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Management Reconnecting with long-neglected professional contacts can help in maintaining relationships

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” Many of us sang or mouthed these opening words of the Robbie Burns poem and song, Auld Lang Syne, to ring in the new year. Since it was penned in 1788, the poem has been a call to remember old friends, and it serves as a timely reminder that we also need to be mindful about long-neglected professional contacts.

Throughout the year, many of us catch ourselves saying, “I really should reconnect with that person,” as we see or hear a familiar name in the news, in social media, or in conversation with others. Like a lot of the things we say we should do – we don’t. That needs to change, so let’s make 2019 the Year of Reconnecting (guilt-free version).

Reconnecting is about rebuilding or maintaining an existing relationship, not asking for something immediate. The new year is a great time to do this, as it provides a mutual touch point that has meaning to everyone involved. What has been happening in your respective professional lives of late, and what is new and exciting to come? We do not need to overthink the intent or the supposed outcome. We also should not worry about what others will think and we don’t need to be fearful of rejection. We simply reconnect because it is important.

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As social creatures, we humans need each other. No matter how much at the top of your game you may feel, it means little unless you have people around that support and encourage you to believe in yourself and aspire to be more. Many of the people we’re talking about reconnecting with are former colleagues whom you worked closely with during the early part of your career but have since drifted away. Or maybe they’re special champions who helped you define your career path at some point, and who continue to be role models for you.

Take a few moments to reflect on people who have popped into mind throughout the past year. If you have a LinkedIn account (and most of us should), that’s a great place to start. Pick out a dozen or so people whom you’d really like to connect with again and make it your goal to see one a month throughout the year. The goal is to authentically rebuild connections or maintain them, not rack up a massive coffee bill.

Send them a short message or calendar invite to reconnect in the coming few weeks. Set a timeline, as you don’t want to leave it until “some day.” The message should be short and simple, such as: “I was thinking about you or heard your name in conversation the other day, and wanted to take the opportunity to reconnect in person. How about meeting for coffee in the next couple of weeks?” Suggest some dates that might work for you and keep on it until you’ve set a time to meet.

From there, enjoy the conversation. Remember that this is not about a specific ask (unless it needs to be), but about catching up and looking forward. What has your colleague been doing, and what can you learn from that in terms of your own professional journey? If you’re in common industries or roles, what are some trends they’re seeing that might affect you also?

For those on the receiving end, remember that relationship-building is a two-way street. Reconnecting takes some courage and effort, so all of us should make a commitment to receive, recognize and nurture the efforts of others to do so. Return that phone call promptly or respond to that e-mail the minute you see it – letting the other person know you have their attention and want to reconnect without any expectation or forgone conclusion.

The common excuse is that all this takes time, and there is no time to spare. Let’s face it: We all have time and it is a choice on how we spend it. Spend yours by rebuilding those meaningful connections and enjoy the “cup o’ kindness” that comes with doing so.

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