The power of saying "Thank You"
Submitted by Dr. Chinazo Echezona-Johsnon
Over the years, I have had requests from my professional colleagues and contacts, current and past students for job referrals, reference/recommendation letters, and assistance with professional networking. However, I have noticed that only a few of these people come back to say “thank you.”
With the demands of the professional and personal obligations, people are neglecting this valuable etiquette. People may request professional referrals, letters of reference, help with, networking. However, some people will forget to follow up with a "thank you." Some people will go for interviews but will not follow up with a thank-you note or email. It seems that most people think that showing gratitude is a sign of weakness or that it is not necessary.
Recently, one of my contacts asked me to help her to get an internship at my hospital. She has been unsuccessful in securing a leadership internship. I agreed. I was able to persuade a colleague in a leadership position to facilitate the internship. The contact started the internship but neglected to send a thank you note. During her internship, she did not make an effort to inquire about me. Later on, I heard that the contact successfully finished her internship at the hospital. Later on, when I emailed her to find out about her experiences and to congratulate her, the contact finally thanked me for helping her secure the internship. I felt that the contact used me to get what she wanted.
It is easy to say “thank you” immediately after receiving help from somebody. However, it is equally important to show gratitude afterward. For instance, it is easy to request a referral from a contact, but it is crucial to follow-up with a thank you note, text, email or even a voicemail. It is even better to follow up later if the referral leads to a successful venture.
A former student asked me to write a letter of recommendation for a very high profile position. Since he was an exemplary student, I was eager to do it. A day after I sent the letter, he called to thank me for writing the letter. Two weeks later, he called to let me know that he did not get the position. Subsequently, he called again a month later requesting another letter for another higher position. I remembered his gratefulness and the positive interactions in the previous request. I was eager to write and send the letter. Again, he followed up with a thank you email. Three weeks later, he got the position. Again, he emailed me to let me know about the good news. I was elated.
Why is a "thank you" necessary?
Growing up, we learned from our parents and teachers to say "thank you" because it shows good manners. Professionally, showing gratitude is a sign of success, professional courtesy, decency, politeness, and pleasantness. Saying a “thank you” shows that the person doing the deed is valued and respected. It is a way to acknowledge the contributions of the individual who took their time out of their busy life to write that letter of recommendation, to give their input to a manuscript, to interview you, to open doors to jobs, and to introduce you to people. A “thank you” after a job interview may help to distinguish a candidate from among other job candidates. The person giving the reference or the referral may be willing to help again in the future because of that "thank you."
So next time somebody does something for you professionally or even personally, remember to find a chance to say “thank you.” You may need the person again, and people will remember how you make them feel.