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Why It's Time To Bring Back The Classic "Thank You" Letter

Culture

We've all seen it in the headlines in the past couple of weeks: "The United States Post Office is dying." With the continued surge of private shipping corporations and a global health crisis that is cutting mail flow off at the knees, it appears that the post office may be joining local restaurants and small businesses in permanently shuttering once life returns to a post-pandemic normal.

There is an unconscious mundanity to the routine of the post office; it's something you never think about until the moment you have to. In this way, it's difficult to comprehend a world without a post office and easy to consider if your life would be any different without it. However, in all of the articles discussing bailout money, aid packages, and attempts to privatize, something not addressed is something that still feels undeniable: the cultural capital of a handwritten thank-you note.

However, in a time where jobs are going digital at a faster rate than ever, the new way to stand out may actually not be so new at all.

There is no denying that the digitization of best business practices has streamlined the entire process of employment — all the way from applying to hiring. LinkedIn was founded in 2003 on the basis that you don't have to shake hands to network anymore and is only one of countless platforms and digital methods that have replaced job fairs, handing out business cards, and the ever-dreaded cold-calling.

However, in a time where jobs are going digital at a faster rate than ever, the new way to stand out may actually not be so new at all. A handwritten thank-you note, the honored tradition of grandmothers and birthday parties alike, may prove more effective at helping you to stand out than any number of digital self-marketing techniques. Simply put, a handwritten thank you note continues to demonstrate something that an email follow-up simply cannot. A letter shows a little bit of grace, class, and care, and it's certainly cheaper than a fruit basket or a bottle of wine. Plus, you never have to worry about it getting buried in your thousands of unopened emails.

So consider this your opportunity to make it personal — literally. As much as we all get excited about emails reporting that our packages are out for delivery, the purity of receiving mail that is unexpected and unannounced touches us differently. There is real, tangible effort there, an endearing quality for anyone we might invite into our lives, be it through friendship, romantic pursuits, or even a potential employment opportunity.

By taking the time and attention to write out a note (and to spell everything correctly), you are demonstrating your employability and your character at the same time. A handwritten letter embodies all of the interview advice you've ever received: Be concise. Be authentic. Be considerate. Be yourself.

As much as we all get excited about emails reporting that our packages are out for delivery, the purity of receiving mail that is unexpected and unannounced touches us differently.

Let's return to the days where "You've Got Mail" wasn't just an outdated digital notification from AOL (or a rom-com starring Meg Ryan.) And while both of the references might make you appear out-dated, contrary to modern conventions, handwriting a letter won't. Somehow, letters have shifted into the elegance of timelessness, where regardless of your age or the age of the recipient, it will mean something more than the words inside. Handwriting a letter is about the details that make us unique and make us human, seeking out a connection to simply say, "Thanks."

Much like that job interview or consultation over coffee, however, appearance is everything. Here are a few online stationery providers that may suit your thank-you note needs:

  1. Scriptura
    A brand committed to "classic elegance and artful living," Scriptura seeks to maintain the etiquette of letter-writing through its stylish designs. They also offer personalization for their stationary, another way to make sure your letter speaks to exactly who you are.
  2. Minted
    Minted uses a network of independent artists and designers to offer a wide variety of unique and elegant designs. Minted seeks to support the creative in their craft through their dedication to community and accessibility, and you can contribute to this support system by purchasing some of their note cards.
  3. Sugar Paper
    For a more minimalistic design approach, check out Sugar Paper, an LA-based company started by two women focused on creating "beautiful, tangible things by hand that would far outweigh anything in the digital space."
  4. Tom Pigeon
    We love these geometric and abstract designs by Tom Pigeon that give a pop of color while still staying professional. Without any words on their fronts designating them for a specific purpose, these cards are incredibly multi-use and bring a touch of modern personality to your note.
  5. StudioSarah
    A London-based brand, StudioSarah is known for their "feminine, contemporary collections of paper." The pastel color scheme and metallic accents bring a modern twist to the classic fonts and layout.

By taking the time and attention to write out a note (and to spell everything correctly), you are demonstrating your employability and your character at the same time.

Regardless of the stationary option that you choose, you are sure to make an impression by mailing a handwritten thank you letter to your interviewer or the friend of a friend who talked with you about a career change. Letters represent a transition back to basics, where gratitude is in the details, and networking can happen in your mailbox — not your inbox. And maybe, while we are seeking new, old ways to say thank you and expand our own networks, we can save the USPS, too.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.