Yesterday, we were speaking to a person who took a five-year career break after a long career in finance. She said she had a list of about 100 contacts with whom she was planning on getting back in touch and was trying to figure out how to approach them. Most of them she hadn't been in contact with at all for the past five years. She asked what she should say when reaching out to them.First we mentioned some tried and true techniques about getting in touch with a contact and asking to stop by in person or have a phone call for a brief, defined amount of time, like 20-30 minutes. Then we told her to make sure she sticks to the agreed upon time limit.
"But what is the premise for my visit or phone call?" she asked. We told her to make the conversation all about THEM.
"Tell them you are returning to work after a five-year career break and you want to be very deliberate and strategic about it. Part of your mission is to understand how the business has changed over the years you've been out and how the careers of people who did not take a career break have progressed. Tell them you wanted to know if they could talk to you about how their own career path has progressed over the last five years and what their observations are about the business during that time."
She said she never thought about constructing the dialogue all around them. We explained that after five years of being incommunicado, she needs to focus on rebuilding these relationships. Most people love to talk about themselves, so chances are her former colleagues will be delighted to make some time for her when the focus is on them, not her. At some point in the conversation, they are likely to ask her a little bit about herself as well, but even if they don’t, she will at least have resuscitated the relationship. After she speaks with the person she can follow up with a thank you and then, maybe a couple of weeks later, send an email with an article or event that may be of interest to the person. Over time, some of these contacts will want to re-connect and be helpful.