Put it in writing

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that I write thank you notes for any presents I received.  Although I loved getting presents, I always dreaded the day after my birthday and Christmas, when I would have to laboriously write out notes to all my relatives whose gifts I had eagerly opened the day before.  To teach me how to write a proper thank you note, my mother would first write each one for me, but I would then have to copy it in my own handwriting.  The one bright spot in the ordeal was that she would add some humor to the drudgery by signing each of her sample notes with the name of a different cartoon character; for some reason I found it hilarious to read a thank you note signed by Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

My mother probably just thought she was teaching me proper etiquette, but it turns out she was also teaching me an important business skill.  There was a time when a hand-written note was the normal follow-up to a job interview, networking connection or meeting with a prospective client, but in today’s environment, where most people use e-mail if they bother at all, such a note can really make you stand out and create a favorable impression. 

Send a hand-written thank you note after any job interview, networking connection or meeting with a prospective client.

Part of me still hates writing the notes, so I do everything I can to make it as painless as possible; I don’t want to have any excuse to put it off, since I know that any delay means I will probably never get around to it.  I keep a box of note cards on my desk with stamped envelopes and my return address already written out.  The first thing I do when I return from a meeting is write the note, seal it, and put it out for the next mornings mail.

I gave this advice to one of my clients who was applying for a new job, and after the first round of interviews she wrote a note to each person who had interviewed her, with a sentence or two about what they had discussed.  She made it into the second round of interviews, and was ultimately hired.  Six month later I happened to see her again, and she told me that she had become good friends with her new boss, who had told her that she had almost not made the cut for the second round, and it was her thank you notes which had pushed her over.

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