During the “back to school” season, I often recall my first day at the University of Southern California. This is where I pursued a doctorate in organizational behavior. One professor spent the first part of the class talking about the “elite network” of peers. We were going to be working alongside these peers and he talked about how we would build lifelong relationships with them. Instead, we spread out to chase our professional goals without any context in which to keep in touch after graduation. I have not networked with any of my former classmates over the years. Therefore, I have not given to or received from any of my former classmates a business referral.
Fortunately, the internet now offers a multitude of options to help you reconnect with old school friends and acquaintances. Here are three steps to convert those past relationships into useful new tools for your business.
to help you reconnect with old school friends and acquaintances. Here are three steps to convert those old relationships into useful new tools for your business.
Contact your school’s alumni services department.
By being active with your alumni organization, you can share news about your business that may catch the eye of your fellow graduates. You can also research other alumni to find out who you may want to connect with.
Reconnect with your former classmates using social media.
LinkedIn is an online platform that connects the world’s professionals. A complete LinkedIn profile includes your educational background in addition to your professional experiences. You will likely find many of your former classmates there because LinkedIn will display anyone who attended college at the same time as you.
Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. I hear stories all the time about how people have reconnected with classmates and childhood friends they have not seen in years.
Social media is best used as a brand-building tool. However, you can use it to find new sales leads to make a sale and close a deal. Write an occasional post on your pages asking your followers if they know anyone who might be a potential customer for your business. You can also occasionally mention a special deal, or announce a special event. Encourage your followers to “like” and “share” your posts with the people in their networks.
Gently seek referrals.
Once you have organized your network, the next step is to tactfully tap your social capital. But be careful. Networking is about building stronger relationships, not closing a sale. If you immediately try to sell to an old classmate, they might drop, disconnect, or “un-friend” you. You have not talked to your classmates in years. Therefore, take the time to rebuild a strong relationship first.
I encourage you to connect with one of your former classmates during the coming week by using one of the online networking options. Once you have started reconnecting with old classmates, it’s important to keep track of these valuable contacts by setting up and maintaining a database system to organize your network to be able to follow-up with them regularly.
These tips will help you effectively reconnect with your former classmates so you do not have to sit around waiting for a reunion to give you the opportunity. The main thing is to keep in touch with these potentially wonderful business contacts. Maintain a powerful personal network by contacting your old classmates (maybe go “old-school” and call them) regularly and adopt these tips now.