Posted by: Audrey Erbes | August 23, 2009

Network to Connect–Network to Reconnect Plus Jobs That Crossed My Desk

I’ve been reconnecting with high school classmates from 1960 for the past couple of months,  initially in response to a classmate from grammar school whom I located when I hosted a 6th grade reunion in 1996. She  recognized my networking skills from afar to gather a majority of our classmates from a no longer existing small grammar school in St. Petersburg, FL  and asked me to help. The  goal of helping locate other students for the committee planning our high school reunion in 2010 has become a rich experience for me in many ways.   We are actually reforming a network in real time of those from the pass–but also creating new connections that didn’t exist back then. One of my classmates who developed technical skills as a hobby set up a free website where he’s collecting current photos that “toggle” with the originals. Another former student who has been designing and maintaining websites in another northern seaboard state volunteered to help with usability of the site. So now we have a team of volunteers who didn’t have contact all these years and, weren’t even close originally, trying to use what one has called a “spider” search method to build a list of contact information to make our reunion a truly memorable event. The approach has recruited 173 contacts for a majority of the classmates–and that’s really good considering that 50 years have passed since we all crossed the stage.

Loving  behavioral research, I got really interested in locating the current “live” version of that 2-D photo from our senior year book and learning what they are doing. I was fascinated to learn that the overwhelming majority of the class was born out of the state of Florida and, not surprising, a majority left the area to seek opportunity. With the girls marrying and changing their names  the searchbecomes  more challenging but with “googling” and two-person connections we are gradually successful in locating people. The next question I had is would those from out of state be interested in seeing others they might have been close to then enough to travel a long distance. But more importantly would there be sufficient interest in meeting again those we hardly knew back in 1960? Some members of the committee directed the goal to locate only those with whom they shared relationships back then and  more likely those, who still lived in the town and with whom they already shared social networks. For others, the goal was broader, to give all the classmates a chance of celebrating their 50th reunion before it would be too late. It became a challenge to not just find the members of one’s own strong high school “clique” but rather those that one never really knew.

We won’t have the answer to this question of interest to renew past contacts until the reunion date, but I know that for those involved, the reward of comparing our lives–both ups and downs–and sharing the thrill of survival and the building of happy and productive lives these many years is worth the effort. I’ve reconnected with many with whom I had a more peripheral contact and learned about their interesting paths and careers in all walks of life.  It was astounding to learn a former childhood neighbor was in medical school for several years overlapping my years at the same institution as a grad student. He’s now involved in the same field of research in which my focus has been this past year. Several others lived in the same state–for example, one worked at a start up in Emeryville, another lives inPennsylvania where I also had a residence for several years and regularly visit my brother but also regularly visited Silicon Valley over the years of her career–and we didn’t know it.

So what does the above have to do  building careers and jobs in life science? All this has re-enforced the importance of having a broad and vibrant network and maintaining it. Those of us in the life science industry always comment how small the community is yet are so busy that we fail to connect beyond our current company and vendors. With the tools, technology, organizations and networking opportunities at our disposal, we can build  new meaningful relationships as well as reconnect with those from the past. Now’s the time to network to better prepare yourself for advancement and possibly changing jobs or career paths.

Despite it being the end of summer, jobs continue to cross my desk. Here’s the list for August in downloadable form Jobs Posted throughAug23,2009

Audrey

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