A good network pulls in people from all parts of your life. Family, friends, former roommates, acquaintances, people you meet at conferences – anybody from any walk of life can provide a meaningful career connection.

However, no one is more relevant than former coworkers and former managers. These key connections operate in your industry and know you in a business context. They represent the core of your network.

Here are some of the benefits of reaching out to your former colleagues and developing an ongoing relationship with them:

Industry Intelligence

Things change quickly. When you have your head down, focused on your current position, you can miss important evolutions, even in your industry. Then, if you find yourself out of work, you learn the hard way that you need to develop new skills just to stay relevant. It can come as a nasty realization.

By keeping in contact with your former colleagues, you can stay up to date on developments. They have a different perspective on your industry and can clue you into changes as they unfold, making you more prepared for the future.

Building Bonds for When You Need Them

Bad things happen. Companies go out of business. Projects get shut down. You never know when you’ll need a new job.

Don’t wait until you need a network to build one. You should maintain connections with as many relevant people as possible, especially old colleagues. That way, when you need to search for a new position, you have all the preliminaries in place.

Staying Open to Opportunities

Not all networking opportunities happen when you need a job. The communications go both ways. You might seek an old colleague’s help if you find yourself unemployed. They might seek you out if something opens up that fits your skillset.

The closer your relationship (and the more recently you last made contact), the more likely it is that your former coworkers will think of you when a position becomes available. Maintaining these connections raises your chances for scoring one of these unsolicited opportunities.

Making Your Move

As important as connections with former colleagues can be, these relationships can be among the hardest to develop. Once you aren’t working together, it’s difficult to stay in touch.

Making contact after a long break can seem awkward. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Proper Tone: Fit the vibe of your message to the relationship you had with the individual. Don’t treat a vague work acquaintance as a long-lost best friend.

Keep it short to start: Your first message should just seek to reconnect. Your initial email shouldn’t resemble a draft of your memoir. Start with a quick ping and go from there.

Ask about them: Don’t focus on yourself. Find out about what’s going on with the former colleague you are contacting and ask them about the progress in their career.

Building a strong network provides an excellent foundation for career advancement. Working with a strong recruiting partner super-charges the process. A top-flight staffing agency, like SmartTalent, puts you in the best situations to succeed and directs your career toward challenging and rewarding opportunities.

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.