When I was 10 years old, my great grandmother (who was also my pen pal) gave me a necklace that resembled the one in Disney’s Pocahontas. I neglected to say thank you for the gift, and a few weeks later, my grandmother wrote a letter that sharply reprimanded me for my slipup. From that moment on, I kept a box of thank you cards handy to avoid disappointing my pen pal again. This valuable lesson on gratitude made such an impact on me that I continued to send handwritten thank you notes for years, even after email was considered sufficient and mainstream. Evidently, not many people had a grandmother like mine.
Nevertheless, November is the perfect time of year to reiterate the importance of those two small words: thank you. This simple phrase is one of the easiest ways to make yourself memorable, so use this advice to your advantage after job interviews, mentoring sessions – whenever and wherever it’s appropriate. In a world where everyone is constantly on the go, take a moment to express your sincere appreciation. I promise it’s worth your time.
For example, consider a thank you note sent after a job interview. Although a handwritten card scores bonus points, a well written email checks two boxes:
- Was the applicant thankful for the opportunity; and
- Did the applicant take a moment to briefly explain the potential return-on-investment the company will receive by hiring him or her for the position? Put simply, why should the employer hire you? (Your answer should focus on the employer’s perspective – not on the fact that this job will advance your career.)
In my experience, receiving a prompt thank you note is still a novelty among working professionals of all ages. It’s simply not the norm, which is surprising. At some companies, whether you send a thank you note is the deciding factor when they are comparing two equally qualified candidates.
Perhaps you don’t know what to say. Even though writing is natural for most communications professionals, everyone gets tongue-tied sometimes. Never fear, there are plenty of websites with sample language to follow. Just make sure you to choose wisely and tweak the content to let your personality shine through. You don’t want to send an email that is verbatim from About.com.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always follow my own advice. We all have the best intentions, but time seems to evade us. There have been multiple times when I have forgotten to answer an email, let alone remembered to send someone a thank you note, acknowledging their mentorship. If you are like me, it’s best to send your thank you note within the first 24-hours to avoid that awkward moment when you realize a week later that you never sent the email.
Think about it from the perspective of an employer. If you don’t thank me after the interview, how do I know that you will be diligent about thanking the company’s clients – the lifeline of every business? With December graduation just around the corner, students nationwide will be scrambling to convince employers of their worth. Just remember, the extra 15 minutes (or less) you spend typing a note to thank a potential employer or mentor for his or her time is a sure-fire way to distinguish yourself from your peers. This November, vow to be memorable.
Stephanie Bostaph is the director of operations at Concepts, Inc., a small woman-owned communications firm in Bethesda, Md. She is a proud Mountaineer, West Coast swing dancer and an MBA graduate student at the University of Maryland.