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Why Handwritten Notes Aren’t Just for Grandma

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Become an idea apprentice

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.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1204823660 Nichole Marconi

    Great advice, Brian Clapp.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=617536102 Dawn Greer Foster

      I love a handwritten note- giving and receiving.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=312956242073581 University of Portsmouth Tech Student Placement & Employability Centre

    Such a great – yet simple – idea to help ensure you are remembered!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=151720971541309 SportsTVJobs.com

      Thanks – sometimes the best answers are the simplest ones! Technology doesn’t always rule the day

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=121243774613278 Red Cape Revolution with Coach Darcy Eikenberg

    Great article, especially noting how many people aren’t doing this! I just had a client send thank you cards to interviewers for a job she didn’t get–and now has another job offer! Even if your handwriting is bad, you can slow down for a few minutes and make it readable–I do!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=151720971541309 SportsTVJobs.com

      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.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1389578746 Darcy Eikenberg

      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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=253325191438760 Influence Media

    Even if your handwriting is bad, you can slow down for a few minutes and make it readable–I do!

    Influence Media offers: Social Media Marketing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002363125015 Jennifer Hughes-Westwood

    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!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=151720971541309 SportsTVJobs.com

      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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=430135643693010 letters.io

    great article! you can do this a lot easier and save yourself a lot of time by using http://www.epistly.com for this!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=151720971541309 SportsTVJobs.com

    Glad you liked it – hopefully it’s something you implement in your job seeking routine