Field Notes: Analog connections in a digital world

May 15, 2020
  • Leadership and Management
  • Professional Well-Being
  • field notes
female works on laptop while smiling on the phone

"Field Notes" is a regular AACRAO Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at

by Laura Remillard, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions,  Stanford University 

Some time ago I remember asking our office manager if she could order me a Rolodex. From her reaction, she probably thought I was joking. She asked why would I want a Rolodex if I had all my contacts on my phone or computer. I can understand her reaction. She probably never used a Rolodex. In a world that is very electronic and virtual, can there be room for things like business cards, phone calls for that matter, and handwritten correspondence?  
The information out there shows that there are benefits to both sides. 
The Forbes Agency Council interviewed some leading business people who had something to say about the pros and cons to handing out business cards. Those who say they are obsolete point to the internet and its many resources, such as LinkedIn, as a means for keeping contacts. Others use their smartphone to keep their contact. However, proponents of the business card say it keeps the business relationship personal. It’s tangible. It’s a fast means of networking. It can also be a morale booster for the employee who owns the card.  It helps them feel connected to the company.
The phone call is not dead. Advocates feel it provides security for confidential calls. Some do not want to put something in writing. There is something that is impersonal about emails, but hearing someone on the phone allows you to hear their voice, their tone. When you want to get news, do you prefer to get it from a real person? But as the Forbes Agency Council pointed out if you ask the younger generation how they feel about phone calls, you would get a different answer. They would point out that phone calls are a time waster; what you could say in a phone call could be boiled down to two sentences in an email. Emails are better for documentation purposes. One of the biggest complaints about phone calls at work, is that they provide no privacy. If you work in an open-office space, everyone can hear your conversation.
As far as writing letters, all my research points to how beneficial this is. In a 2017 article on the benefits of writing letters or notes was outlined. It’s good for your brain. When you write, you promote brain activity and creativity. Handwritten notes last longer. Haven’t you ever come across old notes and letters? If you have been interviewed and you send a thank you note, you will likely stand out as someone who took the time to show how important the interview was. When you receive a handwritten letter from someone important; how does that make you feel? You stand out. Who doesn’t want to feel valued? I work with someone who received a handwritten note from the president of our university. The person who received the note said it felt good to receive it, and the personal touch made it feel real. 
The office manager did order the Rolodex, but I admit I never used it. However, I have reached for the business cards I’ve tossed in my desk drawer. Obviously, there is room for all of these modes of communication, and the key is to appreciate their uses and use them to your advantage. 


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