We’ve all heard the old adage “never burn a bridge.” If you’re resigning from a company, always give the standard two-week notice. If your seasonal-internship is coming to an end, don’t mentally check-out the last week. If you were laid off, don’t pull a Jerry Maguire and cause a total scene on the way out.
Although the old adage still holds up, it could use a makeover. Instead of worrying about burning a bridge, try worrying about keeping it.
There are numerous benefits to staying connected with the execs from your previous job. You can get a reference letter, a referral, or freelance work. Your former employer could invite you to networking events or just out to coffee to catch up and talk-shop (a great opportunity to continue learning from them). Another bonus to staying connected: if their company’s expanding, you might be the first person they think of to head-up their new division.
The reasons to stay connected are endless. Here’s how to do it:
Engage with the executive’s personal updates on LinkedIn
You’re probably already connected with most of the executives from your last job (if not, send them a connect request now). But do you engage with them on LinkedIn?
Grumpy LinkedIn users say this all the time, but I’ll repeat it to really drive the point home: LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Engagement on posts and updates isn’t seen as a popularity contest. Liking an article someone shared is more of a thank-you than anything else.
As opposed to when an organization shares a post, individual LinkedIn user posts don’t typically get a ton of engagement. Unlike Facebook, you can’t go to the user’s profile page and view all of their LinkedIn updates. You see it on your newsfeed, or not at all. That being said, liking and commenting on an individual’s LinkedIn post can go a long way.
Visit LinkedIn regularly, scan your newsfeed, and when you see an article a former boss of yours shared, go ahead and read it and like it. If you really enjoyed the article, write a comment on their post: “Great article. Thanks for sharing!”
If you do this often enough (but not too often, don’t be creepy), the exec will notice, and probably remember your name. She might even visit your profile and see that you’re a former employee.
Send a congratulatory email about their accomplishments
Follow your former employer on social. When you see they’ve won an award or expanded the business, send the execs an email congratulating them on their success.
Send an email; don’t respond to the social post.
The senior level execs won’t even see your comment online (their social media specialist will). Also, the email will show them that you’re invested in their success since you took the time to send a thoughtful note. And naturally, sending an email is more intimate than a public social media reply since you have nothing to gain from wishing them the best without an audience to applaud you for it.
Do not, I repeat, do not ask for anything in this email. Don’t invite them to an event, don’t offer or ask for any advice. Just say congrats.
Keep the email short and sweet. Remind them who you are (if necessary), congratulate them for x, y, or z, and explain why you’re happy for them (they helped propel your career, they were your first mentor, or they helped shape the way you view the world). This email needs to be all about them. Otherwise it will appear as an insincere attempt to capitalize on the relationship.
Send them a thank you card in the mail
Wherever you are in your career right now, your former employer helped you get there. Thank him or her for it.
Every position you hold is an opportunity to build your resume and advance your career. Take the time to thank your previous employer for everything he’s done for you. Write this card when you have an opportunity to take your time. Think deeply about your experience with the company. Did a partner send you a care-package after a family member passed away? Did the CEO mail you a scriptwriting book when he found out you love film? Did your boss nominate you for employee of the year, or congratulate you for handling a client phone call exceptionally well? Say thank you.
A hand-delivered letter means so much more than an electronic note. It just does. Purchase a package of thank you cards or download Postagram from iTunes and send personalized thank you cards by mail. It’ll help you stand out for all the right reasons.
You may never need to use the bridge you have with your former employer. But staying connected with them will ensure they’ll be willing to help you if and when you do need to use it. Now wouldn’t that be something!
written by Cari Stark
Cari Stark is a recent college graduate and the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship that equips students with the necessary skills and experience to land their dream job when they graduate. Land an internship in less than 30 days with this free step-by-step guide.