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a different perspective on human capital

Building Relationships One Thank You at a Time


By Jennifer Chow Bevan, Career Coach and Founder of Path Relaunch

I’m no Emily Post, but I am a stickler for thank you notes—the kind of mother who keeps a detailed list of who-gave-what at my kids’ birthday parties and then makes them write thank you cards within the week.  I want my kids to learn the art of showing appreciation, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s a lifelong skill.

The same etiquette applies in your career. ‘Thank yous’ play a dual role of gratitude and strategy: You show your appreciation, and in return you further a relationship. In today’s connected economy, relationship building is paramount whether you are in the middle of a job search, or trying to advance your career. And people are more likely to help others who show an appreciation for their help.

This doesn’t have to be a daunting task. No one is expecting a beautifully handwritten note on 100 pound paper. In today’s fast moving world where everything seems time sensitive, sending an email is not only more practical but also appreciated just the same. Here are five opportunities where you should be following up with a sincere thank you email:

1. After an interview

The most important step to take after a job interview is to send an email thanking your interviewer(s) for their time while also reiterating your interest and qualifications for the position. This should be sent within 24 hours – timeliness is especially important here as you want to remain top of mind in a sea of candidates vying for the same position so don’t bother sending a hand written note via snail mail.

Send a separate, individualized email to each person who interviewed you. If you want a second opinion before hitting send, have a friend you trust read the email.

2. After an Informational Interview

If you are conducting a job search or exploring new career options, you should be conducting informational interviews. Let’s say your neighbor, Mary, introduces you to her grad school roommate, Ben, who is currently Director of Marketing at a technology company you are very interested in. Ben kindly frees up some time to meet with you, shares his experiences and advice, and perhaps even introduces you to someone in his network.

Within 24 hours of meeting Ben, you need to send a thank you email.

This may seem obvious, but many people forget to do this. They finish the informational chat, get the insights and advice they were seeking, and move on to the next thing.

If you treat your networking as a one-off advice gathering expedition, it will be just that – a one-time occurrence.

Further and nurture that relationship with Ben and drop a thoughtful thank you note, showing appreciation for the specific advice you took away from the meeting. Then, send him a follow-up update a few weeks later. This shows him you are invested in the relationship. In turn, Ben will be more willing to help you in the future.

3. Someone introduced you to one of their contacts

That informational interview you had with Ben? Remember to thank Mary who got you the meeting with Ben in the first place!  Keep her in the loop by updating her on your meeting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made an introduction, meetings have occurred, even job offers given, and I had no idea what the outcome was! Pay it back to Mary with a simple thank you and keep her in the loop – she clearly is invested in you by sharing her contact, so show her how that helped you.

You can even take it one step further by creating an opportunity for connection by introducing Mary to someone in your network if you think they would benefit from knowing each other. Effective networking is about generosity.

4. Someone coached or mentored you

Maybe your colleague spent an hour helping you prep for your presentation to the client.  Or an associate from the consulting firm where you are interviewing coached you on their firm’s specific way of interviewing. These are people who have taken an interest in seeing you develop and succeed. Acknowledge their help with a genuine thank you.

Send an email or a hand written note expressing your appreciation for their help. Then, send a 2nd email a few weeks later reporting back on how you took their advice to heart and took action… and share the results! This will not only make their day, but they will continue to be invested in you.

5. After a networking event

You’ve attended a networking event and collected a bunch of business cards. Instead of filing these cards away into the depths of your desk drawer, take the time to follow up with everyone you met. Send an email letting each contact know you enjoyed meeting them, and thanking them for any advice or insights they may have shared with you. You can take this opportunity to ask to meet up for coffee, or have an informational chat.

Tip: Always have a pen with you. After receiving a business card, duck away and jot down some quick notes on the back of the card. This way you’ll remember each person and what you talked about when it comes time to personalize your follow-up email.

Are there thank you emails you have been putting off? Just like I tell my kids after a birthday party: Get to it! Thank you’s that are sincere and show an appreciation for the specific act/advice/insight your contact has provided you will leave the door open for future connections. Invest in these relationships and they will invest back!

Author Bio:

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Jennifer Chow Bevan is a Los Angeles based executive career coach and founder of Path Relaunch. She is passionate about helping smart, motivated professionals navigate career transitions and relaunches. With a diverse business background in investment banking, management consulting, and brand management, as well as over 5 years as a career coach to MBA students at UCLA Anderson, Jennifer brings a business perspective to her coaching work.  She is trained through the Coaches Training Institute and holds an MBA from Wharton and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from M.I.T.  For career tips and updates, follow Jennifer on Twitter @jcbevanla and Facebook:  PathRelaunch