As you search for a new position and make decisions that drive your career, you’ll probably be leaning hard on your social and professional networks. Every person who plays a role in your life, including friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and casual acquaintances, might offer the key to your next position. And at the very least, some of these people may be able to pass along your resume to another contact or put in a good word for you when the opportunity arises.

But when it comes to recommendations and references, there’s one person (or category of people) who can help you more than any of the others: your former boss. Your old boss (or bosses, if you have several), can offer a clear and highly valuable perspective on your work ethic and abilities. And if you stay in close contact and maintain this relationship after you leave the workplace, his or her endorsement will come with even more value, weight, and personal enthusiasm. Here are a few ways to make this happen.

Friend your boss on social media.

Your boss may not be interested in mixing her work and professional lives by bringing her colleagues into her circle of Facebook friends. But you won’t know this until you try. Send her a friend request and see what happens. Make sure you reach out on Linkedin as well. If she can see your linkedin profile, she may notice when you switch jobs, leave employers, or step into the market, and she may be more than willing to help you. If she can see you on Facebook, the two of you can send each other casual comments and “likes”, which offer an easy, warm, and genuine way to stay in touch.

Declare your intentions.

When you leave your workplace for the last time (after giving two weeks notice, of course), let your boss know that you plan to stay in touch with him. And mean it. This is a polite formality, but if you really mean what you say, your boss will be able to tell. Your feelings of warmth and respect will come through in your voice, and if you reach out in the future, your boss will remember this moment far longer than that one insignificant project you handed in a day late.

Send short messages every year or so.

Use holidays, birthdays, or current events as excuses to reach out and send your former boss a brief, cheerful message that reminds her of your existence. When you need a favor five years from now, she’ll be more likely to remember who you are, and you’ll also have a foundation of friendly–if sporadic—interaction that can help you keep the bridge strong.

Give favors, don’t just ask for them.

If your former boss finds himself unemployed, on the market, or in need of a favor or recommendation, don’t hesitate to step up and offer a hand. Follow through. Provide a testimonial online or offer to pass his resume along to your current company. As we all know, relationships are a two-way street, and what goes around comes around sooner than we might imagine. For more job search and networking help, reach out to the experienced staffing team at Expert.

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