I’m often disappointed when I answer an email question sent from an eager student, and I never receive a thank-you message. Not even a quick “thanks.” It makes me feel like I’ve been used. On the other hand, when I help a student and he or she sends a thoughtful, genuine thank-you note or email, I feel really good about helping that person and would eagerly help again in the future.
Expressing gratitude when appropriate is one of the most important elements of professional etiquette. You should never let a good, helpful deed go un-thanked. This is particularly important for young professionals, who are usually on the receiving end of advice.
There are times when thank you notes are absolutely essential, and there are many, many, many other times when sending a thank you note is an excellent form of networking and will guarantee that you stand out from your peers.
Thank you notes are absolutely essential in these situations:
– Immediately following a job interview or informational interview
– When someone refers you to another person for networking or a job lead
– When someone provides a professional reference for you
Sending a thank you within 24 hours is the best practice in these situations. I’d actually recommend expressing your gratitude the same day — that really shows you’re appreciative. Email is acceptable in most cases, but a real, live, snail mail letter has the strongest impact (except in formal job interviews, when time is of the essence and email is your best option. Feel free to follow up that email with a handwritten note if you’re really excited about the position).
Thank you notes are smart networking when sent to:
– A mentor or other person who offers particularly good advice
– The host of an event you found particularly valuable (note that this category moves up to “essential thank you” status if someone lets you into an event for free or gives you a discount)
– The author of a book or article you enjoyed
– Anyone else who assists you in any way in your career or job search, in any way, for the rest of your life
To extend your self-branding efforts to your thank you notes, think about what kind of notes to use. This small choice can be an extra way to make a memorable impression and keep you top-of-mind with the people in your growing network.
For instance, you may choose to send thank you notes to any alumni of your school using stationery with the school’s logo or mascot. If you’re a woman sending a thank you to a woman mentor, you may choose notecards with famous paintings of women. If you are networking with people in the finance industry, you may choose stationery with pictures of historic banks. When I thank colleagues in the publishing industry, I like to send thank you notes that have a picture of a typewriter on the front. All of these choices show that you have an attention to detail and you are willing to go the extra mile to make a positive impression.
The thing about thank yous of any kind is that they make recipients feel good—and make them want to help you again in the future.
Speaking of thanks, I wish everyone a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Thank you for reading my blog and being part of my professional network!