Back in the day before the electronic revolution, it wasn’t that uncommon to receive a handwritten letter or note card in the mail. As a kid, I used to wait eagerly for the mailman every day to see what he brought, excited at the possibility of a letter for me. Boy how times have changed.
Now, I can go days without checking the mail, and then walk straight to my recycling bin afterward. The art of a handwritten note or letter seems strangely outdated to many of us, but it shouldn’t be. Getting in the habit of writing and mailing a card or note is something that can go a long way toward building your network, making sure people remember you, and even building your credibility. Particularly in government, where electronic communication rules, a handwritten note will make you stand out from others and be remembered.
One reason people frequently cite for not handwriting notes is that they are too busy. True, email is nearly immediate, however the value added by handwriting a note makes the impact exponentially higher. Think of the difference in how you would feel if you received an email that said “the group enjoyed your presentation and got a lot out of it”, versus receiving a handwritten card saying the same thing, and signed by the participants. The email gets deleted immediately; the card stays on your desk for weeks or months. Where would you like to go for a follow up presentation? The location that sent the email, or the location that sent the card? Which makes you feel more appreciated and comfortable with the group? The power of a handwritten communication cannot be understated, and the small amount of time it takes is nothing compared to what you receive in return.
Writing business notes is a lot different than writing to your grandma. Short and to the point is best. Start your note with what you want to say: thank you, congratulations, I’m sorry, or thinking of you. Add a statement or two about the situation: “your skills in building stakeholder relationships will make you an awesome fit for that job”, and close with a statement about the future. “I look forward to working with you again soon in your new position”. “Your family will continue to be in our thoughts”. “I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn”. Sign your name, and you are done!
The easiest way to get started writing notes is to purchase some cards and notepaper and keep them in your desk along with a book of postage stamps. Cards with a generic design that are blank inside can be used for any occasion. Generally I like to have some that are more formal to be used for milestones, sympathy, or notes to executives, and a more casual style to be used for everyday occasions. I also keep a package of small cards and envelopes that are business card size. These are perfect for a “you rock” note to a coworker.
Knowing when to write a note is easy. You should use notes to acknowledge milestones, to keep up with your network, and for brief notes to coworkers to as mentioned above. Whenever you see a newsletter article or email about a person in your circle it is definitely a good time to write them a note. I also like to send notes when I attend a presentation where the presenter made a point that particularly resonated with me.
When you start handwriting notes, you will be amazed at the impact they have on the recipient. Handwritten notes can go a long way toward strengthening your relationships with others and keeping your network active. What are your thoughts on the art of the handwritten card? Comment below!
Brenda Dennis is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.