BY ELIZABETH SCHMITT
I recently wrote 15 thank-you notes to people I had met at a networking opportunity. In my rather plain cards, I wrote a few lines thanking each person for their time and for answering my questions. I thought this was an obvious formality: I had written countless thank you cards as a kid to grandparents, aunts and friends for birthday and Christmas gifts.
It turns out, writing thank-you notes is no longer that common. Facebook and email have provided us with a much easier way to thank a person and we have utilized the easier method. Consider your closest friends: do you know their birthday, or do you rely on Facebook to tell you? Instead of writing down a birthday and sending a card, we use social media to expedite the process. I’m certainly guilty of this, too. Yet it seems there is something meaningful and different about a hand-written thank-you card.
I expected no response from my thank-yous. However, a week later, half of the people to whom I wrote a thank-you had written me an email, thanking me for the card and reiterating their willingness to talk with me or answer any questions I might have. These thank-you’s did more than I thought they would do. The notes actually furthered my networking and helped me make more meaningful connections.
While thank-you notes shouldn’t be written with the aim of ‘getting something out of it,’ they can be written to show enthusiasm. Writing a potential employer a thank-you note after an interview could make you stand out from another candidate. Similarly, writing a thank-you note when an employee at the library manages to dig up an article you thought was impossible to get might make it easier to work with that individual in the future.
Most of all, it’s important to reflect on how you feel when you receive a thank-you note. Feeling acknowledged in a small way for something you did for another person isn’t always necessary, but it helps you reflect on why you helped someone out and your willingness to do it in the future. Writing a thank-you card shows that you took time out of your day to appreciate another person’s effort. A small act can bring joy to another person, yes. But it can also result in a line of communication that was opened because you spent five minutes showing your gratitude.
I have seen the power of writing a thank-you note many times. I suggest that the next time someone does something for you—big or small—write a thank-you note and see how a little kindness can go a long way.