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Remember Me?

If you're tempted to cut to the chase when calling up old acquaintances to network, it may be because you haven't yet gotten into character as the Long Lost Friend. Find your inner thespian before you hit the phones.

Dear Annette,

How do I contact old work friends I haven't spoken to in years to find out about present job opportunities?

I used to work in an industry that I am interested in getting back into, but I am out of touch with what is going on now. I want to call a few business associates who were friends of mine in the past, but I haven't seen or spoken to any of them in years. In all honesty, although it would be fine to hear about what is going on with their lives, I just want to know if they know about potential job opportunities.

Brass Tacks

Dear Tacks,

I've made my own rules since childhood, when I declared that classmates who wished to be part of my entourage should tie their blankies decoratively about their shoulders. I knew it would lead to scarf confidence in adulthood. Now, many of my well-dressed former playfellows have their own People, who keep in touch with my People constantly through witty post cards.

My first rule when embarking on a new production is to call friends in the field to ask for their support. One screenplay, business plan, or invention later, and we're normally at an awards ceremony accepting sharp-edged statuettes and giving tearful tributes to each other. My stylist always matches my dog Dickie's accessories to mine for the occasion.

Use your friends. That's what they're for. Telephone your associates, as many as you need to call. You've got a legitimate reason: you've moved to another industry, and now you want to go back, perhaps to places where your old friends are. If you didn't know these people, would that stop you from trying to do business with them?

I know what you're asking: What's my character? What's my motivation?

However you cast yourself, be honest and sincere. If you play Spin the "Role"-odex to see where you land, your plan will be no more secret than a B-list actor's sexuality. If they haven't heard from you in years, they don't have to be a Palm reader to know you're calling for a reason. Networking takes time.

So prepare, as you would for an audition. Bring to mind the names of your friends' children, along with some shared memories, so you can Be the Long Lost Friend. Practice the engagingly brief yet touching "Where I Am Now" monolog in front of the mirror to make sure you stay in character. Your mouth may be saying "I've been doing consulting," but don't let your downcast eyes say, "I wish I hadn't been laid off."

Then, after gargling with salt water and doing a few vocalises, make your call. If you get a Live Person, ask your colleague if it's a good time to talk. Allow some space to catch up, to build the dramatic tension. Your truest friends will be delighted to hear from you, so be upbeat and in a mood to chat. Share any good dirt on mutual acquaintances.

Finally, state your business: you're hoping to make a change, you recalled your previous collaboration, you're thinking of returning to the field, could you get together for lunch, your treat. If you're deep into the creative phase of your job hunt, say so. You'll be surprised at how fabulous it makes people feel to do things for you.

When you've made plans to meet, offer something in return - say, an autographed professional head shot. There's no such thing as too many people liking you. Besides, now they'll have something to remember you by.

Stay fabulous,

Copyright 2000-2004 ©, Inc.

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