Career Success and Handwritten Thank You Notes

I saw an article in USA Today this week called “Holiday Etiquette SOS.”  It was written by Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, who literally wrote the book on etiquette.  Anna is following in Emily’s footsteps, she is the co-author of the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.

As we’re coming into the holiday season, Anna had a few things to say about how to properly thank someone for a gift….

“Always, always, always send a handwritten note.  Unless you’re stranded in Afghanistan, send a handwritten note.  You can send an email to acknowledge receiving the gift, but then pull out a pen, paper and stamp.”

She’s right.  A good thank you note should acknowledge the gift, and tell how you are going to use it.   Besides being the right thing to do, a handwritten thank you note brands you of a courteous caring person.  My two nieces, Morgan O’Reilly and Brett McIlwain write beautiful thank you notes – and Cathy and I appreciate them.

A while back, I did a blog post where I featured Jeff Hajek’s book, Whaddya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?  I like this book.  And, as I pointed out in the post, Jeff provides some great career advice in a book that at first glance doesn’t seem to have much to do with career success.

Jeff sent me an email the day after the post ran, thanking me for my favorable comments about his book.  I thought that was great – and for me it was enough.  However, a couple of days later, I received a handwritten note in my snail mail from Jeff.  It read…


I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to review Whaddya Mean on your blog.  I am cognizant of the fact that you have gone out of your way to help me, so if there is anything I can ever do to return the favor, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Best wishes,

Handwritten notes are not very common these days.  I was touched that Jeff took the time to write one and send it to me.  By sending it, he really strengthened his relationship with me.  The next time he asks for my help, I am very likely to give it to him.  Also, he offered his help to me.  I feel that I can go to him if I need assistance in his area of expertise.  Jeff used a simple technique – a handwritten note – to build his relationship with me.

My post helped Jeff – any exposure helps.  But I reviewed his book because I thought it would be useful to readers of this blog.  My intent was to provide readers of this blog with useful information.  So my review was a win/win/win   Good for you, good for Jeff, and good for me because I am meeting one of my goals – helping others create the life and career success that they want and deserve.  All of us benefited.

Jeff purchased a thank you card for his note to me.  That was great, but I have an even better idea.  One of my best investments is a set of note cards with my name printed at the top of the card and my return address on the back flap of the envelope.  I suggest that you do the same – you’ll find yourself writing more thank you notes when you have a card handy.  Don’t get lazy and go the Send Out Cards route.  These automated handwritten note like cards just don’t have the magic of a true handwritten note.

One of the companies where I do a lot of consulting and coaching work has picked up on this idea.  They have placed blank thank you notes – with one of their core values on the front of the card – at convenient locations in their offices.  Their intent is to get employees to thank one another for good work.  And it worked.  People are sending more of these handwritten notes to their colleagues, strengthening relationships within the company.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  Interpersonally competent people are good at building relationships.  Thanking people – in writing — when they help you, or this holiday season is a great way to build relationships.  Follow the career advice in Success Tweet 78.  “Say ‘thank you’ often.  You’ll succeed, build a strong personal brand and build a legacy of being a nice person.”  Besides thanking people in person, handwritten notes are a great way of saying thank you.  Handwritten thank you notes establish you as someone who cares about other people and is willing to go a little out of your way to build relationships – the hallmark of interpersonally competent and successful people.

That’s my career advice on sending handwritten thank you notes this holiday season.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



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  1. This article just goes to show how powerful handwritten notes are. Because so little people take the time to handwrite their own thank you cards, doing so just makes you stand out that much more. My best friend ALWAYS writes thank you cards after any and all occasions. Everyone that knows her will tell you that her attention to detail is impecable. We perceive her in such a positive light because of a simple gesture as handwriting thank you notes all the time. What a great way to strengthen personal and business relationships!

  2. You’re right Merci:
    Handwritten notes — especially in this day of email and Facebook — are a great way to get known as a person who cares and to build a powerful personal brand.
    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Dear Bud – I have been a sender of the handwritten notes and marketing since I started my career 35 years ago – first sending cards hand printed and hand signed to Art Directors and Creative Directors of my photographic illustrative services to acquire portfolio showings at ad agencies and to just say thanks…the goal to have that card on their bulletin board while saying thanks…then when I retired and became a marketing consultant with a large Digital Imaging service bureau – again hand written cards for 12 years to clients and potential clients…the goal then was just to say “Thanks” for allowing me to be of service or for the oppotunity to be of service.

    Now for 4 years we have been doing the same thing with SendOutCards and helping others use the system…guess what “they are effective as a hand written note.”

    As marketing consultants – we find and track our company’s that use the system consistently – they are getting a 16% to 49% return on repeat clients in retail sector – in service businesses they are from 4-8 % and one does not know how a heartfelt message is received – but most of the time it results in a phone call that says “thanks for the card”. It is also about Appreciation Marketing – sending a card with no expectation of business in return…cards are cards…

    Tom Hopkins who says send a card a day uses send out cards…SOC does not replace the handwritten note – it compliments it!
    read our blog…please – and join us at sendoutcards –

    It allows us not to forget our clients and more so allows me to send a great photo of them with a picture frame or allows me to send them a photo album or calender that means something to them – then an amazing thing happens – its about celebrating their lives, their accomplishments – greeting cards from a rack at Hallmark is not anymore personal…Sending cards, handwritten, SOC or from the crafter who makes one by hand they all do the same thing – creates Tomato’s – TOP OF MIND AWARENESS THROUGH OTHERS…they talk about the great gift, card or calender they got from their realtor, their plumber, etc…SOC celebrates lives – it is just not a card.

    Enjoy our blog and thanks for all you do!
    Brian Kaplan & Terri Walker
    Uptown Coffee News, LLC & Ind. Dist SendOutCards – Sr.Mgr-Sr.Trainers

  4. Brian:
    Thanks for your comment — and for sharing your story.
    I like the idea of appreciation marketing. It is a great idea for anyone who want to develop top of mind awareness.
    On the other hand, while I like Send Out Cards, and think they are better than an email message, nothing still beats a hand written note.
    All the best,

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