Why Saying ‘Thank You’ Now Can Lead to Career Success

Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Communicating with Professors, General, Interpersonal Communication | 27 comments

You can't text a 'thanks' after an interview and too many people fail to send a thank-you. Practice with an e-mail to your prof!

You can’t text a ‘thanks’ after an interview and too many people fail to send an actual note. Practice with an e-mail to your prof! (PS: How old is this phone, anyway?).

(It is the end of teacher appreciation week! Next week, I’m returning with student write-in’s, but sticking with the theme of career success this week. Do you feel like the art of ‘thank you’ is leaving us, along with face to face conversation? I hope not. I’m interested in your thoughts!)


I would like to speak with you. This is not class-related. Can we please schedule a call when you have some time?


I recently received this note just after one of my classes met for the last time. The student had a difficult term (personally, not academically), but ended up coming through magnificently.

Reading the urgency, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was alarmed, and even considered that maybe I’d done something during class that the student felt could only be discussed once the term was over (because it had to be about me!).

I’ll leave a momentary cliffhanger, but let me give you a little background into how my classes end and why I’m even mentioning this e-mail:

I teach hybrid classes right now. They meet once per week for two-plus hours. At the end of the term, when I calculate final grades, instead of sending students to the course management system for their outcome, I send each student a personal note… something like this:

“Dear Student,

You finished CMST XXX with a 3.5. Bravo! What a testament to your hard work and dedication!

I enjoyed working with you this term and wish you all the best in your educational journey.


If the student struggled, I will use this note to address the grade and any issues. If the student received a C, D, or failed the course, and I believe they might not be expecting that, I say, “In case this grade was not anticipated, you may have some questions. I reviewed your points throughout the term and here are the areas that contributed…”

I always say something encouraging, even I just congratulate them for finishing the course. I don’t believe the grade always tells the whole story.

After each student’s personal note is finished, I send one last broadcast to the entire class. I give instructions for grade discrepancies or concerns. I let students know how it is appropriate to stay in touch with me, if they so choose (i.e., I prefer an e-mail requesting a LinkedIn connection, rather than an auto-invite). I always offer a closing thought about our class and appreciation for their participation and engagement (if applicable… I don’t snow things over if the dynamic didn’t gel, but fortunately, that only comes around once in a while).

These e-mails used to breed a fair number of responses from students, a good-bye or final sentiment they didn’t express from class. Often, students just expressed appreciation–for the class, for something that I may have done, or even just for the relief of the class being over (i.e., Public Speaking). I have always loved this last connection.

I’ve noticed that e-mails are becoming fewer and fewer. That worries me.

Of course, because everything has to be about me, I initially thought, “Hmm, is my teaching crappier and students are ready to leave?” But I have fair evidence to indicate this is not the case.

I also wonder if e-mail is so ‘yesterday’ because it isn’t text? Or worse, do my students not realize the benefit of closing a communication loop with another professional, of leaving a lasting positive impression? I’m thinking it’s a combination of both.

So what’s the communication lesson here?

We know how many job candidates fail to send thank you notes. Career experts repeatedly confirm this.

So students, whether or not your professor has some final communication with you, or just says good-bye in person, I say that dropping a note as your class is ending, or even after it is over, can be an important move for you. Here’s why:

-You’ll get concrete practice extending thanks to a professional in a “higher up” position.
-You’ll have an opportunity to share a specific example of something you liked about the class. Again, important practice! When you write a thank-you note after an interview, you’ll want to cite a way that you’ll contribute to the company.
-You could share a constructive suggestion about how to make the class better–another marketable skill!
-You can request a recommendation letter or inquire about how to stay connected with the professor.

I promise you, taking this important step will make you memorable in a positive way. Profs don’t forget students who connect once class is done and we often save those emails!

So what should you say?


I wanted to say thank you and let you know that I enjoyed working with you this term. I feel that I became a stronger communicator because of what I learned in class. I really liked the lesson on conflict management and find that I’m already using the assertive message you taught us.

I would appreciate the opportunity to stay in touch with you. Do you prefer that students maintain contact through e-mail? Would you feel comfortable connecting with me on LinkedIn?



Not feeling “fluffy” about your experience? If the class sucked (as well as the professor), focus on what you learned and make some suggestions. Believe it or not, a prof you may not like could be helpful to you later. The connection is still worth it.

You can say, “You challenged me at times, but I know I became a stronger student from the experience.” (You might mean that you became stronger just putting up with him/her!) or ”I would have loved it if we could have had more time for small group discussions. Maybe you’d consider implementing this for future classes?”

See how professional you’ll appear? You’ll rock a post-interview thank you note–while you’re still in college!–and you may gain a permanent valuable connection!

Oh, right… The cliffhanger:

The student and I spoke via phone. Student wanted to express appreciation for my helping them maintain motivation during a particularly rough patch. Student appreciated that I came to class smiling. Student stretched themselves in ways that were unexpected.

Wow. I swelled with thanks for hearing these words. Profs need to hear this from time to time.

I told Student that I would continue to offer help as needed. I meant every word.

You deserve lasting contacts like that, too. So put fingertips to keyboard and make it happen!


Say This, NOT That to Your Professor helps with all types of e-mail conversations with faculty, as well as face-to-face interactions! Have you taken a look inside lately? The book has moved over to Pearson Education, but it is still on Amazon!




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