Submitted by RDHodgson on
I just have two questions:
1) Should I be sending out thank you notes when I am currently looking at really low-level work (I am looking for work to fill the time between now and grad school)?
2) Are thank you notes an American-only thing? I've chatted about it with various people here (in the UK) and the consensus is that maybe it'd be a good idea within a serious organisation, for a high up position, but that it all sounds very... obsequious? What's strange is that my friends and family members seem to agree not only on this, but also that it's only here in England that it would be wrong to do - "Maybe that makes sense out in America, but y'know, they're like that over there, all very Sir and Madam and Have A Nice Day".
This isn't just an accusation of one of Mark's practises being stuffy, but it coming off as downright *offputting* to an employer! I wouldn't be put off if I was a manager, but I do know that I'm very different to my fellow countrymen and much more "American" in spirit than they are.
This is based on nothing more authoritive than my own meandering experience.
Aside from one time I used them myself I've not seen thank you notes used in a professional context. In the dcast or opne of the discussions following it Mark mentioned seeing thank you cards he's sent pinned up in the recipient's office, I have never seen that. Outside professional contexts I've only seen them used following Christmas, birthdays and weddings to thank people for their presents or presence. I don't think that we're rude or unstuffy, just that what is accomplished with a thank you note elsewhere is handled differently here. Two nations separated by a common tongue and all that.
The one time I used thank you notes was at the end of a project, not long after listening to the cast on them. I sent out three: one to our internal Comms team who had provided some help; one to a supplier who had provided some posters at a very good price; one to a supplier who had provided some branded items (i.e. conference 'swag') at a very good price. There was no response from one supplier (not that I was expecting one), the comms manager sent me an email saying that you for the card and they'd put it in their 'cheer up' tin (they have a tin, which originally contained chocolates, into which they put items to remind them of their successes, when one of the team is feeling down they look into the tin and remind themselves that they have had successes and it cheers them up) and the other supplier sent me an email basically saying "What do you want?" (the message in the card had been along the lines of "Thank you for your work on the pens and notepads, they were excellent and very popular at our event").
I've never received a thank you card but what I have received is a lot of thank you emails copied to my line manager, a lot of invites out for coffee or a meal as a thank you for things I've done for people and one person saying if I ever need someone 'sorted out' to call them.
Skype: stephenbooth_uk | DiSC: 6137
"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack
Hmm, ok. That's as I
Hmm, ok. That's as I thought: that it is a rather American thing. Hopefully Wendii will see this though and offer he opinion.
Love the Sunscreen reference by the way!
The answers to your questions are
1) yes and
2) maybe, but why that let stop you?
As a recruiter I have received thank you notes infrequently but those times have REALLY stood out to me. Interestingly, they weren't for the serious jobs. I've recruited for roles which report to boards of billion dollar companies, and not received thank you cards for those. I have got cards for first and second line management roles and for roles below that. They were pinned in my cube and I kept them for a long time. (I'm not a keeper, all my birthday cards, unless they say something special are gone, 2 days after my birthday).
One of my most precious possessions though, is a vase which was given to me by a candidate when I was a recruiter. He had no UK work experience and had had trouble getting a job. He had tonnes of great attitude though, and I knew I could place him. When he came in a few days later with a gift for me, I almost cried.
I have SENT thank you cards, and only had positive reactions.
Think about it this way. Say you apply for a retail assistant role, and you're awesome. They made the decision in their heads to hire you and the next day, they get a thank you card. Is it so weird that they won't hire you? No. If you were average, might it make them think about you again? Yes. If you were rubbish, you weren't getting the job anyway. What have you got to lose?
By the way...
The British INVENTED Them! We brought them over, oh, around 2-3-400 years ago. They're quite common. I hosted dinner in London with an executive and he sent me a thank you note. HE had really awesome stationary, and I was totally impressed.
Whenever I'm in the forums, I always see a post from Stephen. And his closing line is work backwards from the customer. Imagine, Stephen, that you got a thank you card FROM A CUSTOMER. Can you possibly imagine being put-off, or dismayed? Can you imagine any emotion other than small joy?
And let me take this chance to say to Stephen: Thank you sir. I know you have other things to do, and you take time to help people you don't even know, and you do it associated with us. It reflects well on ME that you are willing to do so, and I don't forget kindness like that. Even when we disagree, I find your effort and intellect a great part of my life. Thank you.
I don't recommend stuff I'm not REALLY REALLY sure about guys. My standard is not "could this help some" but rather, since I may not ever meet the person I'm helping, "can I be sure he will NEVER be hurt by using this idea, even IF he uses it poorly". There's a LOT of stuff I WISH I could recommend, but it would be really hard without knowing the person I was recommending it to.
I learned how to handle business cards from time in Asia. Their way is better, and so I teach their way. (The way most US folks do it is crap). Dressing up for work is dying in the US, but not as much in Britain and some parts of Europe. I've been accused of teaching European ways and Asian ways in the US.
And it's totally okay to not do the stuff I recommend! That's one of the great things about diversity and being free. I learn from folks who don't do what I recommend too. I trust and respect you even if I don't know you. I don't think you're wrong if you don't do it my way, I just figure you've had different experiences. But I'm willing to share with you my experiences so you know a different way to consider.
But, as I said yesterday at a conference, I treat you like I do my friends. I love the inscription in John Lucht's book:
THIS IS WHAT I TELL MY FRIENDS. Even in the UK.
