The Mentorist

Once More, with Feeling: The Art of the Thank-You

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There it was:  the de rigueur thank-you e-mail from a young lawyer who just had a networking meeting with me.

So good, so far.  If only his thank-you hadn’t arrived within five minutes of our saying good-bye to each other.

Promptness is – most times – a virtue.   But sending thank-you e-mails right on the heels of finishing a job interview or networking meeting can leave the impression that you’re simply going through the motions.  (I wondered, in fact, if my young colleague had written his thank-you message before he’d even met me.)

To get the most bang for your thank-you buck, do the following:

 1. Wait a day before hitting the “send” button.

A meeting between two people in unequal positions (one an “asker,” the other an “askee”) often starts to fade from the more powerful person’s memory as soon as the meeting ends. That’s a fact of life:  The “asker” needs something; the “askee” doesn’t.  Of course, the meeting will be more significant for the “asker.”

Regardless of how much she may want to help you out, the more powerful person likely will turn full attention to dousing workplace brushfires (if not conflagrations), as soon as she leaves your meeting.  If you send your thank-you e-mail immediately, it will simply become part of the meeting experience for her.

By waiting a day to send your message, you will jog the recipient’s memory:  She’ll think back on your earlier meeting and consider again how she might help you.  The time lapse can help move you up on her priorities list.

2. Refer to something specific that occurred during your meeting.

Perhaps the other person offered some pithy advice that particularly spoke to you.  Or perhaps, during your conversation, you discovered that both of you rowed in college or grew up in Montana or….

Mention something in your thank-you message that relates to the particular conversation you had.  This shows you put some thought into your words.  By  personalizing your message, you will help make an impression that sticks in the other person’s memory.Hello-Mrs.-Cleaver-cap

Just make certain your comments are sincere.  Eddie Haskell flattery won’t cut it.

3. Consider sending your thank-you message the old-fashioned way.

Most professionals have developed a system for shoveling out from under e-mails. (Those who haven’t suffer untimely deaths.)  This often involves skimming subject lines while simultaneously clicking the trash can icon.

To make a stronger impression on the person who was kind enough to meet with you, consider sending your thank-you note (typed, not handwritten) by regular mail.  Choosing a communication method that’s facing workplace extinction will make you stand out, increase your chances of being read (and, in turn, remembered) and surprise the U.S. Postal Service.

Author: Jane E. Owens

Jane E. Owens, The Mentorist’s chief blogger, has spent her career immersed in the business and culture of corporations and law firms. A former general counsel and corporate lawyer, Jane is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the professional world – and, through her mentoring practice, hopes to increase the ranks of the former. To learn more about Jane or suggest topics you'd like The Mentorist to discuss, go to:

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