One of the toughest aspects of networking is maintaining relationships. You can schedule all the informational interviews in the world to learn more about companies and roles you’re interested in and follow up accordingly with a thank you note and some check-ins. But let's be realistic -- with time, you’ll get busy and let a few of your contacts slip away. It may feel awkward to get back in touch after you've let communication lag, but if you handle your approach gracefully, it's actually not that a big of a deal to reconnect. Here's how to go about it:
As uncomfortable as this may seem, you're going to need to reintroduce yourself. Especially when it comes to informational interviews, you must remember that you are not the only person your contact has met with to conduct an informational interview. In fact, an informational is likely the least memorable meeting a person will have in a given day. So when you’re reaching back out to these contacts after a month or more has passed, you’ll need to help jog their memories a bit. One great way to do this is to reply to the original email chain from when you scheduled the meeting or sent a thank you note (this is the reason that an emailed thank you note is much more important than a handwritten one). If for some reason you have to start a new email chain, you should give the person a little recap of who you are. For example, “I’m the NYU student studying documentary film that you met with last July while I was interning at NBC.” It might sound weird to do this, but it helps the person on the other end by not forcing them to dig back through emails to figure out who you are.
Starting your email this way gives you the opportunity to transition into explaining what you're currently doing. "Since we last met, I've been working as a development assistant at Imagine Entertainment." You can share a tidbit or two about your current position -- something as simple as how much you've learned, or if you think they'll appreciate it, a little nugget about how something they mentioned back when you met helped you. Don't kiss up too much, but if there's something simple and true, it's worth sharing.
Then, you can get to the impetus for your outreach. It's probably best to avoid asking for a favor for yourself after too much time has passed (unless it's particularly timely, like their department is actively hiring for your dream job), but it's within bounds to ask on behalf of someone else -- passing along a friend's resume or trying to set up an informational for a colleague shows you're willing to pay it forward. You can also reach out when there's nothing you need -- just reconnecting for the sake of it, or because you read something interesting about your contact in the news.
Unfortunately, sometimes you will reach out and won't hear back. If this happens, try one more follow up, but don't take it personally. After the past year and a half, you have no idea what your contact may be going through. But most of the time, you'll get a quick message in return (at the very least), and you'll be back on an important person's radar. It's not ideal to lose touch, but life happens, and it's good to know there's a fail safe way to maintain your network when you get too busy.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan