person looking at a card
g-stockstudio/Getty Images

When Tina Wascovich got a promotion early in her career, she picked out cards and gave handwritten thank you notes to her manager as well as a senior VP, both of whom she felt had been instrumental in helping her take a step up. The high-level executive was so enthusiastic about her note that he wrote her one in return to tell her how pleased he’d been to recommend her for the promotion. Everyone felt good about Wascovich’s accomplishment and about themselves. Who wouldn’t want that?

If you’ve just been promoted, well then first, you deserve a big congratulations, and some celebrations are certainly in order. Go on, do a happy dance, raise a glass, treat yourself to a promotion gift, or all of the above.

SEARCH OPEN JOBS ON THE MUSE! See who’s hiring here, and you can even filter your search by benefits, company size, remote opportunities, and more. Then, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll deliver advice on landing the job right to you.

But while you’re basking in the glow of validation that comes with a shiny new title or role, take a moment to consider how you got there, who might’ve helped you along the way, and how you can acknowledge that support.

“It's the perfect time to show appreciation to your boss or your company for a promotion and the recognition of the value your contribution is making to the company,” says Wascovich, a Muse career coach. One easy and effective way to do that is with a thank you note.

Why You Might Write a Thank You Note for a Promotion

Writing a thank you note for a promotion, unlike for an interview, is not a must-do, more like a really-nice-to-do.

“In fact, I think that if you do this, it will be remembered by that boss likely for a long time because today people are not writing handwritten notes or much of anything,” Wascovich says. “To get a note of appreciation from someone on your staff that recognizes that you may have helped them on their career path, that makes an impact [on] anyone in a supervisory management or leadership role,” who will be more likely to “go the extra mile for them in the future.”

Al Dea, a Muse career coach and the founder of CareerSchooled, also emphasizes that it’s all about gratitude and appreciation. Having been on the receiving end of such thank you notes, he says, “I was super thrilled to see they got promoted [and] it made me feel good knowing that they considered me to have played a small role in that.”

Who You Should Thank

The most obvious person on your shortlist for a thank you note following a promotion is, not surprisingly, your direct manager. They’re often the one most closely involved with your success, but they’re not necessarily the only one.

Think about whether your boss’ boss or another senior leader played an active role in your growth as an employee or in advocating for or approving your promotion. Or perhaps you have a formal or informal mentor outside your reporting structure or even outside of your organization.

“To summarize it, I would thank people [who] you thought were instrumental in helping you achieve that,” says Wascovich.

What a Thank You Note After a Promotion Actually Looks Like (With Examples!)

If the logistics allow, consider a handwritten note. It “shows that you took the time, in today's digital walk outside, go to the store, pick out a card, buy the card, write something thoughtful, and give it to someone,” says Dea. “That shows a genuine kind of sincerity behind it. And while the gesture may be small, I think that another person would appreciate it.”

That being said, if you don’t work in the same office or don’t have someone’s physical address, an email is a perfectly good vehicle for your thank you note as well.

Either way, you don’t have to write a novel. Your note should be short and sweet. Here are a couple ways to go:

A Formal Thank You Note

Dear [Name],

It's been a pleasure to learn and grow under your leadership. Thanks again for recognizing my contribution with this promotion. I look forward to continuing to work together.

All the best,

[Your Name]

A Thank You Note With Specific Examples

Dear [Name],

Thank you so much for recognizing my hard work and believing I was ready to take on a new role and more responsibility. I’m grateful for [something specific they did that helped you get to where you are, e.g. your guidance as I took on the X project and learned to lead a cross-functional team; how you went to bat for me to make this promotion happen], and excited to [thing you’ll be taking on in your new or more senior role, e.g. lead this new team or take on such an important client].

Thank you,

[Your Name]

Other Ways to Show Your Gratitude

Everyone has their own way of showing gratitude, and you shouldn’t be afraid to go with your gut and do whatever feels most natural. If a thank you note doesn’t seem quite right, you could set aside some time at your next one-on-one—or in a separate meeting—to express your appreciation in person.

If you got a huge promotion and there’s someone who played a major role in that, Dea says, you might even consider getting them a small gift or taking them out to lunch.

The bottom line is that you want to genuinely and authentically thank someone. “How you choose to do that is up to you and certainly it needs to jive with what you feel comfortable doing,” Dea says. “I'm less concerned about the mechanism of how you do it and more about the spirit of deciding to go and do it.”

What to Avoid

“One time in high school, I profusely thanked a teacher for a high grade on a research essay I wrote,” says Muse writer and career coach Abby Wolfe. “He looked at me and said, ‘Why are you thanking me? You’re the one who did the hard work.’ And he was right.”

She learned that there’s a balance to strike between recognizing someone’s contribution to your success and owning your accomplishments. After all, she says, “you’re the one who worked hard to get the promotion. You’re the one who earned it.”

Even worse than letting your thanks cross the line into too much in such a sincere way is to write a note you don’t really mean simply to check a box, Dea says. If you don’t feel an honest desire to thank someone and do so out of obligation, it could come across as inauthentic and fall flat.

If you, like me, are now convinced that writing a genuine thank you note for a promotion is a meaningful gesture, remember too that “it’s never too late to show appreciation,” says Wascovich. Even if it comes a few weeks or months later, “we can brighten someone’s day.” Now, excuse me while I make a run to the stationery store.

Updated 1/24/2022