For many professionals, the hardest part about leaving a job isn’t packing up your desk or training a new employee to take over your workload; It’s saying goodbye to the coworkers who turned into friends.
Before you start to tear up, remember that this is not the end of your friendship altogether! You may not be in the same daily workspace anymore, but you can still stay connected outside of the office. Let’s take a look at what you and your former coworkers can do to maintain thriving relationships.
1. Stay engaged on social media.
Most work friends already follow each other on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. Once you’ve left the workplace, it’s time to do more than like their posts. Lasting relationships require thoughtful engagement.
Sarah Edwards is a former CNN weekends booking producer. Now the CEO of Sarah Edward Media + PR, Edwards wants departing employees to realize their former coworkers need them now more than ever.
“Remember to engage!” Edwards says. “Reach out when birthdays come around and say congrats when they achieve huge milestones. You’re an important link to the outside world and a resource they might need to tap into one day.”
Does that mean you could work together later down the road again? Never say never, according to Edwards. “When I was in the TV industry, the industry was always in such flux. Many never know when they might be former employees. That’s why your former coworkers need you since you’re a big connection for them to the outside world. We need each other, inside and outside of the building.”
Alex Tran, Digital Marketing Strategist at Hollingsworth, echoes Edwards’ sentiments. She is part of a WhatsApp group named “Boomerangs” with her former coworkers. The name is based on the popular term for employees that leave a company and later return.
“I love keeping in touch with people because you never know where keeping your network will lead you down the road," Tran says. “For me, it has resulted in jobs with a coworker from five years ago!”
2. Is your former company hosting an event? See if you can attend it!
Lizzie Dunn, content associate at Fundera, wholly advocates in favor of keeping tabs on events your former employer may host and seizing the opportunity to attend. Dunn says that this is about more than seeing your old coworkers again — it’s a show of your support.
“Whether it’s a workshop or a race, it’s the thought that counts,” says Dunn. “Staying in touch is about going the extra step to maintain the relationship. It will only work if you do!”
3. Create intentional post-work relationships.
Dunn brings up an excellent point in the sentiment that staying in touch only works if you do it. Conversely, your former coworkers must be willing to put in the same amount of effort in return.
Many employees leave positions where they had plenty of office friends. Gradually, over time, the friendships distance themselves further and further until they’re largely over. Sarah Anderson, digital content and SEO specialist at boldSOCKS.com, says that once you leave a job, it’s important to be intentional about building and maintaining those relationships.
Anderson says to start by identifying who you want to connect with and make an effort to reach out to them monthly. She warns against defaulting to only choosing colleagues that are easy or convenient.
“Constantly seek out people who uplift you, present you with new ideas and challenges, and genuinely care about your well-being.”
4. Let common interests glue you together, not happy hours.
Common interests often act as the glue that hold friendships together.
Marietta Gentles Crawford, a brand strategist and copywriter for MGC Ink, believes that once employees leave the workplace, common interests bind them even closer to their former colleagues.
“Happy hours may have worked when you were working together and wanted to quickly vent about your manager over loud music and cranberry vodkas,” Gentles Crawford notes. “Now, it’s more important to connect about things you have in common outside of the workplace.”
Common interests to bond over now may include families, partners, career goals, and pop culture like Game of Thrones. Anderson sets monthly dates on her calendar for get togethers with her former bosses. Anderson also keeps in touch regularly with at least five people from her past job — and credits common interests as a stable foundation for these after-work relationships.
“The key to having a relationship even after you leave a company really is finding common ground to connect over,” Anderson says. “If you worked at the same company, that should be pretty easy. You probably share some common skill sets, goals, dreams, passions or ambitions. Just asking ‘How is everything going at work?’ opens doors into becoming support systems for one another as we transition from being coworkers to just doing this professional life and world thing together.”