Leveraging your past for current and future gain is a powerful tool, and one that often leads to positive change for everyone involved. Quite often, it’s simply a matter of knowing the best ways to put these connections to work.
1. Make the initial effort to reconnect.
With email and social media, there’s no shortage of means to stay connected these days. Yet amidst all these avenues, how often do we truly stay in contact with valuable connections from our past?
I have encountered so many wonderful individuals throughout life, but between my busy professional and personal life, some connections naturally stagnate. These relationships aren’t beyond salvaging, though. Sometimes all it takes is that initial nudge to get the conversation going and the friendship flowing again.
One of the most impactful periods of life is school, where we learn from peers and teachers alike and form deep connections before growing in our unique ways. The different paths we all take after education are an incredible opportunity, as you can reconnect with those who have mastered skills outside your wheelhouse.
I spoke recently with Dwight Morrison, founder and CEO of PS Remember. His platform connects past and current students around the globe. During our call, he explained, “We go to school for an education, but the connections from that era are immensely valuable as well. Former classmates can be reconnected with years later for professional purposes, and these contacts possess a special sort of trust that an entirely new one just doesn’t have. Whether you met in high school or university, they can vouch for your ability and character in a way that can cement your professional status in a positive and human light.”
2. Work to seriously expand your network.
Expanding a network can be superficially done by sending out dozens of blanket invitations and requests, but this method of outreach might be met with lukewarm responses as they lack any personal basis.
We can get around this troublesome problem by having past connections introduce or connect us to a new prospect. This helps you be seen as a real person, rather than just another email. The simple act of a past contact introducing you validates your character and competency on a basic level.
Past connections can open the door to network expansion as a natural bridge, but of course, you will still be the one responsible for providing value and proving your worth once the opportunity arises. When a past contact is kind enough to help you out in this manner, make sure you not only show up to the meeting as your best self but be open and willing to return the favor when others reach out to you.
“I really like any colony-based structure, where you have a strong dependence on a network,” said Jack Dorsey in a 2013 interview with the New Yorker. “Aspen trees grow in groups. If one of them dies, they all suffer. I think humans have the same thing, though it’s not as much on the surface.”
Networks matter just as much for multi-billion dollar businesses as they do for the aspirations of an individual. By pooling their efforts and abilities, greater accomplishments are made possible.
This is why new contacts are so incredibly potent for your present-day success. By using past connections as the initial entry point, you put forth a more human appeal than cold methods of approach.
3. Link past projects to current skills.
While every entrepreneur needs to be focused on the future, it’s also important to know how to promote your past accomplishments and how they relate to your skills.
People you have worked with in the past serve as the perfect opportunity to affirm your professional capabilities. Whether it’s endorsing your skills on LinkedIn or leaving a positive review for your business, this kind of public feedback matters in fueling success.
Hearing what worked well and what could be done better is a critical part of improving any skill, but if it never sees the light of day, then others are left a little in the dark when deciding if they want to work with you or not. By making feedback visible and directly tying it to your skillset, present-day clients have a clearer idea of who you are and what you do.
When you know you have delivered stellar results on a past project, don’t be shy about reaching out for a review. You can have all the skills and success in the world, but if there’s no documentation of it, then current prospects have no way to see or substantiate your claims. A well-organized and presented history of your past projects and how they relate to your skills can alleviate these kinds of concerns in a minute, and could be the little push it takes to land the next client.
Using your past as a springboard for present-day success should be standard practice for any solopreneurs, freelancers or aspiring entrepreneurs out there. Make the most of what you have accomplished and who you have met, and the future will start looking brighter by the day.