It is odd. The concept, when I first entered the workforce, was probably similar to a lot of people in my age bracket: formed by television or schooling, the concept was that you would form friends at work with whom you would end up being friends with for years. This was what entertainment and literature stated the workforce was like.
Over time, however, I found it was different.
To be fair, it was probably in transition even as I was getting my first post-college career job. The world of the long term, single employer was dying, replaced by the short term, multiple company career person. Practically, to be more willing to move from job to job often made one more promotable.
One would have liked to believe that even though people moved about, contact would be maintained. That was how it was, right? That is how friendship worked. You spent hours and hours and hours with people - years sometimes - so even though you were no longer working together, the relationship would hold together, right? And as technology continued to bloom and grow it became even more convenient to keep in touch with each other - was that not correct?
To both points, it turns out I was in the wrong.
The progression was the same. I have seen it many times now. Initially you speak with the person fairly regularly, catching up with how things are going at their new job and at the old one, and how their families are doing, etc. Then within three months, the contact dwindles as you both get busy and have less in common. Within a year, 90% of the contact is cut off. You may reach out if you read something significant happening at their job, or they at yours. But it is only once in a while.
I checked my phone today. Of 74 numbers I had saved, almost 40%, or 28 numbers, were employees I had worked with, sometimes 40+ hours a week. A handful of those are people still at the company. Of the rest, I bet I have not heard from most of them within 6 months or more - if I do not reach out to them, they will not call.
What this taught me, over a long period where I started out believing otherwise, is that work friendships are largely friendships of convenience. You are friends because at some level you are spending so much time together. Remove that enforced contact, and suddenly there is little enough to hold you together.
The current job has finally put all of that to rest for me, clarifying something I have been slowly learning over the last few years: Work is for work. Friendships are for friendships. The firmest friendships will never built on something as fleeting as a job.