Rediscovering Your Long-Lost Connections
It could be time to reconnect for camaraderie, advice, job leads, and fun.
Posted Jun 30, 2020
As the year 2020 has shockingly revealed, a solid sense of connection is crucial to adapting to sudden life changes. In times of crisis and uncertainty, we turn to one another to see what might lie ahead, to think out loud, to solve complex and ever-morphing problems. The pandemic gives us the perfect opportunity to reach out with humility and honesty to seek support as we look for everything from job leads, to resources, to advice, to companionship. More than ever before, we may need to rediscover people from our past for moral support as well as for contacts and tips for career opportunities.
If we happen to be job hunting these days, we have learned to reconnect with our former classmates, co-workers, bosses, mentors, alumni, and even our childhood friends to gather job leads. It's a bit of a hustle rounding up those useful contacts. But as the old adage goes, it’s all about who you know. LinkedIn is certainly designed to help us do that. Social media can make us feel brave enough to launch bold networking campaigns to reconnect with the folks we knew years or decades ago.
But as a rehabilitation consultant and networking coach, I hope people are also reconnecting with others from the past with a sense of gratitude, appreciation, and even good, old-fashioned camaraderie. Anyone who is holding on to their profession in these chaotic times needs a boost—and you can be their blast from the past that makes their day.
It's better not only to ask for a reference, an endorsement, or an interview, but first and foremost, let these helpful people know you care about how they are doing. Many of us feel invisible and insignificant even if we have jobs in the midst of so much economic upheaval, and it matters when we show people that they matter to us.
Hopefully, we aren’t missing out on building relationships along the way as we hunt for jobs. Many interviews invite opportunities to build new partnerships, even if we don't get that particular job. Researching organizations and applying to them means building community and educating ourselves about networks and systems—and all that effort is a smart investment and time well spent.
As we look further towards building personal relationships, the pandemic has been a perfect icebreaker to start a conversation with someone from 10 or 20 years ago by asking, “What’s life like for you these days?” “How are you holding up?” “How are you surviving 2020?” Indeed, there is nothing quite like a pandemic to talk about.
Frankly, COVID-19 made me brave enough (or stir-crazy enough) to reach out to two of my former supervisors. They had both left (fled) their agencies well before the lockdown. We bonded over our memories of how bad the top management had been and shared a bit of gossip about the co-workers who had backstabbed us. Our reminiscing was mutually beneficial (and fun to vent), plus it resulted in productive brainstorming for future employer contacts.
Another friend I checked in with was a former landlord from whom I had rented a small room. She admitted that she could no longer afford her apartment and was looking to move. We problem-solved on her options which led her to a long-lost colleague of mine who needed a housemate. People build friendships, households, partnerships, romances, as well as careers through life’s twists and turns. And in these COVID times, it's not only comforting to reconnect with our past relationships, it's vital for our survival, both personally and professionally.
In short, reconnecting with people from our past, for work, pleasure, and survival, all boils down to this: It's a brilliant investment in our social safety net.
Here are five potential benefits of rediscovering our long-lost connections, followed by five ways we can make those reconnections happen.
Five Benefits of Rediscovering Our Long-Lost Connections
1. Being nostalgic together makes our lives feel more normal. Nostalgia can be entertaining and yet offers surprising perspectives. We see things in a long-forgotten light or through our companion's reflections. We are reassured and comforted by a shared memory, and feel a sense of continuity with the past.
2. We learn from one another. People from the past offer their own wisdom from their hard-won life lessons and accomplishments. We see things differently, grasp the bigger picture, and view things in a new context. If we listen deeply, we can receive answers we didn’t realize we were waiting for.
3. We laugh and “get it.” We tell stories chock-full of humorous and ridiculous details that no one else could possibly understand.
4. We exchange professional and personal resources and connections. Bottom line: Spot those networking opportunities and take note. Yes, these can lead to new jobs as well as exciting social opportunities. Or even romantic possibilities.
5. We have heart-to-heart conversations. With an old friend or cousin from way, way back, we can open up about feelings we wouldn’t typically share.
Five Ways to Rediscover Our Past Connections (even contacts made before social media existed)
It's easy to say, "Just pick up that phone and call." But we all know we would have done that years ago if it truly was so darn fun. However, pandemic times call for extra effort. And it just might be worth it.
1. Get adventurous and start your search to find long-lost contacts in your life: Go into your closets, attics, or basements and dig through your memorabilia. Look for yearbooks, Rolodexes, notebooks, diaries, photo albums, souvenirs, old greeting cards, weird keepsakes, and God knows what else that lies in the dark recesses of your home.
2. It’s tedious, but go through your old email contacts. I found a treasure trove of AOL contacts from the late 1990s which yielded two lovely reconnections—even a job lead.
3. Make a list of interesting and friendly people who supported you (or liked you) in the past. Who would you like to revisit by phone or online (or in person with social distancing)? We might start a lively conversation with that person by checking in on how he or she is braving the havoc of COVID. And then, hopefully, one topic leads to another and a great conversation ensues.
4. Create social events around your favorite music, movies, or TV shows (and various binge-worthy pleasures) from the past. You might remember people who loved the very same stars from the 1980s or 1990s and would love to reminisce about those times with you. Reach out and let them know how much you appreciate their passions. Host a Facebook Watch Party or put together a playlist on Spotify, or a catchy video on TikTok just to create a conversation. Host a reunion through Zoom.
5. Or, just pick up the phone and call someone. Keep it simple, honest, and say you are calling to check in. (As a baby boomer, I love a surprise call out of the blue. Boomers often welcome impromptu chats.)
It’s downright magical when people reach out to us on days we feel invisible. Any one of us can take action to reach out, to be the one who asks, “How are you holding up?” We have the power to create little sanctuaries of belonging with one another, just with the kindness in our voices.
Let’s not shy away.