For Those Returning to Work
When you take time away from the workplace, you should keep your network alive. Sometimes life gets in the way and it isn't possible to do that. There are children to care for if that is the reason you left. There is a business to run if you left to pursue that avenue. There are papers to write and tests to study for if you left work to attend school. You may have had too much to do and networking wasn't something that was high on your list of priorities. There's nothing you can do about it now. What's done is done. All you can do is rebuild your network or build a new one.
Re-establishing Your Network
You can try to re-establish connections with those who were on your network before you left work. Many of your old contacts may be interested in hearing you are returning to work. Send e-mails if you have addresses, or phone your contacts. Remember that some of them may no longer be at the same jobs they were at previously. You can try to track them down by asking other members of your network acquainted with those contacts if they know how to reach them.
You can also try using a search engine, like Google, to look for your long-lost contacts. In addition to helping you locate them, you may be able to learn what they are doing now. You can use what you learn about an individual as an icebreaker when you make your phone call — for example, “I heard you were just elected to the executive board of the AMA. Congratulations!”
Making New Connections
You may have to build your network from scratch entirely, or at least make some new connections to bulk it up a bit. Spending time away from the workplace probably means you were spending your days elsewhere. If you took time away from work to be a stay-at-home parent, your personal network may now include people you met on the playground, other parents at your child's school, or those with whom you worked on volunteer projects. If you were a student during your time away from work, look to your professors for contacts, as was discussed earlier in this chapter. If you left the workplace to start your own business, your customers may now be candidates for your network.