Practicing Gratitude: Professional Thank-you Notes

Though Thanksgiving is behind us, let us not be quick to move on from this season of gratitude. In the midst of final classes, papers, projects, and exams, take some time to stop and reflect on this past semester. What has brought you joy? What has made you laugh? What has allowed you to grow? What are you proud of? What (and who) are you most thankful for? Practicing gratitude is not just a good idea in theory, but it has been proven to increase mental, physical, and emotional health. I’m sure we could all use a little of that in a time that is typically pretty stressful for students. (Check out this Forbes article for more awesome benefits of thankfulness.)

So what does gratitude have to do with career development? So much! There are so many opportunities to practice gratitude in the working world, and getting into the habit of saying ‘thank you’ now as a student can only help you as you begin to build professional relationships.

One common way to give thanks professionally is by sending thank-you notes. This may sound simple, but depending on the situation, these can sometimes be intimidating to write. Below are some tips on how to construct and send a thank-you note with ease while also following professional etiquette.

When should I give a thank-you note?

The obvious answer is “whenever you feel thankful.” However, showing thankfulness when we feel it is not always at the forefront of our minds, and when we get busy, stopping to give thanks is one of the first things we forget to do. Taking the time to write a thank-you note can be very meaningful for a professional relationship.

In case you tend to forget this important deed, here are a few situations in which you should take the time to write and send a thank-you note: after an interview for graduate school or a job, when someone helps you receive an advancement or award, when someone speaks on your behalf as a professional reference, or when someone does something significant outside of their ordinary job duties to help or serve you.

What type of thank-you note do I give?

Determine how professional the correspondence is between you and the person you are giving the note to. The more professional the relationship, the more formal the note or letter should appear. For the highest level of professionalism, use strong-grade paper and a letterhead if one is available to you.  If you are using a pre-printed card, make sure the outside appears simple yet formal. When writing your note by hand, make sure you are using a smooth, fine-tip black pen that won’t smudge.

For less formal occasions in which you want to show gratitude, a regular thank-you card or a memo via email will suffice. For all situations, it’s important to remember who your audience is and consider what they would find appropriate and most meaningful.

What should I say in a thank-you note?

No matter the level of professionalism of your note, make it personal! Generic letters may show little effort and risk appearing disingenuous. Address the recipients by name. Within your first few sentences, state specifically what you are thankful for and how it has benefited or impacted you. If you are writing a full letter, feel free to expand upon that by stressing the importance of their help and mentioning specific positive attributes they demonstrated through their work. Close your note by offering future correspondence and reiterating your thankfulness. If you have typed your note, be sure to sign it by hand.

Remember that it’s important to remain positive and enthusiastic throughout your note, but make sure to keep it truthful. Going overboard with praise beyond what is true to you and the situation may also run the risk of appearing disingenuous.

Final considerations:

Timeliness is important. It is best to send your note within a week of the occurrence for which you are giving thanks so it remains relevant. When hand-delivering a card or letter, seal it in an envelope with at least the recipient’s name on the front. If you send the thank-you note through the mail, make sure you know the correct mailing address, as some offices have a mailing address that is different from their physical location.

Now that you have reflected on this semester and received tips on how to write a professional thank-you note, show your gratitude to some people before the semester runs out! It will truly make their day!

THANK YOU!

As always, we enjoy serving and working with UNCG students, and we want to say THANK YOU for another great semester! You help turn our passions into a reality as we watch you all grow from eager students to prepared professionals. Our interactions are so valuable, and we truly learn so much from you all every semester, which in turn equips us even further to give you all the best service we can give. Thank you for being the best, Spartans. We look forward to seeing you in 2016!

P.S. If you need us over the break, we’ll still be offering appointments!

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Sign up for the Student Alumni Mentorship Initiative (SAMI)

SAMI

You may remember our previous blog post on the Student Alumni Mentorship Initiative. If you’re interested in being a mentee or serving as a mentor, the time is finally here to apply! Here are the things to know before you submit an application.

Who is eligible?

We recognize having a mentorship can be so valuable for everyone. As this program builds and we gain more resources, we hope to extend it to all students. Until that time, SAMI is only able to serve the following populations:

Mentees – Undergraduates of UNCG majoring in Psychology or Human Development and Family Studies.

Mentors – Alumni or current graduate students of UNCG studying Psychology, Human Development and Family Studies, Counseling and Educational Development, or Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education.

What are the expectations for mentees/mentors?

