I wrote last time about how the Internet has made it easier to reconnect with people you used to know. It has also been a boon to the formation of alumni groups for both schools and companies. Given the downsizing our industry has experienced, there are frequently more former employees than current employees.
Traditionally, alumni groups have preserved the traditions and “culture” of a school or military organization by holding reunions, attending “homecoming,” and connecting other alums with employment opportunities. Universities have long recognized the value of an enthusiastic alumni group.
Active companies might not see the value of former employees being part of a group. This is understandable but, in my view, rather shortsighted. I am eligible for several employer alumni groups and try to follow the University model on behavior, i.e. — if you can’t say something nice about the place/person, don’t say anything at all. When asked, I try to assist fellow alums make good career moves, but I don’t “recruit” the alumni ranks for third parties. When possible, it is my pleasure to send business opportunities to former employers.
A slightly different set of “rules” applies for alumni groups of companies that are no longer operating. I think it is a duty to keep these companies from being forgotten; just because they are no longer in business does not mean their ideas and products are without value. We lost some great organizations because of poor trade policies or financial fluctuations that were in no way their “fault.”
If you are an alum of one of those “ghost companies” you need to tout the things they did well, assist former customers in maintaining the legacy equipment, if you can, and, above all, celebrate the lessons you learned while working there. None of us became the people we are in a vacuum.