This touches on a theme I think you've heard me echo. Your career is just that -- a CAREER. It is not a one time job, a summer, a couple of years, etc. Even if you change workplaces, type of work, or take some time off, that does not mean that you should stop connecting. You MUST maintain and build your connections/networks. Your career is more like running cross-country than track -- a long and winding course rather than a quick sprint till you are done.
I had a former colleague who got laid off, and then decided to spend some time with her young kids. Fine. Then she wanted to start working again. I told her about a job right near her house that would be a great fit where a mutual friend of ours was hiring (notice: connection). She didn't move on it, and the opportunity passed. Then she went to work outside of the law for a bit. She asked for a reference, which I took care of quickly. Then I never heard from her again. I even had an opportunity for her in my firm. She was MIA. Nothing wrong with her, just not connecting. Guess what...she's back....wanting to get back into the legal field. Am I inclined to help her - well actually I do like her a lot and would try. But, was she smart about checking out, only to check in when she needed something? NOOOOOOO...dumb move.
Listen people - technology has made it so much simpler to stay in touch - "Link" with someone and send them a note every now and then; shoot someone a quick email saying hello, checking in on how some project went, or was everything ok, etc., send an article that may be of interest, if appropriate ask how a family member is doing ("has Janie decided where she's going to college, I really enjoyed speaking with her about XYZ university"). This is so easy, yet so overlooked. I usually take about 10 minutes every day, just to do some checking in emails. Remember - out of sight means out of mind, and you never know when that contact may be needed/useful to advance your career or for other important reasons. And of course, some of us actually just enjoy staying in touch !
So, this coming week, make it a goal to check in with 5 people. It doesn't require follow up, but if you want to set up coffee, lunch, etc. Go ahead! Even better.