  • Meet up either in-person or via video communication such as Skype or Google Hangout with your mentee/mentor at least once a month. That’s really only about four times over the course of the semester.
  • We also ask that in between these times, you both are willing to stay in touch and communicate via email in case the mentee has any quick questions or concerns! Mentees, take the initiative to reach out as questions come up.
  • All participants are to attend the meet and greet event at the beginning of the semester if your schedule allows (more details to follow)!

How do you apply?

Mentees: Click on this link to find the form to apply. Deadline to apply is December 1st.

Mentors: Click on this link to find the form to apply. Deadline to apply is December 1st.

Based on your registration form, we will find the best matched mentee or mentor. We are looking at career path, goals, and interests in order to help us in the matching process, so make sure you thoroughly and completely answer all of the questions.

Once matched, we will pass along the mentee’s and mentor’s contact information to one another. A meet-and-greet event will be hosted during the first couple of weeks of the semester so that mentees and mentors are able to connect in person! Though this officially kicks off the mentorship, we encourage the mentee and mentor to go ahead and contact one another as soon as the contact information is given.

Have a question?

Please contact Beth Clausing at eaclausi@uncg.edu for all questions about the SAMI process. If you meet the eligibility described above and are ready to apply, go ahead and click on the link above and fill out the form.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Getting Into Grad School: The Final Touches

This is the last part of our series this semester on getting into graduate school. You’ve written your personal statements, you’ve gotten great people to write your recommendation letters, and you have filled out all necessary application forms. This is excellent, but there are few final touches and things to do before hitting that submit button.

Review your materials.

Whether it’s your essay, personal statement, or resume, make sure you review it thoroughly.

Print each off and read it over. Sometimes having a hard copy in front of you allows you to read it differently and potentially catch mistakes more easily than if you were reading it on a computer screen.

Have a friend, coworker, professor, or someone else who knows you well read over your materials to make sure you are accurately and fully representing yourself. Now is not the time to underrepresent all that you have done!

Finally, feel free to stop into our office for a quick resume review between 10am and 4:30pm M-F, or schedule an appointment with a career advisor by calling 336-334-5454. We’re happy to pass along our resources and help make sure your materials are presented in a professional manner.

Order official transcripts.

First and foremost, make sure you are clear on what transcripts and documents are required for the application. Sometimes admissions applications will allow prospective students to attach an unofficial transcript. If you see this, don’t assume that they don’t also want an official one! Official transcripts need to be ordered and shipped to the graduate schools from your current school, which can take time. Missing the deadline of when this needs to be in to the admissions committee could delay review of your application, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Find out more on how to order an official transcript from UNCG here.

Pay the application fee.

You probably won’t be able to hit “submit” without paying the application fee, so this final touch is less of a reminder to pay, and more of a heads up that application fees can be pretty pricey and add up. Being a student is costly enough, so make sure you’re aware of the costs for the application fees so you can appropriately budget for it. Also, if you are unable to pay, there may be a way to receive a fee waiver. Take the extra time to look into whether or not this is an option and how to qualify; it could mean saving a lot of money!

Follow up with your references.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten people you trust to write your recommendation letters, but even dependable adults may need some gentle reminders. Go ahead and politely follow up with them. Make sure they are aware of the deadline, and see if there is anything you could provide to help them in the process of filling out forms and representing you accurately. Also, don’t forget your professional etiquette – be sure to thank them for their time and effort with a handwritten note!

Double-check that nothing is missing!

Once you have hit submit, make sure you double-check that all materials have been received. If the application is electronic, often times they will include a completion status. Continue to check your status until it says “complete.” If you do not yet have a “complete” status, follow up with outside sources on any pending documents. These include items such as GRE scores, recommendation letters, and transcripts. Even if the source ensures that the documents were sent, your application is not “complete” until the graduate school receives it. Feel free to call the graduate school if the deadline is approaching and you still have a “pending” status to make sure something wasn’t misplaced.

If there is no completion status given online, be sure to follow up with the admissions advisor via email or a phone call to make sure everything was received.

Prepare your professional wear.

Even after all parts of the application have been turned in, there is still more to come! Interviews are typically held in the spring semester to see if you are a good fit for the program beyond just your qualifications.

We have a lot of tips for preparing for an interview, but this upcoming break, spend some time considering your options for professional wear! A lot of sales are coming up (hello Black Friday, pre-holiday sales, post-holiday sales, and gift cards!), so catch the deals now and invest in some interview wear before next semester starts. That way, you won’t have to worry about finding interview attire when you’re busy in the midst of your final semester, and you can save some money!

