You’re on the job hunt and you need to get your professional references together. And that means reaching out to a certain former boss who would be the perfect person.
There’s just one little problem. You’re not exactly in touch. It’s been months—or is it years?—since you last contacted him. The thought of suddenly jumping back into his life to say “Hi, can I add you to my list?” stresses you out.
Briefly, you dismiss him and begin racking your brain for other strong contacts. There’s the supervisor three jobs ago who is now freelancing a bit, no known company name or impressive title attached to her now. There’s the colleague who can speak to your work but not to managing you (she’ll still work, but not your number one). In fact, you can think of no one better than this person you lost touch with.
You really only have one choice then: You’re going to have to bite the bullet and rekindle the relationship.
The fact is, we all have loose connections in our networks—people we once worked side-by-side with, or used to be close to, but with whom we don’t have regular coffee dates or frequent back-and-forth. Inconsistent contact isn’t the end of the world.
As long as you go into the ask with a clear mindset and positive attitude, it’ll probably work out just fine. If you believe he will give you an excellent reference, follow the five tips below:
1. Own Up to the Disconnect
Start by simply owning the fact that you haven’t been in touch.
2. Be Transparent About Your Motives
We’re all super busy with careers, family, and other pressing matters—your reference included!
3. Give Context
Give this person as much information as possible so that he can share information that makes sense and that places you in a good light.
4. Prepare Him for the Conversation
Once you get a confirmed yes, keep him updated.
Of course, if you receive an offer, share the news and don’t forget to say thank you! A thoughtful email will suffice, but a handwritten note is even better. And, if you don’t get the job, it’s worth sharing that news as well.
Keeping in touch with all of our connections all the time would be networking nirvana. But it’s not a realistic expectation. Instead of beating yourself up because you aren’t sure you “deserve the reference,” remind yourself that people are busy and it’s unlikely this contact is going to scoff when he sees your name pop up in his inbox.
Instead, follow these steps to make a long-lost manager your most ardent advocate and the best possible contact for all potential jobs.