Why being thankful is important for your career

I have a two and a half year old son who I don’t often write about on this blog.  He is a joy – this morning he stood looking in wonder at our town’s Christmas tree in the market square and was totally awestruck.  It is amazing to watch someone discover the world for the first time. When he first starting speaking – not that long ago – the first words we taught him were ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘hello’, ‘bye’, ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’.  At two and a half, he is very good at saying thank you.  Sadly many adults are not quite as polite.

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA.  The vast majority of Americans spent the day with their families, watching (American) football, eating turkey and pumpkin pie and giving thanks for all the things they’re grateful for.  Tomorrow is Black Friday and many Americans will be out buying Christmas presents for their loved ones in a frenzy of bargain hunting.  It appears that the Black Friday tradition has made its way over to the UK, but rather sadly we’ve not yet adopted the giving thanks part of the holiday.

We have harvest festival, which some say is where Thanksgiving originates from, but no one seems to celebrate it these days. When I was a kid, everyone took shoe boxes of food into school to give to the poor and needy and at church on Sunday we’d lay vegetables at the alter to thank God for giving us a bountiful harvest.  We said thank you and felt good about it.

It’s a pity that a holiday which celebrates being thankful and grateful is not more widely adopted here, but even more of a shame is that the act of giving thanks is slipping out of every day life.

This month, the latest batch of graduate trainees finished their 10-week training programme with the Taylor Bennett Foundation. One of the very last things we ask them to do is to write to all the people who have helped to guide and support them during their time with us and some of the letters were very touching.  Today one of the recipients of those letters emailed me to say what a nice touch it was to receive a thank you in the post.

The fact that it was such a surprising thing for him to receive is a shame, I think.

Lots of people ask me for career advice. I can spend considerable amounts of time helping them think about a suitable career path and draft a decent CV or cover letter only to never receive a thank you and, sometimes, to never hear from them again or worse, to only hear from them again if they want something else from me.  I often wonder if they have the same approach with everyone they meet, in which case they will burn bridges fairly quickly. 

Saying thank you is an important part of your career building.  Networking is not just about meeting new people, it’s about building those relationships and keeping them going – that’s the hard part – and thank yous are a really easy way to do that.  As saying thank you properly is apparently so rare, it will also make you stand out as the person who is suitably grateful for someone’s time and effort but more than that, it’s the polite thing to do – just ask my two and a half year old.


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