Need some tips on what to get? Check out our Pinterest board on interview attire here.

Be confident and patient!

Hitting submit and preparing for interviews may produce some anxiety. That’s normal! After all, acceptance into graduate school could determine where and how you spend your next few years. But after everything is turned in and before you hear back from the admissions committee, what can you do to ensure an interview? Nothing! So enjoy the end of your semester and holiday season with friends, family, and some peace knowing that you’ve done all that you can do at this point. Be confident in how far you’ve gotten as a student, and be encouraged that this is just one piece of your life’s journey and what makes you a great individual!

The Importance of Writing in Your Career

Interformational Interviewing_blog picture

Post written by RJ Hooker, Federal Work Study and Marketing Coordinator of UNCG’s Career Services Center.

Along with my work in Career Services coordinating marketing/the student employment office, I’m also a working poet. That means that I went to graduate school specifically to learn about writing poetry, and that I now write and publish poetry. I don’t think I would’ve had access to the bevy of jobs in the field of career development without my writing abilities, nor would I have succeeded in those jobs. I use writing in every single element of my career; developing my resume and cover letter, sending interoffice email, creating copy for marketing materials, or simply taking clear and detailed notes. Getting comfortable and fluid with professional writing is a valuable asset both while looking for your dream job and actively working.  

I’m not suggesting that job seekers/young professionals need to pursue a degree in poetry or even take a poetry class (though it’s a great opportunity to learn how to write and talk about writing and engage in a powerful art form and you should totally do it!) but I do think it pays to have an understanding of what good writing is and how to apply it to your career.

So what is good writing?

Good writing in a professional context is writing that clearly communicates an idea to an audience. It seems so simple! We can all go home! More specifically, a good writer is adept at writing in multiple contexts to an audience in order to achieve a purpose. When writing professionally, you should always be aware of two things: your audience and your purpose.  Do you remember that from English 101?  Do you remember audience and purpose from every paper you ever had to write? They will continue to serve you throughout your writing life.

Audience

Your audience is who you’re writing to. Having a clear understanding of your audience allows you to use appropriate tone, level of formality, and jargon. Generally, you’ll write a very different email to your mother than you would to your boss. With a mom-destined email, you may appear more casual on the page, you may or may not use a greeting, and you might reference certain intimate details that your mother already has knowledge of. Conversely, when writing to your boss, you’ll tend toward more formality:  a clear and professional greeting, workplace appropriate language, and workplace-essential information. You might not rant incoherently to your boss about personal problems for instance. You may try to stay away from cursing in an email to your employer. Think about your audience first, then write!

Purpose

Your purpose is your reason for writing. Once again, this email to your mom might be general information, and might contain lots of different levels of information. You might ramble about whatever you want. In a professional context, however, you want to deliver a clear message in hopes of achieving clear results. I tend to think of purpose as an implied thesis statement. Interoffice communication should be about efficiency, so you generally should avoid sprinkling in personal and/or extraneous details.  

Putting them both together

The convergence of audience and purpose drive good writing.  I’ll use a cover letter as an example.  When I’m writing a cover letter, I’m writing to a hiring committee (that’s my audience) in hopes that they will consider me for a position (that’s my purpose).  That means I have work to do before I even begin writing.  I need to know who my audience is.  What does this employer stand for?  What can I learn about them from their website?  What are their values? Are they more professional or more casual?  My tone and language choice will directly be affected by my audience, and people tend to appreciate being written to like individuals.  

My purpose is to get hired.  That means that I need to tailor my cover letter to the wants and needs of the audience, and clearly demonstrate why they should hire me.  I only want to present them with information that pertains to my qualifications for the job.  Very importantly, my purpose shifts to accommodate my specific audience.  How I present myself depends on who I’m writing to and how I present my purpose.  

If you remember to consider your audience and purpose first, people will appreciate your engagement and clarity, and it might put you that much closer to getting an interview.

What about grammar?

Despite what you may have heard, good writing is more than just good grammar. If you have impeccable grammar but terrible idea formation and a lack of contextual awareness, you probably won’t be doing yourself or anyone else any good.  So grammar is a component, and good grammar, syntax, and punctuation make good communication more readable. It acts as the icing on the cake, so to speak.  

Good grammar is most essential when creating a resume and cover letter. When you’re applying to jobs, you don’t want to give potential employers any reason to throw your resume in the trash. Each employer is different however, and a glaring punctuational error will elicit different reactions.  It’s not really my purpose to discuss all of that here, but if you need to brush up on some mechanics, take a look at the Purdue OWL for some excellent information.

