Yes, you’ve heard thousands (or at least dozens) of times that you must send a thank you note after a job interview. But what about all of those other professional situations—the ones in which expressing your gratitude isn’t “expected,” per se, but it’s a nice (and smart) thing to do.
Just because you want to write the email doesn’t mean the words will magically come to you. Maybe you have a tendency to be too effusive and overdo it. Maybe you aren’t quite sure where to start. And so, you find yourself staring at a blank draft for far too long—tempted to just write “Thanks!” and be done (or give up).
Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I remember the advice I once read in a Miss Manners column that—believe it or not—the best way to express your appreciation is to avoid making “Thank you” your first two words.
For example, in response to a reader who’d asked about graduation presents, she suggests:
Start with a statement of emotion—that you were delighted that they came to your party, or thrilled when you opened their present. Then come the thanks…and then a friendly line about the donors (such as that you remember something they told you, or that you hope to see them soon). A line about your own plans—summer, college or work—is optional.
When I’m stumped, I’ve found taking this advice and bumping my gratitude to the second line makes writing these kinds of notes much easier (and makes them look more genuine and interesting). Here are some templates to show it in practice for three common professional situations:
1. When Someone Gives You Advice
Dear [Contact Name],
I was excited—but also really nervous—when I was faced with [an unfamiliar task at work]. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Hearing your experience working on [something similar] was so helpful!
I ended up nailing [the project, event, etc.] and wanted to share how much I appreciate your advice.
Tip: Including a specific comment about what you learned or how the advice helped shows you were really listening.
2. When Someone Makes an Introduction
Dear [Contact Name],
I wanted to let you know that I just got back from meeting/off a phone call with [mutual contact’s name]. Thank you so much for introducing us! She told me what it was like working at her company/gave me some great tips about apartment hunting in her city/ told me I should feel free to send on my resume, and I feel so much better/more confident/more ready to tackle [whatever you needed help with].
Thank you again,
Tip: One of the most thoughtful things you can do—along with thanking someone—is give him an update on whether or not you and the contact have been in touch, as well as something specific that arose from the introduction.
3. When Someone Serves as a Reference
Dear [Contact Name],
I’m really excited to have made it to the final rounds of interviewing with [company]. Thank you so much for agreeing to serve as a reference! I’ve attached an updated resume and a copy of the position description, so you’ll have them handy. One thing the company is looking for is someone with strong communication skills, and I instantly thought of [such-and-such task] that we worked on together.
Thank you again for agreeing to be a reference, and please let me know if I can be helpful in any way!
Tip: Don’t think it’s enough to ask for a recommendation and to send this note thanking the other person for agreeing. You should always follow up with the final status of your application (translation: whether or not you got the job).
It’s easy to view saying thank you as another item on your to-do list—as the cost of doing business when someone helps you out. But if you take the time to write a kind note, those four lines can make all the difference in that person wanting to help you out again in the future.
Photo of woman writing courtesy of Shutterstock .
TopicsTools & Skills , Etiquette , Email , Syndication , Impress Me by Sara McCord , Networking , Communication
Sara McCord most often writes about making a better professional impression. She's been published on Mashable (where she was a regular career contributor), as well as Forbes, Newsweek, TIME, Inc., and Business Insider. A Staff Writer/Editor for The Muse, Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. See more of her writing on her website or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author