To help you reconnect with a previous colleague or boss, we asked CEOs and experienced business leaders this question for their best insights. From staying professional to personalizing your message, there are several tips that may help you reach out to a former colleague or boss and revive that professional relationship.
Here are 12 tips for reconnecting with a previous colleague or boss while networking:
- Stay Professional
- Bring Back Good Memories
- Be Positively Assertive When Reaching Out
- Offer Them a LinkedIn Recommendation
- Stay in Touch
- Be Genuine and Not Overbearing
- Keep Assumptions Aside to Avoid Disappointments
- Thank Them for Something They Taught You
- Create An Interesting Subject Line
- Send An Interesting Article
- Be Tactful
- Personalize Your Message
If it has been a long time since contacting a former colleague or boss, you should be as professional as possible when reaching out and reconnecting. Even though you no longer work together, your impression still matters, so it never hurts to keep a professional tone of email or private message on Linkedin, for example. These old professional contacts serve as valuable resources as references or sources of advice, so be as polite and professional as possible.
Brandon Brown, Grin
Bring Back Good Memories
Starting a conversation is the most awkward thing in reconnecting with a former colleague. So let me share one helpful tip: remind them of something you experienced together. It’s the perfect icebreaker because you both will feel better when you remember your good times together. Also, a sentimental mindset increases the possibility of keeping the conversation going.
Bartek Boniecki, passport-photo online
Be Positively Assertive When Reaching Out
Reconnecting with an old colleague or boss can be awkward, yet, do not make it more so by making assumptions when reaching out to them, instead be positively assertive. There are many factors that play into one’s thoughts when getting a connection request from someone that you lost contact with, including the time lapse, status of the previous relationship, and where they are personally and professionally.
Beginning your email with “I hope you remember” or “you may not remember me” not only infers negative assumptions about your relationship, but can be insulting. By being positively assertive by making no memory references, and simply identifying yourself at the end, you are both signifying that they are still prominent in your mind, while not unintentionally implying ideas that can be misread, beginning the process off on the wrong foot.
Adelle Archer, Eterneva
Offer Them a LinkedIn Recommendation
If you’re aiming to reconnect with a former colleague or manager, the nature of how you can reconnect with them turns largely on how you left your previous company. If you left under less than desirable circumstances, reconnecting may be harder and take more work. But, as in most cases, if you left under amiable conditions and maintained strong relationships when you left, it won’t be as difficult. But regardless of the circumstances, one suggestion to make reconnecting easier is to offer your former colleague or boss a recommendation on LinkedIn. Write a short paragraph about your experience working with them on LinkedIn, endorsing their skills and being sure to include how they excelled in their role. No matter how you left things, good or bad, this is sure to warm things up for a recommendation. Everyone likes having nice things said about them, even the most humble of us.
John Ross, Test Prep Insight
Stay in Touch
It is always a good idea to keep in touch with past colleagues or employers; you never know who might be an important person in your life down the road. Find a way to maintain a relationship with them, and then when you reach out to reconnect, it will feel natural. Email is always a professional yet casual way to reach out. Check-in and ask how they are doing, what projects they have been working on, and ask them if they are available for a chat over the phone or coffee. If you maintain positive relationships, it will make reconnecting so much easier.
Sumeer Kaur, Lashkaraa
Be Genuine and Not Overbearing
Be genuine. Use professional social media, such as LinkedIn, to find previous colleagues, employers, and classmates. Look over their latest accomplishments or recent post and send them a message addressing one of these and briefly reminding them who you are. Leave the door open for future interaction.
Liz Hogan, Find My Profession
Keep Assumptions Aside to Avoid Disappointments
It may have been years or even decades since you spoke to one another, and the people you are trying to reconnect with may have very different lives, moving on to other jobs or even other countries. So one way to begin reconnecting on the right note is without expectations and assumptions. For starters, do not assume they will remember, do not expect an enthusiastic or even warm welcome, and do not expect them to set aside time for you. And certainly do not assume that they will accord you the importance you think you deserve. Begin with zero expectations and take it upon yourself to rebuild the severed relationship.
Eva Taylor, WP Buffs
Thank Them for Something They Taught You
When reconnecting with a previous colleague, thank them for something they taught you while you worked together. It might be related to your industry, dealing with people, or a computer shortcut they showed you. But when you appreciate someone for something specific, it jumpstarts the relationship on a personal and authentic level. A simple, “I remember you taught me about such and such, thanks for helping me learn that,” will go a long way as you reconnect.
Logan Mallory, Motivosity
Create An Interesting Subject Line
Be sure to create an interesting subject line. It could consist of your name and where you met the colleague, for example. People are receiving hundreds of emails per day, so it’s best to get right to the introduction. If you’re networking to discuss future opportunities, you can do so in the body of the email. But the subject line needs to stand out to draw attention. Not only is this helpful in networking, but helps with creative communication skills moving forward.
Lillie Sun, Three Ships Beauty
Send An Interesting Article
One way to reconnect with a previous colleague or boss for networking purposes is to forward an interesting article or website. This gesture starts the conversation off with creating value for the other party instead of immediately starting the discussion with an ask. Not to mention, this tactic presents the interaction as more natural rather than transactional. Your contact may be touched or grateful that you thought of them while reading the article, and may assume that you decided to reach out as a consequence of remembering rather than with an opportunistic agenda.
Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party
If your purpose is to try to go back to working at a company where you worked previously, be friendly with your connections at this company. Do not ask about any open positions without being warm, grateful for your past work experience with them, and wishing them well. If you simply ask about coming back to work with them and nothing else, you may come off as too desperate or demanding. It is important to be gracious and polite during this process.
Matt Miller, Embroker
Personalize Your Message
When networking, show the other person that you truly want to reconnect with them. Personalize your message by providing specific details unique to the person, such as congratulating them on a recent promotion or bringing up a topic you have discussed with them in the past. If the email appears generic, they may think you are sending the same message to multiple people.
Benjamin Farber, Bristol Associates, Inc.