Professional “Thank You” Not Required?

Quite often I receive emails from students in MLIS programs asking for advice. This can be as simple as help with a paper, a cataloguing question or long-term career advice. Sometimes these emails also involve in-depth questions regarding the future of cataloguing, areas of the profession that are growing, my professional opinion on certain topics or participation in studies, research or interviews.

Receiving these emails on an almost monthly basis, I continue to take the time to answer them, thoughtfully providing responses, direction, opinions or, when I have no answers, other resources or individuals that I believe will be helpful. However, what always stands out when helping these individuals is that I rarely, if ever, receive a “Thank You”. It’s easy to send an email. Easier than picking up the telephone or writing a letter. While I am not so long in the tooth, I had it drilled into me from an early age that a simple Thank You letter goes a long way. And, to me, it does. When a new professional wants something, how easy it is to send a quick email or text. And then — “ding”– their smartphone goes off when they receive a text or email back, providing them with answers to their queries. But how much effort does it take to send a simple “Thank you” in return? Apparently, a lot.

Within the past two weeks, I received two requests for assistance. And, given my ongoing experience with young professionals who are used to instant gratification (in this case, quick and “easy” answers with no thought to the professional’s time on the other end), my knee-jerk reaction was to say “no”. How terrible of me. Why should these students face the consequences of their peers’ actions? So, of course, I am taking the time to do it. Why? Because I am a professional who believes in mentoring and growing the profession through working together, sharing information and building relationships. Because, for every 1 out of 30 young professionals who take the time to say “Thank You”, I know that perhaps, one day, I will meet or read about that young individual making a difference in our profession. And, by some small chance, maybe I made a positive impact in their career choices and path.

However, I do find the lack of a professional “Thank You” troubling. Why are our young professionals not learning about how to conduct themselves professionally? Should they have to be taught about professional conduct (which in this case, seems more like common courtesy) at the graduate level? Should we be addressing this behaviour at conferences? In the classroom? While I am not sure where this needs to be addressed, we certainly need to take note of this or someday, an aspiring mover & shaker may write an email that is never responded to; never answered because the respondent no longer takes the time to respond to emails and is no longer interested in mentoring or sharing their expertise. What a shame that would be.



Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics

12 responses to “Professional “Thank You” Not Required?

  1. This point is certainly something I have experienced. I have often gone out of my way to provide assistance (not class related) to students without getting a thank you. I agree that we need to address professional behaviour more closely, and this is certainly something upon which my colleagues and I will be placing a greater emphasis.

  2. As a recent MLIS grad, I recall the numerous occasions that we were advised to send out thank you notes, especially post-job interview. This advice has stayed with me. This simple step can so easily be forgotten, especially if help was solicited by email, but I agree with you, a thank you message should be sent immediately, before it gets shuffled into the “to do” pile (although late is better than never!)

    Young professionals need to remember that every action they make in the context of their career will affect their future. A professional is be much more likely to hire someone they remember in a positive light. In our current economic climate, we can use all the help we can get!

    Thanks for the reminder, Laurel.

  3. Becky

    I have always considered a short “thank-you” email a very appropriate thing to do – asking for information related to classes, interacting with peers, after a job interview. However, I was asked recently *not* to do this, by a few different sources. One at my current workplace, one when I was just finishing up library school from a professor, which was rather surprising. Here was the reasoning from the workplace memo that was sent out, there was a small blurb from an article in the Washington Post titled “Could you go info-vegan?”

    “Dispensing with the pro forma thank-you makes sense to me, as I’ve found they can quickly fill an inbox and are especially cumbersome on a smart phone. Thus, henceforth I will thank you in my initial communications, but will not slow you down by thereafter reiterating my gratitude. Know that I deeply appreciate who you are and what you do for me. Consider this a standing, “Thank you!!”

    Different perspective I guess – I still think it’s important to acknowledge the time and effort that an individual has given to you.

  4. yes. yes! and YES! Thank you for bringing this out in the open. A quick “thanks” goes a very long way –

  5. Laurel Tarulli

    Thanks for the comments!

    Becky – your comment is a unique and welcome perspective.

    It’s a fortunate individual indeed that helps so many individuals out that they ask not to be thanked because their inbox is too full!

    In all seriousness, I can see the point about unnecessary thank you emails sent out to work colleagues within your organization or individuals you know personally. Often, when writing emails to colleagues that I have a relationship with, I do thank them in the initial email, saying something along the lines of “thank you in advance for your help”. However, when I undertake to write an email to a professional that I have never met and am asking them to do a favor for me or to assist me, I do send a thank you email. To me, it’s important that I’m acknowledging the time an individual took, which is not required, but appreciated.

    I think there’s a fine line between abusing any type of behaviour in this connected age. What sets a professional apart is when to use (knowing when to use) certain standard, traditional courtesies and when to understand the impact technology plays on other forms of communication and courtesies.

  6. Hi there, just found your blog while looking in to cataloguing (my newfound love!). I’m a current LIS student in Toronto, and I must say that as a whole we’re taught very little about the ins and outs of professional conduct. I also agree that this is certainly a crucial issue when considering the current job market – LIS students should be doing everything they can to be as professional as possible. I think I’ll suggest a “how to act professionally” workshop for the iSchool.
    Thank you! 🙂

  7. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Emily! Thanks for your comment. Let me know if your idea is accepted about the workshop. That would be an interesting topic!

  8. Hi again, so I spoke with the iSchool’s careers counsellor, and she told me she’s going to be running a business/professional etiquette workshop this year! Hopefully lots of students go 🙂
    Thanks for your reply!

  9. Laurel Tarulli

    Emily – That’s great news! I hope the workshop is a success and there are lots of helpful and thoughtful material presented.

  10. I agree that the pro forma thanks is probably more of a nuisance than a help. Nevertheless, I don’t think a more well-developed expression of gratitude is out of place, especially when the person being asked for information, help, etc. has put an obvious effort into the response. Let me know HOW I helped and what you did to further your own effort and you’ll go a long way toward making a friend/colleague for life.

  11. Marie

    I am just so glad to hear a professional speak out about this somewhat uncomfortable topic of addressing the lack of professionalism in new graduates. I think it’s important for new grads to hear it from that point of view, and maybe they need to be “shocked” a little bit into recognizing the importance of these simple gestures. As a relatively new graduate myself, it was tough at first for me to learn some of the ways that I might have ‘turned people off’ in my interactions with professionals. I used to go to interviews and neglect to ask for a business card so that I could get in touch w/ the interviewers and thank them for their time. At first I wasn’t even aware how important this was. It is SO IMPORTANT. Doing this has increased my overall interviewing effectiveness because apparently I am doing better (landing in the “A” band more often)! So thank you for your insights–it can’t have been easy to write this, but it is so valuable to hear this from the inside.

  12. Marcus Fentel

    Professional thank-yous are important, and easy to do. But I’d suggest that instead of an email thank-you, you send it in a way lets the recipient make it public if they like, on a webapp like or similar.

    That way, they can get some career benefit from your thanks.

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