If you're like me, you've had countless bosses, mentors, and cheerleaders over the years—people who have really made a difference in your life and career.

And, not just this time of year, but always, it’s important to make efforts to thank them. For one, paying your contacts back for all they've done for you is the nice thing to do. But what’s more, it’s also a great way to keep yourself on people’s radar. And I probably don’t have to tell you that’s a good thing for your career!

While it can be tough to find unique and genuine ways to really thank those who have helped you out along the way, remember that you can make a big impact with a small gesture. Next time you’re looking to give a nod to someone you appreciate, try one of these simple ideas.

1. Help Them Out With Their Projects

If you have some extra time on your plate, offering just an hour of your time a month to the connections you care about most—sans charge—is a stellar way to keep those relationships strong without giving up too much.

Consider your own professional and personal strengths, then think about how you can use them to help your network catapult their projects or businesses to success. Did you see that one of your old colleagues just launched a side hustle? Publicize her new business by telling the rest of your network about it. If your mentor’s company has a new service offering, offer to beta test it and write a testimonial or answer a series of survey questions. Do you dabble in design work? Offer to design a flyer or program for an event your contact is in charge of.

For example, my former boss, Pete, offers recruiting consulting to startup and high-growth companies, so I jumped at the opportunity to send an email introducing him to the head of my local co-working space, which caters to the same audience.

Pro Tip: Use a service like Newsle to stay up-to-date on your contacts and their pet projects, campaigns, and initiatives. It’ll be easy to find the perfect time to offer your assistance.

2. Mention Them

Most people love public recognition, so when you want to pass on kudos to someone in your network, your social media accounts are an obvious choice. A simple tweet, like, “Taking a minute to thank @JulieKantorSTEM for being an awesome mentor and for encouraging my entrepreneurial spirit while I was in school!” can make someone’s day.

Another great way to do this is to keep an eye out for social media trends and capitalize on them when saying your thanks. And we’re talking beyond #FF: Include the person in your 30 Days of Gratitude, create a fun “thank you” GIF, find a SomeEcard to commemorate Boss’s Day, and mark events like Thank Your Mentor Day (January 16) on your calendar.

Want to go above and beyond for a mentor or extra-special contact? I think everyone should have a rainy day file of positive, uplifting things people have said about them. Why not kick start your contact’s file by reaching out to others in his or her network, asking them to contribute a few kind words, compiling a blog post with all of the awesome feedback, and then sending him or her the link? Naturally, this move requires more effort than a simple tweet or a mention on Facebook, but I’d bet that investing the extra time and energy will pay off in the long haul.

Pro Tip: If you have great connections, use them! Get a link to your contact's blog from an industry site with a huge readership or a Twitter shout out from his or her favorite industry professional. If you’re a writer, think of an interesting pitch that allows you to highlight someone's work in the piece. (Did you notice that I mentioned both my former boss and my former mentor above?)

3. Pay it Forward

A great way to make those who have positively influenced you proud? Pass on their words of wisdom or helpful resources to someone else. Then, shoot your contact a quick email letting him or her know that you valued that input so much that you passed it on to a budding star. Who wouldn't want to hear that they helped you so much that you wanted to share their knowledge with someone else?

If you want to take it a step further, find out what causes your contact is passionate about, and make a small donation to one of them in his or her name. Just be sure to let that person know (“I’m so grateful for your help and advice that I’ve made a donation to Dress for Success in your honor”)—otherwise it’s like a tree falling in a forest!

Pro Tip: Consider connecting your mentor and your mentee so that they can get together to sing your praises—I mean, benefit from knowing each other.

4. Give a LinkedIn Recommendation

LinkedIn recommendations may seem like an obvious solution for a former boss or subordinate, but they can also be great ways to thank someone who may not need an official recommendation from you, like someone you worked with on a project or served on a volunteer committee with.

When crafting your recommendation, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t just highlight the person’s skills and talents—note the specific effect that he or she had on you or your organization.
  • Read through your contact’s LinkedIn profile first to get a sense of his or her personal positioning. Does he seem to be moving in a different direction from his previous experiences? Emphasize the new skills and talents he’ll be using. Is she offering a new product or service through her business? Play up that in your recommendation.
  • Keep it powerful by avoiding phrases like “one of the best.” It’s not nearly as strong as “the best,” right?
  • Pro Tip: As you meet individuals you respect professionally and would like to stay in touch with in the future, take a few minutes to jot down their best qualities in Evernote or another note-taking app so that you can refer to it later when thinking of how to show off their chops.

    Who has helped you throughout the years? How do you give back to them in small ways?

    Photo of thank you card courtesy of Shutterstock.