We are all the sum of each of our professional experiences, which greatly help to shape who we are today.

In 2007 I joined named a young, entrepreneurial firm, McKee Nelson. In two short years I learned more than I ever could have imagined. The market was booming when I joined and as a result the firm was thriving. The marketing team was small so I had the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility.

Then the market crashed and everything changed.

The firm had to make some tough but necessary decisions, but it did so in the most compassionate way. We were all in it together. They did the right thing over and over for their people. McKee Nelson wound up merging with Bingham McCutchen and later became part of Morgan Lewis during another merger. I left before the first merger because I was craving stability, and what better place to find stability than the kind of firm like “we’re never going anywhere” Sullivan & Cromwell?

My experience at McKee was very rewarding because I made lifelong relationships with some of the smartest, kindest and honorable people in the industry, and it helped me to grow and learn what kind of professional I wanted to be.

I learned a few key lessons though this experience:

  • It’s imperative to keep in touch with former colleagues. These relationships can’t be understated to help you down the line in your career in immeasurable ways – referrals, references, mentoring, friendship and so much more. Don’t sit behind your desk churning out documents day after day and then run home to your family – cultivate your network. Make in-person plans with key individuals with whom you’ve been meaning to reconnect.
  • You don’t need to wait for an organized alumni event to meet up with former colleagues. Organize it yourself and then you get to pick and choose who you invite. Also, smaller-scale events can often be better due to their intimate nature. They enable you to really get to know someone on a personal level rather than when you go to a 200-person cocktail party. When we recently met up for drinks, it was a last-minute thing. And by the way, say yes and follow through. It’s so easy to blow off plans because you’re too busy or too tired, but you simply have to make the effort to stay connected.
  • You really see who people (and organizations) really are when you go through a tough time like layoffs and a merger. Eventually everyone does wind up okay – and the shared experience bonds you forever. Be as kind, calm and helpful as you can be if you should ever find yourself in this situation.

I am so thankful to have had this experience and to have taken this job 10+ years ago, and I’m glad they took a chance on me. I hope this article inspires you to reconnect with a former colleague!