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.
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.
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.
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.
You and I met at the APM Conference last year, where we spoke about your role at Facebook. My apologies for not keeping in touch after the conference! I hope it's okay to reach out today.
I've been figuring out my next career move, and product management seems like a great fit for my experience. Facebook's a dream company for me, and if it's okay with you, I'd love to ask you a few questions about your experience there and if you also think PM is the right fit for me.
Do you have time for a 10-15 minute phone call next week? I'd really appreciate it.
P.S. I understand you're busy, so if it's easier for you, I'd be happy to send my questions via email. Thanks!
Sometimes you'll have contacts that you haven't spoken to in a while. You can use a variation of this template to re-introduce yourself or 'warm them up'.
Hi [Contact’s Name],
This is [Your Name]. You and I met at [Event] and talked briefly about [subject]. I apologize for falling out of touch and hope you’ve been well.
My family and I are planning a move to [City], and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the area since I see you’re living there now. What’s your experience been like? Do you have any advice for a newcomer?
When someone you know is in the city, company, or industry you’re interested in, you can send them a casual, non-intrusive message to ask for the inside scoop. Having some common ground will give you something to talk about, and they might be flattered that you asked them for advice.
Hey [Colleague’s Name],
It’s been a while! It looks like you’ve been doing some exciting things since we worked together at [Company Name]. How is your [current job] going?
I’m sure things are busy, but is there a day soon when you might be free to catch up over lunch or coffee? It’d be great to reconnect. I hope you’ve been well.
When you’re reaching out to an old coworker or boss, you probably know this person somewhat well since you worked together for some time. You might not need to say how you know each other, and even if you haven’t talked in a while, grabbing lunch or coffee together can be a fun, low-key way to reconnect.
Hi [Contact Name],
I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out to you because I am looking for a new job in [desired industry]. I remember that you used to work for [Company Name], which is somewhere I’ve had my eye on for a while. Are you still in touch with anyone there? If so, would you be willing to introduce me?
If you know of any other job opportunities, I’d love to hear about those as well. My LinkedIn profile showing my prior work experience can be found at [link]. Thanks in advance for your help and please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you in return!
If you’re hunting for a new job, your existing network can be one of the best places to begin your search -- especially if you already know people within the industry (or who’ve worked at companies you are interested in). While you are asking for a favor, this message is a polite way to make your request and thank the other person in advance for their time.
Hey [Contact Name],
It’s been a while and I just wanted to say a quick hello. Hope you and your family are doing well.
Congratulations on [new job, life event, etc.], by the way -- I saw your post on LinkedIn! How exciting! How has that been going?
All the best,
When you don’t have a specific request but simply want to keep in touch with someone, a quick LinkedIn message is a perfect way to reach out. Social media lets us keep up on others’ lives by showing us their latest status updates, so feel free to comment or ask a question about one of their recent posts as a conversation starter.
Hi [Contact Name],
This is [Your Name]. We met through [Mutual Contact’s Name] last year at [Event]. My apologies for not being in touch since then. I hope you’ve been doing well.
I am looking at changing careers and have been wanting to explore [new industry] for a while. I know you’ve been in that field for some time and I wanted to ask if you’d be willing to share some of your wisdom and experience with me.
Could we set up a short meeting sometime in the next week or two? We could grab coffee or chat over the phone -- or, if you’d prefer, I can send some questions via email. Please let me know what would work best for you.
Thanks so much,
Send an email like this one when you would like to contact someone about setting up an informational interview. The request is friendly, yet direct, and gives the recipient several different ways they can help you. By providing options, you show respect for their time and energy, so your request is more likely to be well-received.
We met at [mention to event and roughly when it was, eg. at the virtual marketing conference last year] and spoke about [topic]. Apologies for not keeping in touch!
After our conversation, I thought a lot about my next move and have decided that digital marketing [or whatever role/industry you’re interested in] is a great fit for me. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to ask you a few questions about your experience.
Do you have time for a quick phone/Zoom call next week? I’d really appreciate it.
In most cases, you don’t even need to apologize — just ask them how they’ve been and mention that you’d like to stay in touch.
It’s been a while and I just wanted to say hi! I hope you and your family are doing well. How are things at [Company].
Congratulations on [a new life event, eg. your promotion to regional manager]! I saw your update on LinkedIn and was excited for you. How is that going?
All the best,
It’s common to fall out of contact with old friends and ex-colleagues, but it’s worthwhile keeping these people in your network (and not as difficult as you might think) — use a simple message like this one.