Career Advice

How To Work A Reunion: Career Networking & Job Search Advice

Reunions bring up such questions about ourselves, our ability to connect and to sell our talents to people who already know us.

I know this from going to a reunion of Newsday staff just last week – where I followed some advice of Gordon S. Curtis, author of Well Connected.

“The key is: Surprise them with your interest in them – more than just obligatory questions,” he said. “One of the most important things is for them to walk away with an ‘Oh – I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that person’ feeling.”

Or else you could surprise them on how much you already know about them – or how much you remember about them from your time together. Either way, your main priority is re-establishing a connection, a relationship, not asking them for career advice or a lead for your start-up business, said Curtis, who is an executive transition career coach practicing near Boston.

Before he went to his high school reunion a while ago, he looked up a bunch of his classmates on LinkedIn – especially some he really wanted to reconnect with.  “I didn’t go with an agenda with trying to get in front of X people or X leads for executive transition coaching clients. It was more about the relationships,” he said.  He wanted to lay the groundwork toward an “I’m sure we can help each other” attitude.

Here are three key approaches from Curtis and his new book “Well Connected” to use at a reunion, whether for your university or fraternity or a former employer:

Know the crowd. Get a guest list ahead of time and look up their profiles on your alma mater website or on LinkedIn.  Target people so you’re “less random and more focused” in the few hours you’re there.

Be a connector. Suggest people in the crowd they might talk to about their situation. Make introductions.             Point out areas where two people share interests. And remember: “Whoever ends with the most handshakes doesn’t necessarily win,” he said. It’s better to develop a genuine connection and knowledge of a few people who feel good about you than to shake hands and say hello to all 250 people who show up.

Ask thoughtful questions. Find out about their business and how it gains clients or where it is growing. Understand their interests. Ask “tell me” questions about their needs and objectives.  Ask follow up queries too to gain more perspective and detail.

“Help people feel validated” by being interested in their lives, Curtis said. And don’t spread yourself too thin: It makes more sense to concentrate on a small number of people to “elicit far more results.”