One Penn alumni benefit I enjoy? Career services listserv! Repost from them on something very near and dear to me: thank you notes/emails!
Whether you’re job searching, working on your professional development, or building your career, you’ve probably been in a situation that warranted showing appreciation and gratitude. Perhaps you received a job lead and a pep talk from a former colleague. Maybe you had an informational interview with someone who has now taken you under their wing and is serving as a mentor. It might even be a family member who’s your greatest fan. Whatever the situation, one way to show gratitude is to write a thank you note that expresses your appreciation.
Why gratitude matters
Before getting into writing the content for your thank you letters, let’s ask the question, “why gratitude?” What is it about being appreciative that even makes it important? Showing gratitude is a great way to clear your mind when you are feeling overwhelmed. After moving at top speed or going through routine motions for a while, slow down the pace so you can contemplate how those around you add value to your life in some way. Knowing who you are thankful for and for what reasons can really help you strike a balance.
Like a hug, expressing appreciation typically feels good to both giver and receiver. In addition to making someone else’s day, showing gratitude packs a powerful punch of other benefits. According to studies by Robert Emmons, gratitude’s physical, psychological, and emotional perks include:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
- More joy and pleasure, more optimism and happiness
- More forgiving and outgoing outlooks, less lonely and isolated feelings
For these reasons, we suggest exploring opportunities for saying “thank you.” It doesn’t have to be reserved for after a job interview. Here are some ideas for identifying other situations worthy of a note of thanks or gratitude. The following samples are designed to help you get your inspiration flowing:
The trusty “job lead” friend
Let’s say you have a friend who’s really in-the-know about the latest job openings, and customizes what she sends you based on your interests and a strong understanding of your abilities. A thank-you note is a great way to not only show appreciation but also let them know they are really on the mark with the job leads and suggestions they give. Try a note like this:
I just wanted to share how much the job leads you send mean to me. The attention you pay to the details of each opportunity is clear to see, because the ones you send match not only my interests but my abilities. What you do is really motivating and keeps me uplifted in my job search. To know that you consider me able to do _____________ and _____________ enhances my confidence in myself. It keeps me inspired to apply for more jobs where my ________ skills can really shine. I really appreciate that you’ve taken such an interest in my job search and am grateful for the way you’ve stepped in as my personal “career sleuth!”
Why this works: In addition to expressing your appreciation, you are affirming that what your friend has sent is helpful to you, and that if they continue sending similar leads, they are on the right track.
The informational interviewee-turned-mentor
So you got up the courage to ask someone for an informational interview, and they really took you under their wing. Maybe they went above and beyond to keep the conversation going, shared great resources, or invited you to an event that will be attended by some key hiring managers in your field…plus gave you the low-down on their typical hiring practices. What to say to show your gratitude:
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your career in __(industry, cause area)_ over the last few weeks. I learned so much about _____ and _______, and will be sure to check out the latest set of insights and leads you shared with me. I am so appreciative of not only the way you have taken me under your wing after our first meeting, but your generosity with your time and resources. The interest that you show in my success and development is something for which I feel very grateful.
Please know that my offer to assist with your ________ project still stands. If my skills are not the best match, I’m happy to pass along the message to my contacts in an effort to find a great volunteer!
Why this works: In addition to showing your gratitude, you are offering to assist your mentor. If your skills are not an appropriate match, showing willingness to tap into your networks is a great alternative!
The “biggest fan” family member
Many of us have a family member who has earned the title “biggest fan.” In their eyes, no challenge is so insurmountable that we can’t overcome it and our every accomplishment is worthy of celebration and praise. Here’s an example of showing gratitude via the written word:
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all the support you’ve shown me throughout my career, particularly during my latest __(race to a promotion, job search, unemployment fiasco)______. You’ve always been someone I could call my “biggest fan.” What means the most to me is that you do more than tell me I’m “great” at what I do, or that I’m a shoe-in for an opportunity. You take it a few steps beyond and share the reasons why you think so. Sometimes it seems like you remember my achievements even better than I do myself. I always appreciate your ability to see how my talents can make a difference and you’ve made me a believer too! After a chat with you, I always feel more confident and capable, and for that I will always be grateful.
Why this works: Keeping it warm and appreciative is a great way to strengthen familial bonds. It expresses not just appreciation but understanding of the effects your “biggest fan” has on your well-being and confidence. When they know it’s working, they are more likely to keep it up!
The “saved the day” colleague
Whether you’ve been stumbling over an appropriate response to a workplace issue or you’ve been scrounging for the most cost-effective way to get a project completed, sometimes the help of a colleague can really make the difference. When you’ve had a colleague “save the day,” try a note like this:
When you found me sitting at my desk unproductively tapping my pen against it last week, you could have just walked on by and left me to my _(writer’s block, unresolved issue, confusion…)_. Instead, you pulled over a seat and went right to work with me. I can’t thank you enough for not only your teamwork and support, but for your vote of confidence. You really pulled me out of my work slump. I also appreciate the way you used your insights from your department to develop a really seamless solution that provides benefits all around! Knowing now how your team tackles ______, I’m happy to compare notes the next time you are working on ____________ so we can achieve similar success.
Why this works: Positive interactions with colleagues allow for a more supportive relationship that can help everyone thrive. While your co-worker may have stepped in without any expectation of you returning the favor, always take an opportunity to see your organization and its work from the perspective of another department- maybe even identify a way that you can provide insights for that area.
The “just lets me vent” friend
This person knows that talking it out might just be all you need. No unsolicited ideas or solutions, brainstorming sessions, or “I told you so’s” this friend simply lets you vent and work out your feelings. When you want to express feelings of a different kind, try something like this:
When you stopped by yesterday, you may not have known just what you were getting into by asking me how things are going. And after letting me talk for nearly an hour about __(current issue in your professional life)_____, I wanted to express my appreciation. The sympathetic way you just listened without going into “solution mode” was just what I needed. I really felt heard and understood- you have a rare gift for that! Thank you not only for being there, but for giving me exactly what I needed at the time. I can now say that after thinking “out loud”, I feel ready to tackle this issue head-on. Thank you!
Why this works: This note shows that in addition to being appreciative of the person’s time and attention, you are ready to take the “next step.” People are more inclined to help out in the way you need them to when they feel like it makes a true, lasting difference.[Source]