Retro touches in a tech-driven world


I have on my desk two thank-you notes and a birthday card, all received recently as tokens of appreciation.  These aren’t just nice — they’re examples of how old-school etiquette can work in your favor.

Let’s begin by saying that I do my best to be impartial when we’re offering referrals and contracting.  Sending me a note is not likely to directly increase your chance of getting gigs through the List.  But the reality of human nature is that the more legitimate interaction any of us has with a colleague, the more we’re likely to remember that person when asked for help.  It helps keep you “top of mind”, and the warm associations that come with a nice card far outweigh a vague “oh, yeah, I’ve heard of him” when asked about a particular Lister.  (And they’re infinitely more valuable than “oh, that’s that girl who won’t leave me alone.”)  It’s just the way life is.

There are limits to this, of course. Some teachers and coaches still encourage their students to send thank-you notes after auditions, for instance, and while this practice is welcome by some people in the position to hire, it’s not a universal boost to either your memorability or your chances.  There are even those who hate what they see as a manipulative gimmick, so asking around about particular preferences can be a good idea if you’re unsure.

Where classic gestures like thank-you notes can really help is when a colleague has done something specifically to help you, e.g. referring you for a gig, covering your church job or even carpooling to an event.  These situations show a specific investment of time and an interest in your success (as well as their own), and gratitude is well warranted.


Hard copies

In the same way, real-world copies of assets like business cards and resumes are still very valuable, no matter how many ways you can transmit them digitally.  As much as a quick transfer, email, text etc. can get your info to a new contact in a flash, it’s that very speed that makes it easy to forget.  Putting a business card in their hands, however, gives them a visual cross-reference, gives you a chance to write a personal note (and an additional handle to why they should remember you) and not only cements your info more solidly into their brain when they do add you to their system, but you have a shot of your card floating around a desk, purse or office for a while, so they’ll see your name and make those connections more than once.  In short, that little card is worth many times its monetary cost, and nothing yet has proven as effective.

The same goes for printed resumes — work up an easily scannable quick one-page version that gives people an overview of what you’re all about, and keep a copy or two fairly close at hand.  Then beware: whipping out a resume is not the same as handing someone a business card, and it’s an unusual enough gesture that it will be noted.  But if the moment truly feels right, you’ll be ready, and you’ll have a rare opportunity to personally walk a potential colleague through the parts of your history that matter to them.

eye-1-1545819-639x936Eye on the ball

Remember that the point is to honor and nurture your existing  relationships and to build the new ones in a unique and legitimate way.  Keep the interactions genuine, and don’t force the relationships — these are tools, not gimmicks, and sincerity is crucial.  Cultivate your ability to communicate out of gratitude rather than a fear of failure, and your confidence will find you.  (It gets easier with practice!)

In future posts

  • Gift-giving as networking
  • Why business cards are your most important tool (and how to use them up!)
  • Writing a great thank-you note

Stay tuned!

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