There’s a common phrase you hear uttered by all when they leave a job: “let’s stay in touch.”
You’ve said it before. I’ve said it before. We’ve all said it.
The big question is: Who really means it. More to the point: Who actually DOES it.
Because the people who actually DO stay in touch–those are the people to stay connected with as long as you possibly can.
Let me give you a few examples to illustrate this point.
I met Susan Beatty years ago. I don’t even remember how at this point. What’s important to this discussion is how Susan has stayed in touch over the years. With little “pings.” A text message here about an upcoming Gopher football game (we’re both big fans). An email there about a PRSA event. Another text about kids. Every once in a while, I’ll hear from Susan. And, over the years, it’s been more than enough to keep us connected even though we’ve never worked together! She’s a consummate networker, and her “pinging” approach is the perfect strategy for “staying in touch” without a ton of work.
Another example: I first met Maggie Blehert 15+ years ago on the PRSA programming committee. She was a wonderful committee member, but once our time was up together we vowed to stay in touch. Maggie has done this in recent years by sending me a little email every now and again, after receiving my Talking Points enewsletter each Friday. Just a “thanks” or “I enjoyed that article–it resonated with me!” is all she sends. But, it’s been more than enough to keep us connected through the years.
On the flip side, I worked for an agency earlier in my career. I met a lot of great people at this agency. Namely, the person I worked for and a number of colleagues. When I left, I vowed to stay in touch. Now, to be clear, I didn’t leave on the best of terms. I know they weren’t happy with me leaving, but it was in my best interests at the time. However, I was serious about staying in touch. It seems they were not. I remember getting together with a few different people once or twice since I left. But, that was about it–in 10 years! No notes from former colleagues when I celebrated 10 years as a solo. No emails from them about the Talking Points Podcast Kevin Hunt and I have been engineering now for five-plus years. No comments on a recent LinkedIn post celebrating my first semester teaching. I get more notes from random folks who subscribe to my Talking Points e-newsletter than I do from this crew! Now, to be fair, I haven’t exactly reached out to them a lot lately either. But, the lack of interaction over the years tells me a lot.
So, think about the ramifications of “staying in touch.” People who stay in touch refer friends to potential employers. People who stay in touch also refer friends to potential clients. People who stay in touch get together every once in a while to share stories and best practices. And, maybe most importantly, people who stay in touch often become good friends.
The next time you say “let’s stay in touch” after you leave a job, work like hell to mean it and do it. I think the results of such hard work will surprise you over the years.