Three outstanding moments in my career solidified my regular use of Thank-you notes to show gratitude. I have also found, that Thank-you notes can also have a small but significant impact on one’s career. I’ll share with you these three experiences with the hope of convincing that Thank-you notes are not a lost art.

Gratitude

I was finishing up a year-long leadership program that I’d developed and managed. To say it was a long year that tested my resilience is an understatement. While it was a valuable experience for all involved, the students pushed every limit they could. Exhausted (and maybe a little burned out), I looked forward to the graduation. Final remarks were made, the students were congratulated, and certificates were handed out.

Finally, we were free!

As the students and guests mingled, a student approached me to hand me a small envelope. Another came up to me, again with a small envelope. By the end, more than half of my students had handed me their own small envelope. Each envelope contained a hand written thank-you note describing what they appreciated about the program or what they got out of it. Each thanked me for the work I’d put into the program (and some apologized for pushing my buttons).

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To this day, I keep these thank-you notes framed in my office. Whenever I am having a particularly tough day, feeling unappreciated, I look at my frame of thank-you notes. I read them to remind me why I do the work I do and the impact I can make on others.

Network building

I was meeting with a senior leader to ask her to speak at an upcoming leadership class. In the course of conversation, I mentioned one of my students by name. This particular student lived out of state from our head quarters and worked in a completely different part of the agency. Yet, when I mentioned this student’s name the senior leader smiled and remarked she knew the student. She got up from our meeting table and picked up a thank-you note from her desk. The leader said she knew the student because she’d just gotten a thank-you note from her for helping with a network issue.

The senior leader ultimately agreed to speak to the upcoming leadership class. She said in addition to speaking, she looked forward to meeting this student in person.

Interview follow up

A day or so after my most recent job-interview, I sent a hand written thank-you note to each of my interviewers. It just happened that my interview was the day before Thanksgiving, so I heard a lot about each of their family traditions during our meeting. In each of my thank you notes I thanked them for their time. I also commented that I hoped they’d enjoyed their Thanksgiving with their families. If I could remember a specific tradition I mentioned it for that interviewer.

I don’t know for certain that the thank-you note made an impact on the decision to offer me a job. What I do know is that one of the interviewers stopped by my new office to welcome me…and to thank me for my note. He said that although it was a little old-fashioned, he really liked receiving it.

My points of these examples about thank-you notes are these:

  1. A thank-you note can make you memorable. It’s true that career success is largely dependent on who you know. A simple act of thanks can make the difference of remembering you and wanting to help you again.
  2. People don’t often get positive feedback or encouragement. More often they get flooded with the day-to-day busyness. Even more often, they hear complaints and criticism. Know that by giving them a hand-written thank-you note for having helped you in some way can make someone’s day (or week or year).

If you don’t believe me, watch this short TEDTalk video on the Lollipop Moment. It’s one of my favorite TEDTalks and I hope you enjoy it.