Closing the Communication Gap

After writing the Following Up With New Contacts post, many of you asked me about how to keep the chain of communication going. I also got a lot of questions about following up with contacts with whom you’ve had a long gap with no communication. So, today I’m going to discuss getting back in touch with someone who you’ve previously met but not done a good job keeping up with. Wednesday, I’ll discuss how to keep the lines of communication open, since it will apply to both new contacts and old contacts with whom you reopen your contact.

Some of you have written me and said you’ve realized that you’ve let good contacts go cold, whether it’s from a former internship or someone you met briefly at a conference. It may feel awkward reaching back out again, but really you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

There’s no one way to reopen the lines of communication, and my advice doesn’t really differ depending on whether it was someone with whom you had longer contact (such as during an internship) or only met once. Here are some ways you can reach out and break the ice, complete with sample emails.

You’re going to be in their city. If the person lives in a different city than you but you have plans to travel there, shoot them an email. Let them know you’ll be in town, thought of them and want to meet up with them for coffee or lunch. It doesn’t matter if it’s been two months or two years, it’s worth a try.

Sample Email:

Dear Bob,

I’m not sure if you’ll remember, but you were in ticket sales with the Sand Gnats when I was an intern a couple of summers ago. We worked on the bobblehead promotion together. I see where you’ve been promoted to Director of Operations – congrats!

I’m going to be in Savannah next month for a conference, and I’d love to grab coffee or lunch if you have time. I’m a senior now, and I’m still interested in working in baseball. I’d love to hear more about how your career has progressed and any advice you might have for me.

Hope this finds you doing well.

Thanks,

Jeff Smith

A couple of things to note in this email. First, if it’s been awhile you’re going to want to give them some info to jog their memory. Here, Jeff reminds Bob that he was an intern and of a project they worked on together. Next, there’s a congratulatory note about his promotion. This shows you did a little research, and it’s a nice ego boost. Last, Jeff asked for more than just career advice. He asked to hear about Bob’s career. This accomplishes two things: 1) it’s important to hear how other people got to their current positions, particularly if they’re in a position you might like to have one day, and 2) it does more than simply ask for career advice. That keeps it from looking 100% selfish – it shows an interest in building a relationship.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve done this with, and many of them did indeed meet up with me. Hey, we all have to eat!

You saw an article that reminded you of them. Many know I got my start writing about collective bargaining in baseball. At least four people I’ve met over the years use that as a way to stay in touch. They see an article related to the topic and forward it to me, either by mail or email. This is a great way to get back in touch with someone. If you see an article you think they’d be interested in, forward it to them.

Sample Email:

Kristi,

I met you last year at the Harvard Sports Law Symposium and talked to you afterwards at the reception. You mentioned you were working on a book about collective bargaining in baseball. I saw this article today about how the Red Sox and Yankees aren’t spending this offseason because of the new luxury tax rules and thought of you. How you finished your book yet? I look forward to reading it when it comes out.

Hope this finds you doing well.

Thanks,

John Thomas

Barry University School of Law

Class of 2013

This person did a good job jogging my memory with the reference to our conversation and where we had the conversation. Adding their school to their signature also helped. They remembered I was writing a book about collective bargaining in baseball. I’d already seen the article, but thought it was nice they read it and thought of me. I wrote the person back and thanked them for the article, updated them on my book and asked if they had a job lined up after graduation. They’ve now established a line of communication nearly one year after meeting me. I didn’t find it weird or annoying (or whatever else you think someone might think of your email), I found it flattering they remembered me and my book.

You saw an article about them. This one is even easier than the previous suggestion. Let’s say you see an article about the person. Shoot them an email and acknowledge it – say congrats if it’s in order. Your goal doesn’t always have to be meeting in person, it can just be to reopen the lines of communication.

Sample email:

George,

I don’t know if you’ll remember, but I spoke with you at Winter Meetings last year. I was a college junior there for the career fair and we spoke about how you got your first job in baseball.

I saw the article on you today on MiLB.com. The new ticket promotion sounds really interesting. I look forward to following the promotion through the season.

I ended up getting a job with the Savannah Sand Gnats last year through the career fair and had a very rewarding internship. I graduate in May and am hoping to find a full-time job in baseball. Hopefully our paths will across again sometime.

Yours truly,

Ginger Smith
Mercer University
Class of 2012

I sent many emails like this in college and law school, and now I’ve been on the receiving end of several. Remember that you don’t always have to be asking for something – advice or to meet up. Sometimes you’re just trying to reopen the lines of communication. Generally speaking, people like to talk about themselves. This person might email you back to tell you more about the ticket promotion or just to say thanks. You’ve reminded them who you are and that you’re still in the market for a job (just in case they have one). However, you didn’t come right out and ask if they have any positions. Some people might see that as too forward, particularly if you haven’t had any contact in awhile or they’re unlikely to remember who you are.

There’s an upcoming conference you think they might attend. I discussed this previously in a post about pre-conference planning. Please go to that post for a much more in-depth discussion. Before every conference you attend (and you should be attending some), check out the speaker list and see if you recognize any names. Is there someone you’ve interned with or met at a prior event? If so, reach out to them. Let them know you’re going to be there. Ask if they have time for coffee, or let them know you’ll be looking for them.

Maybe they’re not a speaker, but it’s a conference you think they’ll attend. Let’s take MLB Winter Meetings as an example. Back to Jeff, our student who was previously an intern with a minor league team:

Sample Email:

Craig,

I don’t know if you remember me, but I interned with the Sand Gnats a couple of summers ago. I’m now a senior at Mercer University and still interested in working in baseball after graduation. I’m attending Winter Meetings next month. Will you be there? If so, would you have time to grab coffee or lunch? I’d love to hear more about your career path and maybe get some advice as I begin my job search.

Hope this finds you doing well.

Thanks,

Jeff Smith

Remember, the worst thing that can happen is the person won’t answer. What have you lost? If the email is respectfully done, you’ll in no way tarnish your professional reputation. Barring any past misdeeds, no one is going to think, “Boy, that guy had some nerve emailing me after two years and asking to have coffee.”

Come back Wednesday for tips on how to keep the line of communication open once you reestablish it.

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