Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maintaining Contacts

I know I've written before in other posts about the necessity of keeping lines of communication open, but I want to address the idea of putting people on hold. It is crucial to stay in contact with other artists and professors in order to network, and to actively engage those contacts rather than assuming that they will always be there as needed, even after "putting them on the back burner" or "socking them away on a shelf".

A past professor of mine from KCAI once lamented that an ex-student wanted a reference several years after graduating but hadn't stayed in contact. My professor was put off by this because he unaware of that student's developments and life after graduation, both as an artist and otherwise, and now he was being asked to act as a reference for someone he felt he didn't even know. And he was further put off by the fact that this apparently happened a lot. (Ask any professor - it still does.)

His gripe made an impression on me by making me aware that I should myself work to foster those relationships outside of school. And, although communication is a two-way street, students must come to recognize that it is much more difficult for their professors to keep track of them after they graduate because of how many students said professors work with, even just in a year's time. So it essentially falls on the students to keep in touch, and doing so ultimately benefits them since those relationships can serve as professional contacts, references and support, especially when they are working to establish themselves.

Another professor pointed out that, as artists / students : if one wants to be memorable, then one must make an impression worth remembering. We cannot sit back idly and expect others to take notice - we have to engage them somehow. This is true of maintaining relationships as well; it will not happen on its own accord. So, for all that I've always felt a bit like a number in a machine or like I'm walking through a revolving door as a student in the university setting, I recognize that this disconnect has been as much a result of my behaviors as the setting itself. Ironically, it seems that I wasn't just a number anyway, because I did make a memorable impression (unlike some of my colleagues who just floated along).

Even if you've fallen out of touch, it can be worth trying to reconnect. The time to do so is now, though; the longer it waits the less memorable you'll have become because of time's passage. So work to foster those relationships yourself - don't wait for someone else to act before taking action. Even just a card or a phone call can mean so much. And keeping in touch can help to broaden your support, professional and social networks, besides which you may even find out about opportunities you hadn't previously known of.

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