Keep in Touch
I think that we have a tendency to discount work friendships. Work is not primarily a place to go to make new friends, but in the course of spending 40 hours a week together, you're bound to forge some new relationships. I think that we discount these friendships because they quickly fade when someone leaves the company. We need to change this.
In the new economy of frequent job changes and endless freelance opportunities, we spend more of our time switching jobs than staying in them. That results in us having a much larger number of coworkers than ever before. This is great because we get the chance to learn from a much broader group of people. It also means that we are more fickle in our relationships.
The buzzword of today is "network." Your network is who you know and it's likely where your next job will come from. The problem with our new understanding of a network is that we're selfish. We want to leverage our network to get something for ourselves, but are put off when others try to leverage us for the same purpose.
Your network is a group of people with whom you have a relationship. You have more control over who's in your network than you might think. That's because you ultimately decide who makes the cut. Your network includes supervisors, coworkers, people that you've worked on projects with, and even direct reports. It will also include people that you know socially who work at other companies or run their own. Your network will consist of individuals who know you, your work style, and your work ethic.
What does this have to do with keeping in touch? When you or someone in your network leaves a job, don't let that be the last point of contact that you have with them. It's a great idea to keep in touch with them from time to time. I recently had lunch with someone who I haven't worked with for over three years. My boss from that same time period and I still keep in touch on a monthly basis. These points of contact are great not because we’re trying to get ahead, but because we’re sustaining the relationships that we built while working together.
Constantly leveraging your network for your own objectives is a bad game plan and it often just comes off as you being a jerk. Keeping in touch with former work colleagues socially for the purpose of building relationships is a great idea. In a world where we're forgetting how to forge human bonds, remember that people help people.