A New/Old Strategy for Career Success: Handwritten Letters
When’s the last time you wrote a letter by hand? If you’re like many of us, it was probably the last time you had to write an actual thank-you note — your wedding, perhaps, or a childhood birthday. If you are already short on time, the idea of adding such a labor-intensive project to your to-do list can seem overwhelming. But taking 10 minutes a week to send at least one handwritten letter can provide a networking boost that email can’t offer.
(Photo Credit: Muffet/Flickr)
That’s what Aja Frost of The Muse discovered, when she made an unusual New Year’s resolution to send one handwritten letter per week to a professional contact. She only had one rule, that she wouldn’t request anything in the letter; she didn’t want the action to come off as a polite attempt to ask for something. Already, she’s found that the weekly letters have had powerful, sometimes surprising, ramifications. Perhaps this idea could work for others as well.
Here are some of the potential benefits of writing a weekly, professional, handwritten letter.
1. It will focus you.
Sitting down to write a letter used to be a normal human action, but these days – it’s borderline quaint. But the thing is, writing a letter can be a very pleasurable activity. It doesn’t take very long, but unlike emailing, while you’re writing your letter, you’ll enjoy getting to focus on just that one thing, and it will clear your mind and have a calming influence on your mood.
2. It’s surprising.
These days, people notice a handwritten letter, whereas an email will seldom make much of an impact. The very first week, Frost sent her letter to a PR rep that had helped her with a story, thanking her for her time and input. A week later, the person responded, saying that she rarely receives mail at work, so the letter excited her. She also requested a copy of Frost’s resume. People will feel surprised when they receive your letter, so they will pay extra close attention to its contents. It’s good to be surprising. It helps you stand out, and it lets others know that you are capable of the unexpected.
3. It’s kind of charming.
Writing a letter by hand is sort of poetic these days. It’s kind of charming and creative, and therefore enjoyable, to put pen to paper. Without spellcheck, devoid of email signatures and attachments, your ideas and perspective will resonate for your reader on a different level. And, in writing the letter, you will connect with your ideas differently too. The exercise will have a positive effect on you, while the end product works to charm the reader simultaneously.
4. It shows effort and appreciation.
Frost points out in her piece that a handwritten letter has become a real gesture. People notice that you took the extra time required to send this sincere and heartfelt contact their way, and they’ll appreciate it. It shows you’re willing to go the extra mile, and it also demonstrates a level of heart that some will find pretty endearing.
5. It strengthens connections.
Because handwritten letters are surprising, show effort and appreciation, and demonstrate your ability to focus and also think outside of our modern box, they will have an impact. Professional connections, relationships, are now and will forever be a major key to success. Strengthening these bonds is arguably the single best thing you could do for your career. Consider writing some letters to people you’d like to connect with on a richer level – it could help.
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What old-fashioned career advice do you still use? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.
Gina Belli works as a teacher, freelance writer, and educational consultant, and lives in her beloved home state, Connecticut. She likes to write about education, work-life balance, and the economy. Given her arresting capacity to over-analyze anything interpersonal, her writing often tends to focus on some of the more emotional aspects of workplace connections and disconnections, as they relate to partnerships and teams, personality and communication styles, and leadership. In her free time, she likes to putter around her renovated one-room schoolhouse home, take walks in the woods, and eat as much guacamole as she can get her hands on.