Written by Amie Case, Graduate Assistant with the Career Center, Master of Arts, English: Creative Writing.
Have you ever received a thank-you letter, email, or hand-written note for something you did for someone else? It’s encouraging to receive a genuine “thank you,” and it’s even more gratifying to pay it forward. As we enter this holiday season, remember to thank the mentors and other professionals in your life who have offered their time, resources, and wisdom to you.
Writing a thank-you letter after an interview shouldn’t be the only time you show your appreciation. You should also use thank-you letters to express your genuine gratitude for how someone else has helped you achieve your goals and grow personally and professionally. Whether you’re writing to a professor, advisor, colleague, supervisor, or anyone else in your professional network, saying thank you is like planting a good karma tree that will blossom and spread goodwill—even if that person doesn’t pay it forward.
True expressions of appreciation can also open doors for networking and other opportunities. While this shouldn’t be your sole motivation, it’s nice to know that initiating communication can lead to future benefits for both parties.
How to do it
How you say thank you will depend on the situation and your relationship with the other person. Consider these four thank-you methods:
- Email – A brief email is appropriate in most professional settings for following up with someone you don’t personally know (after an interview or when you’ve made a new networking connection). Emails are also perfectly acceptable for smaller favors with someone you do know well; it just depends on the situation. If an academic advisor fixes an issue with your class registration for next semester, or if a colleague helps you with a few tasks during your crunch time, an email will probably be all you need.
- Hand-written note – A neatly written note on nice stationary or a card adds a personal touch that an email just can’t convey. In place of or in addition to email, hand-written notes also are appropriate for thanking interviewers, although they are more typically used to thank someone for a favor. For instance if a professor or supervisor wrote you a recommendation letter or really went out of their way to assist you, a hand-written note would probably be more appropriate than an email.
- Gift – Typically, a thank-you gift should be reserved for someone who went above and beyond for you. A gift will require more thought and consideration of your relationship with this person, but it can be a concrete way to express your gratitude for their time and effort. A good choice might be a gift card to their favorite coffee-shop or something else that is inexpensive (don’t go into debt!) yet tasteful.
- Meal – Thanking someone by buying them lunch or dinner should be reserved for an individual who has significantly and positively impacted you either personally or professionally. Taking the time to sit down and really thank someone for what they’ve done is an excellent way to show that you truly appreciate them.
Don’t forget those who have helped you get where you are today. Use this holiday season to show your appreciation, and now is the perfect time before your thanks gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the weeks ahead.
Want more professional development tips? Visit the Missouri State University Career Center.