By Serena Saunders
Amid closing out my work responsibilities for the year, studying for final exams and baking holiday cookies with my mom, I always try to use December to reflect on the months before it. This year’s no different: I’m thinking about ways I’ve grown professionally, made new connections and tried to expand my horizons.
In particular, I’m looking at ways to reconnect with old mentors, such as professors who have written me recommendation letters and internship coordinators who connected me to other opportunities. But I don’t need anything from them now, which brought me to (what I think is) the most awkward part of networking: how do you really connect with someone when there’s no specific “ask” for them? And why should you do it?
I think the best reason is that it never hurts to reconnect. Reaching out puts you back on people’s radar, helps build up good will, and helps you develop meaningful relationships that go beyond typical networking.
This can seem pretty daunting, especially now. The pandemic has upended traditional forms of networking, like cocktail hours and coffee dates. I’m an introvert, and those kinds of situations — lots of strangers and lots of small talk — can be difficult for me to get through. But sending an email showing my gratitude for people I already know and wishing them happy holidays and a happy new year? I can do that, and you can, too.
Here’s a quick guide for all your holiday reconnecting!
For someone who helped you this year
- Thank them for their help, with a specific reminder of what they did and why it mattered to you.
- Include the outcome of their help — did you get the job or internship they recommended you for?
For someone you haven’t talked to in a while
- Remind them of how you know them, if necessary (ie if you met at a career fair, had an informational interview, etc.).
- Share any updates on your life since you last talked.
For someone who inspired or motivated you
- Say why they’re inspiring or motivating! Be authentic and specific.
- Share how their story has impacted you or how you plan to apply it to something in the future.
For a friend or someone you’re grateful for
- Be specific about what you’re grateful for! Did they give you moral support as you went through a difficult transition, or send you a nice gift on your birthday?
- Make plans to meet (or “meet” virtually) and catch up, or plan an activity you both enjoy.
Serena Saunders is Staff Assistant at Running Start, where she works on communications and programs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Maryland and is currently earning her Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Maryland.