Building strong working relationships is key to success in any job. But what happens when you leave a job, is it just as important to maintain those relationships? Most definitely.
Sometimes, though, it's easy to say good-bye and good riddance to old co-workers, bosses, etc. and move on to greener pastures without any intention or desire of looking back. "So long, witch-boss, I hope I never have to see your face again!" Hah. Other times, maybe you wish you could keep in touch, but don't really know how to go about doing it in a way that is friendly, yet still professional. Yes, now that's better.
While LinkedIn is generally a good start, you've really gotta go the extra mile and send out a personalized "Hello, what's new my friend?" to make a true investment in maintaining what could be, what most likely is, a valuable relationship. LinkedIn has options to send messages directly to your contacts, making it easy if you didn't happen to grab an email address on your way out. A personal note will show that 1) you're still alive, 2) you're actively moving up and on in your career (assuming you're keeping your LinkedIn profile updated, always a good move), and 3) you care about maintaining the relationship. That last bit makes people feel special. You never know, an old contact may be the door to new opportunities, and your note's warm fuzzy effect could inspire a positive refferral.
In other words, this is what you call good old networking! Another way to keep in touch professionally is to set up a lunch or coffee chat if you and your former co-worker/boss still happen to work in the same city. This is not only a great way to casually keep in touch, but oftentimes can lead to building an actual friendship. And offer to pay for the meal/drink, it shows you value the other person's time and insight. Remember, good karma goes a long way in networking.
(OK, can I just vent for a sec? I love the lunch thing. Except why is it so dang hard to schedule a lunch with more than two people at a time?? I always end up being the "planner" who plans all the lunch outings and get-togethers with old co-workers. When we finally meet up after the world's longest email chain, everyone's always like, "Oh, this was so great, we should do this more often. Why don't we do this more often?" I KNOW, right?? So why don't you plan something one of these days then? OK, thanks guys, I feel better now.)
Facebook is a little trickier. I typically don't friend anyone I work with unless we're really close or until after one of us doesn't work at the same company anymore. And my rule of thumb for friending your boss? Don't do it. If your boss friends you, then that's OK -- but only if you're comfortable. Otherwise, keep Facebook a strictly non-work environment. It's good to keep certain things separate ... work and personal life, definitely one of those things. If you do have a mix, Facebook has some great new privacy settings where you can tailor what your work peeps see (like your basic info and work/education info, no wall and no photo albums, for example) vs. what your friends see (everything).
I still keep in touch with co-workers and bosses from my very first job out of college. I'm not saying I'm awesome at it, I most certainly could do better. But it's something I try to keep up at because work relationships are like friends, but with possible career benefits down the road, be it new job opportunities or simply a sounding board of advice/mentorship.
I'm going to end this post with a challenge. Shoot a note to one of your old co-workers or bosses this week. See what happens. I promise, only good things can come out of this, and at the very least your thoughtfulness will make someone's day :)