Do you wish there were more people in your life who could write you a letter of recommendation, put in a good word for you, or introduce you to other important people? Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t know these people already. The following list describes the top ten people to stay in touch with after high school and beyond.
1. Classmates. Your high school and college friends may seem rather inactive now, but in a few years there’s a good chance many of them will evolve into great contacts and become big people in other communities.
2. Friends’ Parents. Find out what your friends’ parents do for a living. These adults can provide information about what their jobs entail and how to get experience in the field.
3. Parents’ Friends. Similar to your friends’ parents, these adults may also be more likely to introduce you to other people or get you a job because of their friendship with your parents.
4. Influential Teachers. In college or high school, the instructors who understand your future goals will be good to talk to about college decisions, and they may recommend specific classes or other professors/teachers who would positively influence your education.
5. Old Bosses. Whether you were waiting tables, volunteering for the S.P.C.A., or interning at the Chamber of Commerce, your old bosses know your skills and how well you communicate with others in a working environment. They’ll usually be happy to vouch for your character when called upon.
6. Neighbors. In many cases, these people have seen you grow up and they care about your future. They bought Girl Scout cookies from you when you were 10 years old, so they’ll try to support you in your future endeavors as well.
7. Other Young Achievers. Stay friends with the other teens you volunteered or interned with in the past and the members of your student organizations. They can give you testimonials from their recent experiences or tell you about how they got their foot in the door at another company.
8. Members of Church/Spiritual Groups. Religious or spiritual groups are tight-knit networks of people who trust each other and make references for one another. If you strongly impress one person, you are generally well liked by the whole group.
9. People Who Express an Interest In Your Future.When someone says she’s interested in finding out how something in your life turns out (such as a project or a summer internship), make sure to get back to her. This person may just have a follow-up proposition for you or could point you toward your next direction. People want to be helpful. They enjoy helping young people. Don’t waste that opportunity.
10. Employers Who Didn’t Hire You. So, you got an interview, the meeting went well, and the potential employer liked you—but you didn’t get the position. You are told you just don’t have as much experience as other candidates. Don’t give up on this opportunity or the contact. Keep in touch by emailing updates on what you have been up to that will eventually make you a better fit for a future position or send some of your recent work in for review. Eventually, the employer may have another spot open and you’ll be the first person who comes to mind.
Does it sound like a mighty task to keep in touch with so many people? Think about creating a personal website with a bio, current resume, and work samples. (Make sure to only provide an email address. Don’t post a phone number or physical address.)
Also, periodically email personal updates to your career connections thanking them for their support and letting them know about your progress—obtaining an internship, learning a new skill, and so forth. It will help to organize an email list with only career-related contacts, so you will have easy access to it on a regular basis.
Finally, consider designating a separate physical address book for just those people who could potentially be sources of information in the future. That way, when you have a question, you’ll have a whole book full of people to contact.