Thank you. Two little words that can make or break you.

When I was young, and still to this day, I write thank you notes when someone has given me their time, attention, advice. My initial Thank You is not an email, definitely not a text, but an honest-to-goodness, real life handwritten note on stationery. Oh and, I write them in cursive. (I think if I used the word cursive with anyone under the age of 30 they would look at me like I was speaking a foreign language!) When I was young I would roll my eyes when my parents put the pencil or pen in front of me with a stack of thank you cards. Now I appreciate the time they took to teach us the art of saying “thank you”. I appreciate it when I receive thank you notes as well. Just knowing someone took the time to sit down, articulate his or her gratitude unique to our interaction makes me more invested in that relationship.

Do you feel the same thing when you see that personal note hit your desk?

In the world of career transitions, informational interviews and job search, I find the simple act of professionally and formally saying thank you is hit or miss. Some take the time, others do it informally, and others, alas, don’t do it at all. Here is the bottom line. Not doing it at all is the big mistake. Doing it informally is border line, but doing it sincerely, thoughtfully, timely and formally is a MUST. And here is the real secret – it isn’t hard!

Why take the time to write a thank you? Simply, it is respectful and it shows prospective employers, career mentors, colleagues providing insights through informational interviews – frankly anyone helping you get what you want, that you respect them and their time. It shows character. That character is part of the fabric of who you are and what you will bring to your new position; new company; new team. It is about building upon the relationship that you started in the meeting.

In crafting the thank you note it should not be a “form” letter that you’ve downloaded from the Internet and changed the names, dates etc. It should be a personal note with specifics about your meeting and what you learned. It should include both your interest in, and request for, continued contact and dialogue. Additionally, you should indicate your plan to follow up in a specific time frame. If you have talked with more than one person, each person gets his/her own note. And each of them should be unique to that dialogue.

Emailing your thanks and appreciation should only happen once you have established a relationship and have a continued dialogue either in person or via email. Email is pervasive in our personal and professional dealings and is acceptable after the initial thank you has been extended. Never, and I do mean NEVER, text your thank you response.

Wouldn’t it be unfortunate and disappointing to miss out on the success you are working so hard for because of omitting this easy but so important step? The act of saying “Thank You” may be a unique way to differentiate yourself and separate you from the pack.

So, on that note, thank you for your time in learning a bit more about my perspectives on what is important in building relationships.