How to Survive a (High School, College, Family) Reunion

As the days are getting shorter, weather’s getting colder and sweaters are finding their way out of storage, we start to plan our holiday travel season. One semi-regular occurrence is the High School Reunion. Most schools opt for around Thanksgiving on the assumption that folks come home for the holidays. Now, prepping for a high school, college or even family reunion can be a stressful mental task. Especially if you’re not loving your job. So, read on for some tips to survive a high school reunion. (Or a college reunion, family reunion, or just the random surprise coffee shop sighting.)

  1. Write down everything that’s going great. Seriously. Take the time to write down everything that makes you really happy about your current lifestyle. It could be that you love your job, your boss, your apartment, you started taking an improv class or just discovered ceramics is still fun. Keep writing until you have a stockpile of items that bring you joy. These are great to have in your back pocket to remind yourself that things are going well.
  2. Get your elevator pitch down. Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over by almost scripting where you live and what you do. You’ll have to say it more than once and by scripting it, you can avoid run-on sentences where you start to dive into exactly why you didn’t get the promotion you thought you would.
  3. Plan ahead and get your questions ready. Think about who you’re hoping to catch up with. If you can, send them a note before the event to let them know you’re looking forward to connecting. Also, get some questions ready for anyone you’re chatting with. There will be the usual wheres and whats, but, it’s good to mix in some different questions like asking about upcoming trips or new hobbies. It’s fun to reminisce and to learn about what’s happening in the present.
  4. Let the jealousy go. It’s going to be hard to see people who are founders of their own companies, lawyers or VPs at their companies. If you’re nervous about the jealousy, keep returning to step 1 and remind yourself that everyone works at their own pace and we all have different definitions of success.
  5. Find a buddy. When heading back to school, bring a friend or significant other. Work out a “code” word that let’s both of you know what you need. Something as simple as, “I think I’m going to switch to beer”, or, “I was thinking about purchasing a stuffed iguana.” Okay, maybe you should work that one out with them.
  6. Listen. It’s fun to talk about yourself, but, it’s also really nice to have someone listen to you. When you’re asking folks about themselves, be careful not to be searching around the room for your next mark. Be present with each person as you learn about what they’re doing now.
  7. Give in to the awkward. This stuff is awkward! To counterbalance, be sure to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and eat a big dinner to soak up the open-bar alcohol. Let it be silly but be sure to watch the drinks and keep the conversations on the lighter side. You may have a few people that you really want to dive deep – that’s awesome! Be sure to schedule time to meet up again so you don’t find yourself 2 hours into a conversation and realizing you didn’t get to see Susan.

I hope these tips help as the reunion season comes close. If you’re also job hunting, a sneaky 8th tip is to ask people about their jobs and what they like and don’t like. Don’t pull out a resume, instead, keep the conversation upbeat and follow up after the reunion to learn more in an informal setting. Also, honestly? There’s no shame in deciding not to go. There will always be another one!

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2 comments
  1. Ugh, I just encountered a Facebook post from a high school classmate, advertising our class’s 5th year reunion. 5 years is not nearly enough. I’ll refer back to this list for the 10th year anniversary.

    • workhappi said:

      Totally agree! 5 years is so quick!

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