Two Good Reasons
I see two important reasons to send thank you cards. First, it's the polite thing to do. I believe I've posted elsewhere that I usually carry a supply of cards, envelopes, and stamps in a quart-sized ziploc bag with me. I try to write the card the same day I meet with the person I'm thanking. That means they usually receive it within 48 hours. I may add an email thank you if timeliness is important. The difference in content between the two is that in the email I will spend more time reviewing all commitments made in the meeting. For the thank you note itself, I follow the MT recommendation religiously.
The second reason I believe it is important is that it differentiates the sender from the rest of the crowd. As Robert Gozuieta, former CEO of Coca-Cola said, "In real estate, it's 'location, location, location.' In business, it's 'differentiate, differentiate, differentiate.'"
As Wendii pointed out, "What have you got to lose?"
We started them young
Again in Australia - the thank you card is not used as much as it should, but I am a great believer in doing them, and I have purchased some nice A5 cards from a quality stationer in Sydney with my first initial on them with matching envelops. I agree with GLENNR, it is a differentiator, but it is also a polite and appropriate thing to do.
I firmly believe a little manners doesn't take that long. I have some of the cards in my home study and my city office and takes only a couple of minutes to hand write and mail these cards - but I know they are appreciated.
We started many years ago with our kids (getting harder now they are young teenagers and fully wise to all the ways of the world), but we had the kids send out thank you notes after their birthday parties. We were impressed recently when our 16 year old niece who lives in another city and we don't see very often sent us a thank you card for simply sending her a card and calling her on her birthday - she is developing some class.
I'm not anti-thank you cards
I just have never seen them used in a business context, other than the one time I did. Maybe it's a function of the level I work at or the industry?
I'm certainly in favour of people doing what they believe to be right and best. I do use thank you cards out side of work, earlier this year my mother was in hospital and when she left I gave a card and a couple of boxes of chocolates to the staff as a thank you. A couple of weeks previously a student nurse who had really gone above and beyond in help mom finished her rotation so I gave her a card, a box of chocolates and a letter of testimonial to show to her tutors and future employer.
I have followed Mark's suggestion of imagining how I would feel if I received a thank you card from a customer. I think the main feeling I'd get is one of puzzlement. I'd be pleased but I can't imagine being more pleased with a physical card than I would be with an email, a forum comment or even a phone call (although when I get a phone call or face to face thanks I tend to feel a bit embarrassed,especially if I feel the thanks are undeserved).
Mark, I really do appreciate your comments. Thank you. Thank you,also, to yourself, Mike and all at Manager Tools for the casts, the advice and all the other things you do for us.
I have read some about how business cards are handled in Asia, the key message I took away was that a business card is seen very much as an extension of the person. How you treat the card is how you would treat the person. I do try to model the behaviours I have read about, in particular reading the card and treating it with respect, this means i do sometimes get funny looks so I'm not sure if my modelling is off or it's just so unusual to treat a business card that way that people think I'm wierd. On the other hand I am puzzled by the cavlier way some people treat business cards in front of the person who gave it, maybe I'm over sensitised to it but I do think just sticking it in a pocket without even a glance demonstrates ineffective behaviour. I'm also puzzled about how few people, outside of sales or recruiter type roles, seem to have business cards these days. Even if your employer doesn't supply them it's not rocket surgery, or massively expensive, to get some printed or to get some blanks and print your own.
Skype: stephenbooth_uk | DiSC: 6137
"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack
Wow. Responding to this has been on my to-do list for a while.
Just wanted to say thanks for the advice here. It's surprising how much I've never really thought about what it is realistically like to be a hiring manager (either as one's particular role, or as a hat one has to wear). I've never thought about how I might appreciate that little note. I think
(a) I have a bizarre conception of what it's really like to try to hire people
(b) I tend be too afraid that any attempt to be friendly and nice will be seen as sucking-up and sycophantic.
I recently landed an office job after years of working retail and promo jobs that I'm just not really cut out for. And just as I arrive, one person has left, and besides him *another* vacancy has opened up... and hearing and seeing that process go on around me has been really informative.
So yeah, my takeaway here is:
1) Think more about being in the other person's shoes (that's a note to myself)
2) You guys are right - what can it hurt?
3) Small thank-you cards are the way to go -- they can be professional but good looking, and somewhat personal, given that they aren't just another identical slip of A4 to file somewhere. At the very least, I like the idea that I can do something to introduce something pretty to someone's office! :D
Send more thank you cards
I too have never seen thank you cards in a professional setting. I know my gran loves getting them after sending gifts and she keeps them so it's not an un British thing to do. Speaking about them with folks at work drew a consensus it's odd to send them. But I started sending them anyway. It's really made some people's day to receive them and as far as I know done no harm. I discussed this recently with a recipient of one of my thank you cards. She agreed it was different, but good different. I don't bind being uncomfortable if it makes a positive difference. I also use it as an excuse to show of some of my fave photos: all my thank you cards are hand made with photos I have taken.
D I S C
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Thank you notes and thank you cards
After an interview I send thank you notes on (US) letter size paper -- typed, although Manager Tools has me rethinking that.
Early in my career a senior manager that I did not report to, asked me to draft a brief for her on my area so that she could include it in a speech she was giving. She sent me a thank you card with a brief note after the speech, it meant a lot to me then to know that my work was helpful to her. Since then I've always kept a box of thank you cards in my desk at work to send whenever a colleague goes out of their way to be helpful. As best I can tell no one else in my current organization does this (my previous boss and her boss did, but they have left) -- and everyone regardless of their level in the organization has kept it the card their desk or hung it in their workspace.