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Why Handwritten Notes Aren’t Just for Grandma

If you’ve just graduated or are wrapping up an internship and find yourself in job-seeker mode, you’ve probably been inundated with the career cliché “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Those are nine very scary words for anyone without many professional contacts. (And who are we kidding? Lots of us lack professional contacts when we’re new to the workforce.)

That cliché can also turn into an excuse: “I don’t know anyone, so how in the world am I going to break into my field? I might as well just give up, move home and plant flowers with Mom.”

Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. And digging in the dirt with Mom should scare you way more than creating a network. Put down the Garden Weasel, take a deep breath, and start building your network from the bottom up with a simple technique anyone can replicate.

What’s this technique?

We all know it’s important to make the right impression by working hard, listening to advice and learning from your mistakes. But you want to be truly memorable, right? For that, you need a follow-up plan.

Try this: Each time you meet someone through an internship, volunteer work, networking events, conferences and career fairs, go low-tech to correspond with them.

What do I mean by low-tech?

Write hand-written cards.

Whoa! Crazy talk!

Every guy reading this just thought, “Sounds kind of… girly. Should I put unicorn stickers on the note, too?”

Get over yourself. Everyone sends emails; it’s an easy way to communicate and shows no real effort. Be different… and if you must, buy manly cards.

In today’s office environment, the average person gets about 50-100 emails per day. Per day! Now imagine how your meager “thank you for your time” email is treated amidst a sea of meeting requests and inter-office banter.

Writing a handwritten note is a welcome change amongst all the computer-generated fluff—a warm heartbeat in a sea of cold Arial font. It’s real. Just make sure you have a human spell-checker who’s as good as Microsoft.

Okay, I bought cards. Now what?

Keep a record of all the people you make contact with and specific things they helped you learn. Within a week after your internship (or conference visit, or networking event) is complete, get to work writing and sending out your cards.

The biggest takeaway: Keep it simple and make it specific.

Let’s say you shadowed a Sales Manager for a local pro sports team and they allowed you to listen in on a sales call. Here’s an appropriate card to send:

“Just wanted to say thank you for allowing me to shadow you during my recent internship at (insert company name). Being able to listen in on your sales call and hear how smoothly you were able to close a deal gave me great insight into what it takes to work in sales. I graduate in the spring and really look forward to talking to you again in the near future.”

In one simple card, you’ve:

This technique can be applied to any industry: sales, business, broadcasting, advertising, you name it.
In my career, I’ve interviewed hundreds of potential employees and received just three hand-written cards. Three. Two of those people got hired, and the other was a Seattle SuperSonics cheerleader who dotted her I’s with hearts but wasn’t qualified.

Those three people were disruptive to my normal routine—in a good way. They stood out. You can stand out, too, and build a network of contacts and supporters from the bottom up with just the power of your pen.

Brian Clapp is the founder of SportsTVJobs.com, the richest online resource for aspiring sports broadcasting professionals. You can connect with Brian on Twitter via @SportsTVJobs.

19 comments

    • Thanks Darcy – glad you enjoyed the article. My handwriting is awful, so I’ll type out what I want to say and then take the time to transcribe it legibly in a card. I think so many of our minds move faster than our penmanship, and that’s why we get away from this simple, personal technique.

    • Good idea about typing it out first, then writing it down. Sometimes in a hurry, though, I’ll just write “THANK YOU” really large (and sign it!) and hear later it made people laugh! Might not be the right approach for a new relationship, but for someone who’s been there for you several times, can be a fresh surprise!

  1. I really like the reasoning and approach you give to this “low tech” (and often forgotten) follow-up tactic, especially given our overabundance of ways to thank people via a quick tweet, Facebook post or mobile text. Examples like the ones you provide are topics we need to constantly remind our students about at Westwood to ensure they are putting their best foot forward during school, an internship or their job search. Great stuff!

    • Thanks Jennifer! I’m as guilty as anyone for often taking the easy technology route. But when think about the people I remember most from interviews I’ve conducted, it’s been those who followed up in this very personal manner. Glad you enjoyed the article!

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