthening connections with contacts who are in your industry, who share some of your same interests or career goals, or who know some of the same people you do. Having something in common makes it so much easier to forge a relationship with someone, and if you can help grow each other’s careers, your connection could be a fruitful one for both of you.
General tips for contacting old connections
If you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know well, always start by reminding them of how you know each other. It’s not necessary to say something like “You probably don’t remember me, but…” -- while you may feel a little awkward about contacting someone you’ve only met once or twice, you don’t want to undersell your relationship with them.
You can appear more confident by assuming a rapport with the person and mentioning the specific event or occasion when you met -- these details can help jog someone’s memory. Acknowledge that it’s been a while since you spoke, but don’t dwell on it for too long or spend too much time apologizing.
Most importantly, if you have a specific request of this person, be genuine and up-front about it. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly in your message, but avoid beating around the bush or leading into your ask with a long preamble. Keep your message short, sweet, and to the point.