Want To Be A Better Networker? Call Your Old Boss

Call Your Old Boss

There are a lot of aspects of cultivating a powerful network that we often overlook. When we need advice, or introductions, or even just a kind word or two, most of us stick with our close contacts. People we know, like, and trust because we see them every single day. The challenge is that close contacts rarely have the new information we need. So, we often jump right to trying to find and build rapport with total strangers. We go to conferences or attend networking mixers, trusting serendipity to bring a person with the right asset with whom we’ll build instant rapport.

And it doesn’t work out that way very often.

But there’s another part of our network that we skip when we jump from close contacts to total strangers. And it’s one that research shows can have an incredible effect on our success:

Dormant ties.

Dormant ties are people you know—people with whom you’ve already built rapport—but for some reason or another you haven’t spoken to in a while. In terms of new knowledge or new potential introductions, they’re often as valuable as those total strangers you were trusting chance to find. But in terms of rapport and connection, they’re closer to close contracts than strangers. These are people who knew, liked, and trusted you…and probably still do once you reconnect.

One of the most powerful dormant ties many of us have are our old bosses. I mean it. Assuming you left on good terms (or that they did), old managers can be a powerful source of new information because they’ve been working (and/or living) somewhere other than you and your close contacts, but they were also one of the few colleagues most invested in your success. They wanted to help you grow and develop your career then, and many of them will still want that for you now. So call your old boss. The conversation can go anywhere, but it will probably go somewhere valuable.

About a week ago, I posted a video to social media (you can watch it below) about reaching back to old bosses and a recruiter shared with me a hilarious (and kind of sad) conversation he has on a regular basis. He would call old bosses for a reference on current potential hires and regularly heard the same line: “If I knew she was looking, I would have hired her back myself.” You may not want to go back to your old company, or even that old boss, but the example shows just how powerful former leaders can be.

They want you to succeed—and because you’ve both been working at separate places—they know about opportunities you don’t.

This article originally appeared as an episode of the DailyBurk, which you can follow on YouTubeFacebook, LinkedInTwitter, or Instagram.

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About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

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