When I opened the envelope and pulled out the card, I realized that this wasn’t a Christmas card, but a handwritten Thank You card. It was from a student that I befriended during the summer. She thanked me for my advice on post-graduate education.
Sending thank you notes to recruiters or potential employers after an interview is a mandatory step in the application process. However, I was not recruiting this student for an open position but serving as a resource. Our meetings were neither formal nor frequent, but I recognized that she was different from other young people I had met. She was very enthusiastic and willing to accept good advice.
Her thank you card stamped such a positive impression into my mind that I am willing to keep in touch with her and help her in the future however I can. Her card is even hanging on my wall.
Are you leaving that kind of impression with your mentors, employers, recruiters or whomever you are reaching out to for professional help? If so, how are you doing it?
Here are a couple DO’s and DON’Ts to consider:
DO send thank you notes or cards. It demonstrates to the people who have taken time to give you advice that they didn’t waste their time on you. It keeps you fresh in their minds, especially if they display your card in a prominent place. (Beware that you may not be at the forefront of your recipient's mind, but it’s better than being an afterthought or forgotten.)
DON’T be insincere. People can see through artificial displays.
DO acknowledge how his/her help has been beneficial to you in the past and that you would welcome any help they can provide in the future.
DON’T beg for a job. Please don't tag onto your note, “By the way, do you have a job for me in your office?” That negates the purpose of your note and adds pressure that may turn your recipient off. Instead, follow-up with an email to ensure your recipent received your note and let him/her know that you could use some advice as you search for a job.
DO add a personal touch, such as a picture you took together or recant a joke you shared. What excited me about the card I received was that she included a picture we took together. The image of us together gives me a warm feeling each time I glance at my wall.
DON’T be generic. Reading “You were a nice person” or “stay cool” in your high school yearbook was annoying then and it still is as an adult in the workplace. If you don’t have anything meaningful to write maybe you shouldn’t be writing anything at all.
What you want is not to be forgotten and a card is a great way to be remembered. Just be careful that the card does not do more harm than help.
An astute reader also added to the list:
"DO make sure you get the correct name AND spelling of your [recipient(s)] - Especially if their name is an unconventional one, or you are not certain of the spelling, ask them for a business card or confirm the correct spelling with them... While getting it right might not do a lot for you, getting it WRONG will certainly take a lot away."
At least that's what some store or other has purchased Andy Williams's voice to tell us in its tv ads (I think it is Macy's this year). Add to that the coupons and door-buster specials bombarding my email, 'Must-have toys of 2008' or 'Gifts under $50' segments on the news, and the many renditions of who misses whom at Christmas time. Yes, it's Christmas time (or for the more politically correct, the Holiday Season).
This inevitably leads to one of the most discussed professional topics after Thanksgiving... the office party.
I smile everytime I think of it. For some it conjurs up comical memories of partners/managers getting very "friendly" with young associates wearing ultra fitted and/or low neckline, high hemline dresses. For others, they have few memories at all since the arrive at the party a little "toasted" and leave stumbling out totally unaware of what kind of behavior they displayed.
For those just entering the market, beware of the office party. There are plenty of articles and news segments from experts about this though. My focus is on the other professional parties you may find yourself invited to such as an alumni reception.
It's easy to restrain your behavior when you know that the person managing your personnel dossier is standing at the next cocktail table, keeping their eyes out for bad behavior. What about at the Young [insert political affiliation] Holiday Party or the Association of Such & Such Seasonal shin-dig?
At these events the anonymity and relaxed accountability can lull a person into thinking their behavior and attire will go unnoticed and totally forgotten.
I admonish us to listen to wisdom as she screams in the streets. Having just attended such a function, I advise young people to be careful. Here's why:
- In DC, six degrees of separation is probably closer to 3 or 4. Do you really want to show up to an interview and find the guy you fell on (drunk out of your mind) the weekend before? People may not remember good deeds but they do remember bad ones.
- Parties are a great opportunity to network. In such a market environment, your next position may require more savvy and effort to procur. The older lady you happen to begin chatting with while reaching for cheese cubes may have the inside track on an unadvertised position. Or maybe weeks later she remembers that you studied some foreign concept in college that her foundation is launching an initiative on.
- Party organizers are taking notes - After the party they get together and compare notes on the misbehavers. That's probably why some people are not invited back to the XYZ Club dinner the following year. It's not that they are jealous of how good you think you looked in that lipstick red, strapless mini, but that you may have offended an influencial donor.
My advice is not to drink, to dress festively but wisely and not to be the first person on the dance floor or the last person off, but those are personal choices. However, do be mindful that social events can be opportunities to advance your career just as they can also set you you back for years to come.