two magical words (and a totally stealable way to say them!)

These two little everyday words can open many doors for you.


They make people like you better.


They make you look good.


They set you ahead of the crowd.


What could these two magical words possibly be? Read on to find out...



As a graduate of SUNY Geneseo, I was part of an Q&A session for "externs" from my college. A group of students travels to Manhattan, Chicago, Boston, or D.C. on their spring break and visit various businesses and chat with alumni to learn more about careers and job opportunities. The externship always includes an alumni panel so that students can get the behind-the-scenes scoop on the good and the bad about living and working in a major city. 


I have been on the panel three different times now, and it's always a rewarding experience. I absolutely love interacting with students and helping them not freak out about some of the things I totally freaked out about when I was thinking about moving to New York, a city that I was sure had murderers and swindlers on every corner. 


After students return home, they are encouraged to write thank you notes to alumni they interacted with.


Now, in the midst of bills that are annoying to pay and bank statements I can barely decipher and advertisements I just throw in the trash, I just love, love, LOVE getting a real live letter. You know, the kind with handwriting (maybe even cursive!) and a Forever stamp. The act of opening a real letter practically makes me giddy! Especially if the stationery is nice. (I know, I know. It's the little things that really get me.)


I was thrilled to find a handful of thank you notes from the externs mixed in with my bills and bank statements and junk mail last week. Simply thrilled.


If you haven't guessed it yet, the two magical words are these:






Why is saying, "Thank you," so important? (And what are the extra special rewards you can reap from saying it?)


Besides the fact that saying, "Thank you," is the kind thing to do (and we should always strive to be kind), people LOVE to feel appreciated. It makes us feel good. And why wouldn't it? I took time out of my busy day to spend three hours with college students, and in return, I get to feel great about the fact that they appreciated me spending time with them. Because I feel good, I am much more likely to help these students out in the future.


There's the sneaky part.


Now that an extern has made an extra connection with a thank you note, I am much more likely to respond to future requests. Why? It's not because I'm desperate to get more mail. It's because I know that my help has really made an impact. So if she, say, wants me to look at her resume or have coffee to discuss life in the publishing world, I am much more likely to agree since I know that she appreciates it.


So let's get down to the nitty gritty. 


Because not all thank you notes (whether snail mail or email) are created equal.


If you are writing a generic form letter, people can smell it from a mile away. I could tell instantly which externs wrote the same message to every panelist and which took ten extra seconds to think a tad more about why they were thanking me specifically. The trick is to include details from your encounter to personalize your letter.


What's the best way to do that? Think of the things you genuinely appreciated about meeting that person. Even if you only said a two-second hello, you can comment on the location, the situation, or circumstances of the meeting. You can also mention something you admire about that person, or even suggest meeting again.


If you're having trouble putting the words together, though, here is a formula for a heartfelt thank you note:


Dear  ________, 

[Pay attention to how the person you're thanking introduced themselves and address your note accordingly. So if someone introduces herself with, "Hello, I'm Jane," don't write, "Dear Ms. Austen."]


I so enjoyed [meeting you/listening to you speak] at the [location] on [day]. The way you described [include a specific detail or story she mentioned] really made me think about [the thing she spoke about]. I can't wait to [put something she mentioned] into practice. 





Sample heartfelt thank you:


Dear  Sarah, 


I so enjoyed meeting you at the externship panel at the Scholastic building on Thursday night. The way you described your life as an editorial assistant really made me think about the day-to-day of working children's publishing--especially in a city that is overwhelming for newbies like me. I can't wait to do my research on companies, as you suggested, to find one that matches my love for YA books! 





It's the details, people. Of course, there is no one right way to write a thank you note. But if you're stuck, this little cheat sheet will help get your pen moving.


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