Whether you are completing your first internship experience or your tenth, there are certain fundamentals that never go out of style. Growing up I was taught that there was no such thing as an inappropriate occasion for a thank you note. In my mind it is right up there with no such thing as being overdressed - etiquette and manners are always appreciated and important.
For some people, however, the art of the thank you note can be tricky even for the most menial situations, so for something as critical as an internship it can really be stressful. Whether you are finishing an internship, post-interview, or even leaving to move on to a new career path - the impact and impression you give upon leaving is in my opinion far more important than the beginning impression.
Many people come into an internship strong, but have a tendency to fall a little short and lose their sparkle at the end. You have college on your mind, the thought of returning to your friends, and those oh-so-coveted days of sleeping in that are ahead of you. Don't fall for this trap! This is when you are being evaluated the most! Decisions about job offers (or even recommendations) are about to be made, and you are under a bigger microscope than ever.
A thank you note is just one small gesture you can make at the end to make sure you leave the best impression possible. Here are some of my must-do's for writing the perfect thank you note in a professional context:
1. Figure out who you are writing to. You don't need to write a handwritten note to every single person you interacted with in the office; that is definitely overkill! These notes should be going to anyone who had a significant or consistent interaction with you - whether it was your friendly coworker who always made sure to make you feel included and give you advice, or your supervisor who provided guidance and support throughout the entire process. For other people who played a less significant role, but that you still feel deserve a little recognition, a simple email within 24 hours of leaving is plenty sufficient.
2. Choose the right stationary. No one loves an adorably preppy stationary set more than me, but there is a time and a place. There are plenty of simple, professional paper sets out there that can still reflect your personal style, like this, this and this from sugar paper. (You can also check out some of my other favorite picks from sugar paper here.)
3. Start by thanking them for the time they put into developing/supporting you. Let them know that their time was valuable to you, and you recognize the effort and energy they put into your experience. Everyone wants to know that their efforts are appreciated at the end of the day.
4. Reiterate how valuable the experience was to you, and how grateful you are to have been given this opportunity. No matter what your reasons are for leaving, it is important to make it clear that you valued everything you gained from the experience.
5. Wish them well, and mention that you want to stay connected in the future. Thank you notes are great door-openers for future connections and networking possibilities. They let the other person know that although your professional experience as colleagues is coming to an end, this doesn't mean that your personal interactions have to do the same. This is especially important if you are seeking employment with the company after an internship, or simply to continue to expand your professional network. You never know what opportunities you might find someday through this connection.
And of course, add your own personal touch! Don't make the note sound scripted - let your personality shine through. The whole purpose of a thank you note is to give something a personal touch, so don't entirely eliminate that aspect.
P.S. These tips are also very applicable to writing thank you notes after job interviews, or even after being rejected for a job! (Yes - I mean that! I still write thank you notes after rejections letting the interviewer know how much I appreciated their time and informing them that I am still interested in the company/position, and that I hope they keep me in mind for future openings). This can be invaluable in demonstrating professionalism and grace in an unfortunate situation, and it will only benefit your reputation.
Feel free to reach out for any advice, suggestions, or questions! I would love to hear from you!