Thank you notes: They’re not just for interviews anymore

Sincerity and acknowledgment matter, and a little gratitude can do wonders for your career.

Thank you notes: They’re not just for interviews anymore

You know the drill: You go on a job interview and send succinct, grammatically correct thank you notes to each interviewer expressing invigorated interest in the position, referencing a particularly interesting conversation you had during the interview, and ultimately thanking them for their time. End of story.

Or is it?

Sure, while it’s a no-brainer to send thank you’s via email or snail mail following your job interview, did you know you’re supposed to send a thank you in other professional situations as well? As in Jimmy Fallon’s segment on thank you notes, taking a few moments to acknowledge people and how they’ve impacted you will go a very long way. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios where you might not necessarily expect a thank-you note to be warranted, but it totally is.

When you get promoted

Taking a step up your company’s ladder presents a perfect opportunity to pause and thank the people (ahem: your mentor, your boss and your boss’s boss) who helped get you there. In fact, thank you notes should always be part of your game plan when you move on to another opportunity, whether it’s internal or external.

Your words don’t need to be flowery. In fact, less is more. For instance, you could write: “As I take on my new role, I want to let you know how much I appreciate your guidance and support over the past few years. Thank you for everything! With gratitude, [your name here].”

When you resign

In the same vein, you should definitely send a note of gratitude to your boss, your boss’s boss and your colleagues (yes, this can encompass external vendors and clients) after you put in notice. Sure, you can send a group email on or near your last day to provide your personal email address (and thank everyone for the memories) but you should also make it a point to send individual handwritten notes. One word of caution: Be strategic and consistent. Send them only to management, or to management and your primary group of colleagues—but whatever you do, don’t single out certain colleagues over others in the same group. 

In addition, delivering a thank you note to someone’s desk is one of those fun little surprises that usually evokes a positive feeling. Even if you or your boss and colleagues work remotely, you can still send off some handwritten notes by quickly emailing to ask for their addresses. According to EmilyPost.com, “It’s always correct to send handwritten thank you’s, and people always appreciate them. Handwritten notes are warmer and more personal than a phone call or email, and only second best to thanking someone in person.”

When peers and/or direct reports worked their tails off

There’s no cookie cutter approach to thank you notes. They can definitely be sent to peers and direct reports too—and not just when you’re moving onto new opportunities. If it’s crunch time and your team’s been working around the clock or someone really went to bat for you, acknowledge them. Just don’t go overboard by dipping into the “thank you” well too often, and avoid going out of your way to thank someone for simply doing his or her job. An effective thank you note is occasional and marks an exceptional effort.

As for what you should say, try typing an online draft first, and start writing your cards when you’re comfortable with the final version. You can say something like, “Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your hard work! I could not have finished this project without you—you are a lifesaver! Many thanks.”

Sending a thank you note isn’t simply good karma. It’s just plain considerate, and usually leaves a lasting, positive impression among your recipients. Since so few people actually do it, you’re destined to boost your personal brand and strengthen your relationship with your mentors and peers.