By Vickie Elmer
Thank you notes aren’t just for after the interview.
Some people use the holiday season as the time to reconnect with their friends and supporters. Yet if they want to get a head start, Thanksgiving provides a wonderful time to show your appreciation for those who have helped you in your career or job search.
“Everybody likes to get a thank you note,” said Pennell Locey, vice president at Keystone Associates, which helps managers with career transitions. Sometimes, a carefully written note of appreciation may spur the individual to help you again if you’re in the midst of a job hunt, she added. Even if you’re not, you could send an appreciative note to someone who opened doors or promoted you a few years ago as a way to reconnect.
Some of the job seekers Locey has worked with even send thank you notes to the HR manager when they’re notified that they were turned down for a job after the interview. They tell a little about what they learned about the company, and express their wish that they’ll get another chance to be considered by the company, she said. This certainly will make you memorable and may open the door to another opportunity quickly.
So, if you want to use Thanksgiving weekend to skim past shopping and football and send out some thank you cards, think broadly about who might merit one. Maybe it’s the former boss who has served as your reference during a long job search. Or, your spouse or best friend, who has put up with your moodiness and fear while you’re without a paycheck.
Here are five tips on giving thanks for those in your career circles:
1. Send something extra. “For people who have really gone the extra mile, you can do more than a card,” said Locey. “Send a token gift.” She saw one job seeker give away 10 $10 gift cards to a coffee shop chain to people who had taken him out for coffee or a meal during his search. “For 100 bucks, he got a lot of good will,” plus another job lead, she added. Locey has received books from people she’s helped, sometimes on the career topic they discussed.
2. Send some insights. Many jobless people won’t be able to buy gifts. But, they could recommend an upcoming conference or suggest an excellent book they just finished to the person they’re thanking. Or, Locey knows people who cooked a great meal for family and friends who were supportive. She also suggests job seekers tell the person how their contribution, connections have unfolded in their job search.
3. Make it hand written. An e-card could be all right. But a real one, written by you, really stands out and shows some effort. “Perhaps because it is becoming somewhat of a lost art, handwritten notes feel special and real, as if the person who wrote it is there with you,” writes John Kralik a judge whose book A Simple Act of Gratitude tells how he wrote 365 thank you notes and changed his perspective and direction. One exception: If you are thanking someone in IT, they prefer emailed appreciations, according to a CareerBuilder survey in 2011.
4. Send a bunch at once. Send a note to the person who interviewed you and the person who referred you and make sure each note is personalized, says Lavie Margolin, a blogger for the Lion Cub Job Search blog. When I talked to Heidi Kallett, owner of Dandelion Patch stationery stores, about writing gratitude notes, she suggested they’re easier to produce in batches, and if you keep the right supplies on hand.
5. Reference Thanksgiving. It may be more professional to skip the cards with the turkeys or pilgrims on the front, Locey says, but you could start off your note with a phrase such as “at this season of Thanksgiving” or “as I consider how much good has come into my life this year.”
Consider the cost if you do not send one: More than one in five hiring managers in a 2011 CareerBuilder survey say they are less likely to hire someone who skips a thank you note after an interview because it shows a lack of follow-through or may indicate disinterest in the job.
Then realize the ripples of good your cards may bring. As Locey points out, when you express gratitude regularly and reconnect with people who care about you, you are likely to be in a more positive frame of mind for the next weeks of your search.
Vickie Elmer writes about consumer issues, careers and workplace subjects for the New York Times, Fortune magazine, the Washington Post and other top tier media outlets. Her articles are filled with actionable insights, compelling stories and inspiring people. The mother of three also co-owns Mity Nice LLC, a small social cart business based in Ann Arbor, Mich., which donates to more than a dozen charities each summer and fall. Her motto changes regularly, but her concentration on careers, kindness, creativity and high quality writing remains constant.