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 go all out all of the above.
But while you’re basking in the glow of validation that comes with a shiny new title and a raise, 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 would you 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,” 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.”
It’s all about gratitude and appreciation, says Muse career coach Al Dea, the founder of CareerSchooled. 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 should you thank for your promotion?
The most obvious person on your shortlist for a thank you note following a promotion is your direct manager. They’re often the one most closely involved with your success, but they’re not necessarily the only one. “To summarize it, I would thank people [who] you thought were instrumental in helping you achieve that,” says Wascovich.
For example, you might consider writing a promotion thank you note to your:
How do you say thank you after a promotion?
So you’ve decided to write a thank you note or otherwise say thanks to some of the people instrumental with your promotion. Here’s how to do it.
Consider a handwritten note.
If the logistics allow, it “shows that you took the time, in today's digital age...to walk outside, go to the store, pick out a card, buy the card, write something thoughtful, and give it to someone,” Dea says. “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.
Say thank you.
I know, sounds obvious—but make sure it’s clear you’re saying thanks and letting them know it’s for your recent promotion. You never want someone to finish reading a note like this and think, “That was so nice, but uhh, what was it for?”
Tell them what, specifically, you’re grateful for.
Once you’ve covered the basics—“I’m saying thank you” and “it’s about my promotion”—make the thanks feel genuine by telling them how they helped and supported you along the way. Maybe they advocated for you with leadership, taught you key skills, or saw your potential before anyone else did.
Keep it concise.
You don’t have to write a novel. Your note should be short and sweet.
Templates for a promotion thank you note
Here are two templates you can use to take any guesswork out of writing your message.
A simple thank you note template
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,
A thank you note template with specific examples
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].
Example thank you notes for a promotion
Here are examples of a completed thank you note:
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 everything you’ve taught me about data analysis and for having the confidence in me to let me branch into data visualization in my current role. I’m excited to continue working alongside you while I also start working with account managers to communicate data to clients.
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 how vocally you advocated for me—you were truly instrumental in making this promotion happen. I’m so excited to get started training employees as part of my new position.
How else can I say thank you for a promotion?
A note isn’t the only way to say thank you. 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—or like enough—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 should I avoid when saying thank you for a promotion?
Here’s what you shouldn’t do when you land that big promotion:
- Go overboard. “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.”
- Be inauthentic. 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.
- Think it’s too late. 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,” Wascovich says. 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.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.