Staying in Touch is Just as Hard in Your Career as it was Back in High School

Think back to your old jobs: Do you stay in touch with any of your former coworkers? I don’t mean the ones you use for networking purposes; I mean the ones with whom you regularly ate lunch, grabbed drinks after work, discussed your love life, played basketball or hung out on weekends – the ones you considered good friends.

I had a conversation last week with a friend who believes that unless you have something that bonds you outside of work, like the same hobby or hometown, your chances of staying friends when you’re no longer coworkers are slim to none. I’ve been muddling over his statement ever since.

Back in June, I wrote a blog about friendships at work and mentioned that I don’t keep in contact with most of the former coworkers I once considered “close friends.” It’s not that I haven’t tried. For a few years, I kept in touch with one girl with from my first job out of college but then she moved to Japan. And there’s one fantastic lady with whom I e-mail and have the occasional dinner, but I consider her more than a friend or former coworker; she’s a mentor. Most of the other “friendships” faded away over time.

Staying in touch is a two-way street and involves someone making the effort (aggressive) and someone accepting it (passive). Roles can be reversed any time but someone has to initiate it in order to maintain a connection now that you’re no longer “forced” to see each other on a daily basis. Some people are naturally more social than others and find it easy to keep in contact with anyone via e-mail, phone and IM. You know who they are – they have a HUGE list of contacts, constantly make dinner plans, forward funny e-mails all the time and are great at rounding up the troops for a fun night out. Others, like myself, just aren’t as good at that… or perhaps just lazy.

So I can’t help but think that your ability to K.I.T. with former coworkers comes down to your personality. Maybe my friend and I are just antisocial or don’t make enough of an effort at staying in touch? I don’t know.

So I ask: If the only thing two people really have in common is that they work together, when one person leaves the company can they still maintain the friendship… or was it merely a friendship of convenience?