Mark Sundlov and Jason Crabill sharing a toast from AASLH Annual Meeting 2013.

“You came up in conversation tonight and ‘the crew’ is missing you in B’ham.”

I received this message from some fellow AASLHers during the annual meeting this week. You see this year I wasn’t able to attend the conference. It is the first year in awhile that I’ve missed it.

The annual conference is wonderful. It is a chance to recharge, connect, and reflect. I’m sad I missed it. Those several days out of the year to feel like history is high fashion. A week so full of new ideas you find yourself drinking obscene amounts of coffee just to keep your brain cells awake to capture and file everything. It’s a time you find yourself getting in deep meaningful conversations about making a difference in the world. Conversations that leave you with a euphoria comparable only to a few nights in college. Its a week where you fit in, and make friends–the real kind who get your actual phone number. Yeah, I’m sad I missed it.

Some of you are wrapping up this annual heaven  and are looking forward to next year’s conference. Some of you missed out and may be feeling a little low. But I’m here to tell you (whether you attended or not) that there is so, so much more to this amazing organization than this one week history love affair opportunity. No really there is.

You know all those names and business cards you collected at this meeting and/ or previous years. Well it is time to actually use them rather than collecting them on a corner of your desk. Those names are people just like you, interested in the same sorts of things you are. That means they are a resource. Here are a few ways I have turned that stack of dusty business cards into the tools I needed over the few years:

1. Support Group
No I don’t mean a therapy group. I mean a group of people you can bounce ideas off. Whether you are stuck generating your sixty-seventh program in a week or trying to find the best way to adjust to institutional changes, AASLH is chalk full of people who do (more or less) what you do every day. That means they won’t look at you weird when you ask them “what all would you like to know about the history of beer” (or some similarly random history related programming question). Just reach out to those you have met and ask for help, time to discuss, or introductions to others who can assist.

2. Collaborators
Yeah, I said it. We all know that collaborating takes time but in the end it gets your program or institution to a new place. So take a moment to flip through your notes from that great session you attended where those two people from different sites talked about this big thing they did. The one where the voices in your head just wouldn’t quiet down about how you could partner with that local group to do that one thing that you have wanted to do for years. Those notes were important enough to write down the first time and are important enough to act on. Call them up. Work together. Get the work done. Try something new.

3. Job Opportunities
Chances are folks you met at the conference work in or near a place that you would like to work. Let them know if you are looking for openings. Ask them to keep you updated on any opportunities that open up. You never know when it could lead to an interview.

And, if you get the job, guess who has a pulse on the local area? History geeks. We tend to know about everything from average property size, good school districts, neighborhood involvement, government, etc. AASLH has members all over. Talk to them before you move to learn more about your new home.

4. Friends
Meeting people is rough. Sure the internet is decorated with various (non-dating) sites that plan get-togethers for folks with similar interests. But, why do that when you already have a stack of names you can call on to organize your own meet up. (You can also join one AASLH’s affinity groups organized around particular interests. Check out the list under the “Programs” tab on the website.) If they are local or at least in your driving radius, plan a time to get coffee each month. Maybe visit a museum or history site together. Long distance folks make great reasons to plan vacations. We all work at destinations worth visiting. So go visit one and grab dinner with your fellow history friend. (AASLH memberships get you in free to many sites across the country.)

Oh, you say you’ve never been to an AASLH conference? Well, you are reading this post which means you have accessed one of the many tools that can help you find AASLHers. Go to the author page of this blog, shoot one of us an email and let us know how we can help. Just reach out and stay connected.