This week there is a major national conference on campus, sponsored by the academic department in which I (in theory) reside.
However, either I missed the announcements or didn't understand them earlier this academic year. So, while other graduate students and instructors are meeting administrators from across the nation, I will be doing other things. I'm not sure if that's a positive or a negative.
Honestly, I wasn't sure about my schedule this summer, so I probably would not have volunteered to help at the conference or registered to present a paper. In fact, I did have a medical procedure last week that included minor surgery and a biopsy. I knew that summer would be busy.
On the negative side, I do realize networking and making contacts is important. The problem is that I am never comfortable in social settings. I do much better with a formal interview than trying to make a good impression in an unstructured setting. Since I am looking for a professorship next year (2010), contacts will matter.
Also, not participating in a national event that is hosted locally means I am, once again, isolated from my peers. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does emphasize that I have never quite "belonged" in the department because my interests are slightly different from those of the majority. That's okay, but it does mean I am taking my own path. I am more focused on technology and creative writing than my colleagues. It bothers me slightly to be apart, but I am also more uncomfortable when I try to fit in.
Learning to master the social aspects of any profession is a challenge. All organizations and professions have social aspects.
Certainly, I am responsible for missing any announcements or misunderstanding their value. I have to pay more attention to event announcements, and I should probably ask my wife or a mentor if a particular announcement is important to me.
As it is, I am sure this is a minor oversight on my part. I did attend a national conference in June and will be speaking at several other conferences before the end of this year. I'm sure my career path will be unaffected, as long as I do pursue other networking opportunities.
The lessons are: (1) pay attention to e-mail announcements, (2) try to network when possible, (3) if you miss an event, there will be others.
I'm just not good at the networking thing. I am learning to compensate with "virtual" networking.