Having attended multiple schools and worked for many employers over the years, I’m happy to say that some of my former classmates and colleagues also became my friends. These are the people that I hold onto with both hands. Pre-pandemic I travelled a lot and used to regularly catch up when I passed through various locales. COVID shifted that connection method to zoom and, honestly, it works really well! I’ve reconnected with close colleagues who had moved on to locations I don’t frequent, and it allows me to see others much more often than I would otherwise manage. It is my network.
Advice to newer library professionals always includes some aspect of networking. Get a mentor, join professional organizations, stay in touch with former colleagues who can serve as references or hiring connections are among some of the common examples. In short, networking often boils down to making and maintaining professional connections to further your career.
Online networking tools like LinkedIn, also operate in this manner. I remember when I first joined LinkedIn the unstated premise was that you should only connect with people you actually knew well and could vouch for to others. Now it seems like more of a digital rolodex of people that you (probably) have interacted with either through work or other means. It suggests — like much of social media these days — that having more connections is better. But, for many of us, growing that number to an unwieldy size means that you’re actually less likely to interact with any of them in a meaningful way.
Advice columnist rules apply: each side needs to put in the amount of effort with which they feel comfortable. Maybe catching up twice a year is plenty for some people, maybe monthly is better for others. I rarely mind putting in the extra effort of setting up meetings or texting to check in, as long as there’s at least some modicum of reciprocation. If not, well, I’ll continue to see some former classmates and colleagues solely in formal settings — committee meetings, the AALL Annual Meeting, webinars, weddings — and I am satisfied with that!
Seeing former classmates or colleagues in random zoom committee meetings makes me smile. (Hooray for the dopamine and serotonin boost!) But taking the time to text or zoom or visit with those same people — to see how their life is going, to celebrate small (and big) wins, to commiserate about life’s ups and downs — makes me happy. Sometimes in the midst of our busy lives it feels as though they still work down the hall or across town from me. And yes, sometimes this extra effort of keeping in close contact results in professional advantages: it means I have a group of people to whom I can go for advice, who want to collaborate with me, and who are willing to talk over challenges and solutions with me.
Will I always get some advantage down the road because I kept up with a specific person? No, of course not. But my life (and hopefully theirs) is enriched, nonetheless. And that, I think, is worth a little bit of extra effort.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.