Keeping in touch with a former boss or former coworkers can be a wise idea for a whole host of reasons, but it's not necessarily easy.
By keeping up communication with a former boss or coworkers with whom you used to work, you keep opportunities open for the future. You never want to burn bridges by cutting off all communication with professionals in your network. You never know where that boss or coworker may end up going forward — they may be in a new job with a new company for which you also want to work. Or you may need them as a reference for a future job for which you're applying.
Beyond that, you may just want to keep in touch with an old boss or former coworkers because you became good friends with them. Often, spending so much of your time with people can mean developing deep connections with them, and just because you're leaving a job doesn't mean that you also have to leave those friendships.
Keeping in touch with former coworkers, however, takes time and energy since the reality is that you no longer spend a bulk of your time with them. While you once used to spend every weekday with them, you now have to make a concerted effort to see them. And that's not always easy when you and they may live a busy life.
How do you stay in touch with former coworkers?
So how do you stay in touch with a former boss or a former worker? Here are five ways to do just that.
1. Invite your former coworker to lunch, coffee or happy hour.
Consider inviting your former coworker out for lunch, coffee or happy hour one day to catch up. If you're really close with the former coworker you're inviting — or if you happen to both work nearby each other now — you might even have a weekly lunch or happy hour plan. For example, perhaps every Tuesday you grab lunch with this person, or every Wednesday morning you have a coffee together or every Thursday you grab happy hour drinks. Maybe you can't commit to that regular of a plan, but you make it a point to get together every month for lunch, coffee or drinks.
Keeping in touch this way doesn't require a lot of pressure, as you're going to eat lunch or grab your coffee anyway — you might as well do it together if you can.
2. Attend networking events in your industry where your former coworkers may be.
Attend networking events in your industry where you think or know that your former coworkers may be. Staying involved and engaged with your professional community is important anyway, and you'll meet even more people attending networking events like talks, trainings, workshops, luncheons, dinners and more.
If you think your old colleagues may be going to the event, check it out yourself. Even if you're not sure whether or not you'll know anyone at the event, it's a good reason to shoot an old coworker an email inviting them to check it out with you. If you're both in the industry, they'll benefit from going just as much as you will — and you'll get to catch up while there!
3. Join outside activities with your former coworker.
Join activities with your former coworkers outside of the office. You might invite some old colleagues to join a recreational sports league with you, for example, like kickball or soccer. Or maybe you have a former coworker who was really into fitness; you can invite them to join a gym membership with you at the local boxing or yoga or cycling studio, for example.
Joing a club sport or gym together, as well as other outside activities, can be a fun way to see each other and meet even more people while doing it. Plus, you may get your exercise in, you'll engage with your community, you'll develop a hobby and you'll make memories together that give you more to talk about when you're together (other than the usual work talk that you may have been used to!).
4. Pay a visit to your old workplace.
If it's allowed (and if you, in particular, are allowed), pay a visit to your former workplace. If you're a teacher, for example, you might want to stop by your old school to say hello every now and again. If you're a fitness coach, you might stop by your old gym to work out there every once in a while.
Of course, not everyone is allowed to visit their old workplaces, as the building may not allow visitors or, if you were fired, you may not be allowed back into the building. Be sure to double-check whether or not you're allowed to pay a visit to your former workplace to say hello to an old boss or former coworkers before you head over there for an awkward exchange. If you can't, ask your coworkers to meet you around your old workplace instead!
5. Send your former coworker an email or E-card.
Send your former coworker an email or an E-card every now and again to catch up — or to say happy birthday or to wish them a happy holiday. Make it an effort to be as non-generic as possible. Ask them questions about how they're doing, and reference specific things in their life that you know are happening. This way, they'll know that you genuinely care about keeping in touch — and not just think that you're sending out mass messages to keep up surface-level relationships with everyone.
If you're really close with your former coworkers, sending actual mail or text messages may be appropriate, as well. After all, if you're super close, sending an email or E-card may feel insensitive and have adverse effects.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.