Event: Halloween Hoopla

In just two days, the Career Services Center will be hosting one of our favorite annual events – Halloween Hoopla! Whether you have never attended or attend every year, we want you to take a break from your hectic schedule and join us for some seasonal fun, treats, and prizes.

Halloween HooplaWhen: October 28th, from 10-2pm

Where: ALL OVER the Career Services Center, #1 EUC

We will also have lots of games and activities that combine the spookiness of Halloween and the fun of developing your career knowledge. Such activities include:

  • Cover Letter Catastrophe
  • Fashion Horror
  • Zombie Dining Zone
  • The Career Psychic
  • And much, much more!

We will also have lots of free candy and popcorn available as you walk through and complete the activities.

But that’s not all! For those who like FREE STUFF, we’ll also have a prize wheel. And of course, there will be an awesome grand prize, but only those who complete all of our Hoopla activities are eligible to win!

So take a break, and join us for a fun-filled time at Halloween Hoopla!

Getting into Grad School: Writing a Personal Statement

This is part three of our “Getting into Grad School” series, and we want to make sure you are well-prepared for one of the most important parts of the application process – The Personal Statement.

Most graduate school admissions applications will require a personal statement. This can also be called a statement of purpose. Typically, this allows the admissions committee to see who you are as an individual, a potential student, and a future professional. You want this to be personal, but you also want to be choosy with what you highlight about yourself. After all, this could determine whether or not you are given an interview.

Before you begin writing, make sure you are clear about the requirements, such as page length and specific topics or questions you are asked to cover. Once you have the basic requirements down, how do you then choose what to talk about? It may be helpful to begin with an outline and then narrow it down. Here are a few things to consider when creating your outline:

  • What do you think the reader wants to know about a future student?
  • What is your reason for deciding to pursue this particular field at this particular institution?
  • Stand out with your personal uniqueness – what would you add to the entering class?
  • What are your expectations with regard to the program?
  • What are your immediate and long-term goals?
  • Describe any research and/or work experience that has been an integral part of your journey in pursuing this field.

Next, use your resources. Come into our office for more tips and advice on writing a personal statement. You can schedule an appointment by calling our office at 336-334-5454. You can also check out USA Today’s college page here. They have great suggestions for writing a personal statement. Lastly, visit Purdue Owl’s Online Writing Center where you can find great writing tips as well as advice from admissions committee members.

Finally, once you have written your personal statement, proofread it! Here are some suggestions for making sure your personal statement is tailored to you:

  • Have a friend or family member read it to make sure it highlights your professionalism, experiences, and unique qualities clearly. Ask them if there is anything missing that they would include about you. Have you fully captured the essence of who you are?
  • Do you know someone who is already in the field? See if they would read your personal statement. Ask them if what you have written demonstrates a good fit for the graduate program and/or industry according to their experiences. Would they offer you an interview if they were on the admissions committee?
  • Email your old English teachers or visit the writing center to get feedback on your writing style. Did you use correct grammar, vary your writing style, spell everything correctly, and show professionalism? These things matter!

Best of luck, and remember to start early so you don’t have to rush through this important part of the application process!

Etiquette Dinner Sign-ups

Our annual etiquette dinner is approaching and you don’t want to miss it!

What is the Etiquette Dinner?

Enjoy a delicious dinner while learning about professional meal etiquette! This five-course meal includes broccoli-cheese soup, chicken francaise, baby greens with shaved vegetables, buttered bliss potatoes, roasted seasonal vegetables, lemon sorbet, and New York style cheesecake with fruit topping. A vegetarian meal option including eggplant roulade is available upon request.

Also, since this is a professional event, we require all attendees to wear their professional attire! This is great practice for future dinner interviews or business meals.

When: Thursday, November 12th
Time: 5-7pm
Where: Cone Ballroom, EUC

How to sign up:

Students register through SpartanCareers.
On-Campus GROUP Registration HERE.
Off-Campus Registration HERE.​

Deadline to register: October 30th

How much does it cost?

Single UNCG Student $15.00
Single Non UNCG Student $25.00
Group Table (8 UNCG Students) $150.00
U​NCG Faculty $20.00

­Be sure to check out our information tables around the EUC and Jackson Library during the next few weeks. We’ll have staff available to answer questions, prizes available for those who register, and helpful information to get you excited for this awesome opportunity!