Have you ever thought about reaching out to a former colleague or old friend whom you haven’t talked to in years? That person may have come to mind because of his or her expertise or personal contacts that could help you with a current project, but you hesitate to call or email. The fact that you haven’t talked to the person in a long time can make that initial outreach somewhat awkward.

In her recent HBR.org article, “How to Email Someone You Haven’t Talked to in Forever,” executive coach Rebecca Zucker points out that building and nurturing personal and professional networks is essential for career success. Research also shows that robust networks lead to better opportunities, faster advancement and greater status, among other benefits.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’re sharing a few of Zucker’s tips for the most productive ways to connect with someone with whom you’ve lost touch.

1. Shift your perspective. Often, we avoid reaching out to someone because we don’t want to appear as if we’re only reaching out because we need something. This concern alone can prevent us from getting back in touch. Changing the way you view your outreach to this person can make the initial contact feel a little less uncomfortable. Remember, they’ve not reached out to you either. In fact, they might be really glad to hear from you. They might look at your outreach as very helpful and they could be glad to reestablish contact.

2. Acknowledge the absence of contact. Calling out the elephant in the room can also ease the awkwardness. If the context of your relationship was less formal—say, a college classmate—you might use a bit of humor and say something like “Blast from the past” in your email subject line. If your relationship was more formal in nature—perhaps a former boss or client—you might use a word like “Reconnecting” in the subject line. Early in the body of your email, you can acknowledge it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch and briefly update them on what you’ve been doing professionally.

3. Pay attention to tone and give them an out. While being confident in asking this person to do something, like pass along your resume to a hiring manager, you also want to balance your request with making it somewhat tentative in case they are busy. You can also offer to make it easier for them by saying something like, “Please let me know how I can make it easier for you to fulfill this request.”

In addition, give the other person an out. This will help you and your contact save face in the event they cannot help you. You might say something like, “I’m sure you are very busy, so if this is not a good time for you (or if you don’t feel like you know this person well enough to make an introduction), I completely understand.”

4. Offer to reciprocate. View your request in the context of a larger, reciprocal relationship and ask how you can be helpful to the other person. By saying something like, “Please let me know how I can be helpful to you, either now or in the future,” you open the door for them to reach out for help when they need it. Also, be sure to show your appreciation by sending a short follow-up thank-you note.

5. Stay in contact. Now that you’ve reconnected with this person after all of these years, stay in touch. It might mean something small such as connecting on LinkedIn or inviting them to have coffee or lunch when you are in their city.

Take time to re-engage in relationships that are both professionally beneficial and personally motivating and you’ll be glad you did.

Source: Rebecca Zucker is an executive coach and a founding partner at Next Step Partners, a boutique leadership development firm. Her clients include Clorox, Google, Nielsen, the Hewlett Foundation, Skoll Foundation and high-growth technology companies like DocuSign and Cloudera.