Networking is a scary word. For many young professionals, the first picture that comes to mind when hearing professors say, “Networking is key,” is an enormous job fair filled with well-dressed executives that you’re expected to approach to “sell yourself.” There’s an unreasonable expectation that networking involves shoving your nerves aside to prove your worth in front of employers. Networking can be a lot less stressful and more lucrative if you treat it as less of a chore and more of a necessity for relationship-building, career growth, and education. Trust me; it’s not scary. It’s fun.
I stay in contact with every single supervisor I’ve had. From my cheery, sunshine-haired boss at my first media internship, to my supervisor at my beginner corporate gig who still inspires me with her side hustles, past mentors can be assets to professional evolution.
Tips for Staying in Touch
I appreciated how thoughtful my first supervisor was; she made me feel comfortable, not embarrassed when I was confused. When I’d spit-fire five questions at once, she’d answer them and teach me new tricks. Because I valued her advice, I made sure to keep in touch with her after my internship ended. I checked in during my final semester in college. I badgered her with questions about her upcoming wedding. We established a friendship based around a mutual love for writing and family media. When you respect your supervisor as not just a boss, but as a friend and mentor, it feels nice to keep up with their lives. That is networking. Here are some tips for staying in touch respectfully with former employers.
- Check in every few months. Use opportunities like holidays, special occasions, or exciting news to catch up with them. For instance, at the beginning of my relationship with my first supervisor, I’d message her around big holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Don’t be overbearing. If it seems your mentor is going through personal problems or is very busy in their career, take a step back. Show respect for their time when they’re apologetic that they can’t meet up.
- Ask for advice! Usually, people love to share their knowledge and help a budding professional. Need resume or cover letter tips? Hit up that manager from your first job. Trying to pursue a different career route and need some tips? Shoot a Facebook message to your fave professor who understands the post-grad struggle.
- If you have some free time, offer to pitch in if they need it. Sometimes past supervisors are looking for new freelancers or someone to bounce ideas off of, and unless you make yourself available, they won’t reach out to you first.
- Coffee! Lunch dates! Classy drinks! Offer to meet up with previous employees and colleagues if you’ve lost touch. If you don’t keep in frequent contact, you may not know that they got a job at your dream company or that they need someone to help edit their podcast. By keeping up these professional relationships, you can steer your career down entirely different paths.
- Show your loyalty to your favorite bosses! Engage in their hobbies and interests. You’ll learn something new, and you can pay back the favor of their support in your career by showing your appreciation for what motivates them.
- If a friend is looking for someone to hire and you know someone looking for a similar position, refer them. The more you help others in their careers, the more you’ll be boosted forward in your own.
- Use LinkedIn as a bible—connect with college professors, high school teachers, past managers, that neighbor who works for Cosmo—really, everyone you can. Keep your profile active and filled out with as much information on your credentials that you can provide. Being visible on the professional side of the internet is key in many industries.
Relationships with past supervisors and colleagues can be mutually beneficial. When you’re consistently reliable and eager to help colleagues in their career paths, you’ll be at the top of their list when they need someone. Plus, more people in your career circle will have a favorable opinion of you! A good reputation goes a long way in career development.
Because I stayed in touch with my first boss, she hired me as a freelancer when I graduated from college. I also stayed in contact with a coworker at that same job who recently skyped with me to share writing and career tips. She then referred me for a position while I was looking.
I started a new job two weeks ago. I wouldn’t have secured this position if it weren’t for a previous supervisor sharing my resume and connecting me with the hiring managers. I cannot stress enough how important it is to network. All of the opportunities I have received throughout my professional life have been thanks to assistance from former coworkers, classmates, and mentors. Keep up those relationships. You never know where your career will take you, but with trusted mentors along for the ride, any direction is worthwhile.
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