The Power of the Unexpected "Thank You"
Most of us understand that saying "thank you" is important. And we say it when someone gives us a gift, or does us a favor.
But how often do we say "thank you" when it's not expected?
If the answer is not very often, you're not alone. Often, it can be hard to find time to shoot someone a thoughtful email or write a thank you note.
However - expressing gratitude, specifically when you're not obligated to, is a major professional opportunity waiting for you to seize it.
Here's the why, followed by the how.
Jenny and her dream job
If you've read my new eBook on how to start a business, you know the final chapter is about the value and importance of saying "thank you," in general.
Jenny read this part of my book and wrote to me after it inspired her to do something recently.
Jenny was one of two people up for an amazing job. After several interviews, the HR recruiter rejected her based on her experience and hired the other candidate.
Rather than get mired down in feeling rejected, Jenny did something few would do in her situation: she created a "thank you" poster and sent it to the recruiter - solely in gratitude for being considered.
She used a large sheet of paper and used colored markers to decorate it. She drew the logo of the company, wrote words that resonated with the brand and the position, and made sure the center focus was a big "thank you" personalized to the recruiter, including a few sentences thanking her for the consideration. It was cheesy, but it was fun, it fit the brand, and it was definitely unexpected.
Shortly after, Jenny heard back from the recruiter.
Here's what the recruiter said,
"Thank you's are so rare in our society nowadays, and that's quite sad - if there's one thing I've gained out of all my past experiences, it's that gratitude and appreciation are so important in shaping you as a person."
Jenny had said "thank you" when she probably didn't feel like it. But with a bit of time, creativity, and a stamp, she solidified a powerful relationship with this recruiter.
This would have been a nice story, but this isn't where the story ends. It gets better.
I'll let her tell it,
"Remember that recruiter I just told you about who acknowledged my (cheesy) thank you poster, despite me being rejected for the role she interviewed me for? This morning, she offered me a different role that popped up - the one I really wanted.
She had mentioned in a previous e-mail that she would keep in touch due to my energy and passion, but I think it was mainly because of the thank you note (especially since she said it was next to her computer).
Who would have thought that a simple thank you poster after a rejection could land you your dream job?"
It did. And just like that, Jenny starts that dream job this month.
How can I put this into action?
Jenny's story and her success are somewhat rare, but not for the reasons you might think. They are rare because unexpected gratitude is rare.
But this doesn't have to be the case for you. You can have stronger relationships, big opportunities, and more too by doing exactly what Jenny did: by going out of your way to say "thank you."
Here's a couple of things you could thank someone for, on occasions where that thank you wouldn't necessarily be "expected":
- For organizing an event (like a networking mixer)
- For considering you for a job you didn't get
- For considering hiring you or requesting a proposal
- For inviting you to an event
- For sharing something of yours on social media (like on their Facebook wall) without being asked
- For teaching you something
- For being a supportive colleague, boss, or friend
- For being awesome! (Hint: these notes don't have to be thank yous, they can be "just causes" or "congrats" to celebrate something someone in your life did or accomplished)
And here are a couple of means to thank someone. The key here is to try to defy expectation or obligation with generosity and sincerity.
- If nothing is expected at all, an email can be great! If an email is expected, exceed that expectation with a letter or a gift. This isn't about spending money, it's about thoughtfulness. And the more genuine your thanks - however the method - the better.
- A handwritten thank you note note
- A personal thank you email (more than just a generic sentence or two)
- Calling someone
- Supporting someone's business or project online on your social media
- Sharing the story of how someone helped you publicly (like on social media, or during a meeting, announcements, etc.)
- Reciprocate in a big way if someone has done you a favor
- A personalized gift you make
- A personalized gift you purchase
- Flowers (check out The Bouqs.com for 10% off your first order)
- Cookies (MilkJar cookies look amazing + they ship)
The last thing I'll say about this is that it's never too late to thank or appreciate someone. There's perhaps nothing more unexpected than a note that comes days, weeks, months, or even years later. There's always opportunity to do something kind for someone else, and it will often be very appreciated.
In college, I remember being wide awake at 2am in the morning, inspired to write an entire letter to my high school history teacher. I'm not sure what compelled me at that moment, but I know it meant something to her. And it took reflecting on all she did for me to prepare me to write that letter anyway.
What's great about that story is that writing the letter meant a lot to me too. That's the wonderful thing about gratitude, it's a practice that benefits everyone involved in an inherent way.
Thank you to Jenny for sharing your story with me so it can inspire others. And from me to you, my sincere thanks for reading this. I hope it's something that helps you invite something new and great into your life or career.
PS: If you've got a story or experience to share like Jenny did, leave a comment and tell me. I'd love to hear more!