The Importance of Saying Thank You

Contributed by Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director at Virginia Tech Career Services


Thank you. Two words we all like to hear but sometimes don’t hear enough. In the past week, I’ve heard those words from three different students; each time I received their emails, it made my day. My mother was such a stickler for writing thank you notes that five of my lifelong friends read thank you notes to my Mom at her memorial service. Saying thank you was definitely pounded into me, but not everyone can say that. When is a note of thanks called for?

Thanks for your time—a meeting, interview, maybe even a phone call. Recently when I was making a class presentation about interviewing, one student questioned me about writing a thank you note because he thought he would come off as a “brownnoser” (his words). I assured him that rather than be viewed as this, the recipient would consider him a polished professional who knows the proper way to show appreciation for the gift of time out of a busy day meeting with him.

Thanks for the meal. If someone takes you out for a meal, it’s appropriate to send a note of thanks to your host.

Thanks for the gift. I’ve heard of some parents who make their children write thank you notes before they are allowed to play with presents they received. Although my mother wasn’t that strict (and neither am I as a parent), writing thank you’s was a routine during the winter holidays and after other special occasions involving gifts during both my and my two children’s young lives.


Thanks for the training or professional development opportunity. In my almost 20 years of career services work at a state university, I’ve experienced budget cuts more than once. As our office budgets were slashed, our Director, Donna Ratcliffe, never cut our professional development budgets; meanwhile, my SoACE and VACE friends at other colleges were unable to attend conferences, training programs and more as their budgets were reduced. If you really value professional development like I do, then show your appreciation to your supervisor and/or Director by sending a note of thanks after returning from the conference or training program, sharing what you learned—a nice touch that few professionals take the time to write.

Thanks for the raise. When you receive a raise or promotion, thanking your supervisor for supporting this increase is a smart move.

Thanks for being a reference. This is another one that we advocate to students as we talk about references for job searches and graduate school applications. Upon completing the process, thanking those who made recommendations on your behalf is a key action to take. You want to treat your references well, so they will serve in that role in the future.


Thanks. In what form? If possible, putting in the extra effort to write a handwritten note makes the most impact. We all get lots of emails—a hard copy thank you will often stand out. A few years ago I interviewed six students for an HR Intern position to assist me with a career advisor search I chaired. All six candidates were equally strong for varied reasons. How would I ever pick one? One candidate dropped by a typed thank you note. Guess which student I hired? The thank you note made the difference.

A final word of thanks to you for reading this post.


Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director, Career Services Auxiliary

Claire Childress, Virginia Tech Career Services Senior Assistant Director for Job Search and Graduate School Preparation advises students and leads a team of advisors and a portfolio of services and programs. Prior to over 19 years at Virginia Tech, she worked in distance education and as an adjunct faculty member at New River Community College, as a healthcare marketer and as a banker. A former President of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Employers, Claire currently serves as SoACE Director of Professional Development. She writes regularly for her career advising blog, CareerChasse. Connect with Clair at or on LinkedIn.



What’s in Your Active Learning Toolbox

Contributed by: Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director at Virginia Tech Career Services

Edward Weisband, Psci; classroom with students; diversity

“Everyone stand up. I’m going to read 5 items, and then follow the instructions.

  1. If you don’t know what you want to major in or the career you want to pursue, SIT DOWN.
  2. If you want to find a job while you’re in college and get some experience in your career field, SIT DOWN.
  3. If you don’t have a resume, SIT DOWN.
  4. If you haven’t done a lot of interviewing for jobs, SIT DOWN.
  5. If you think you want to go to vet school or some other graduate or professional school, SIT DOWN.

If anyone is still standing, you can leave, because you don’t need to hear what I have to say.”

That last bit usually gets some laughs if some students in the audience are still standing—they don’t really leave.

The above activity is one active learning tool I use to begin a presentation providing an overview of Virginia Tech Career Services to a group. I’ve used this exercise for a number of different kinds of topics and audiences. This method is especially good to use if you’re addressing a group who has been sitting for a while. For example, I used this at a Career Services staff meeting when I was one of the later speakers on the agenda and we were talking about LinkedIn. Getting an audience to stand up for an activity like this gets them recharged and ready to listen to the rest of what you want to share.

There are all kinds of active learning tools to employ in classroom presentations or lectures or in meetings to engage participants and get them talking. With the short attention spans we encounter in university audiences, having a tool box of active learning methods is a must. Below are tools I learned a few years ago in a  university training program for faculty about active learning.


Active Learning Tool Box:

Think-Pair-Share: Begin with a response card (an index card) where you have each participant take a few minutes to write a response to a question. Then, have students pair up and discuss their responses. Finally, open up the discussion for the group to share ideas together. This activity is great for large lecture classes as well as smaller ones. I’ve used this in our career class to talk about the difference between a job vs. a career and work vs. Life’s work.

K-W-L: Create a sheet like the one below. In the K column, have the group write what they already KNOW about the topic, such as resume writing. Then in the W column have each student write what they WANT to know or questions they have about resume writing. Then at the end of the class students can write what they LEARNED. As an instructor or presenter if you collect the sheets, you get immediate feedback after your talk. However, I often let students keep their sheets because they end up taking notes on them. If the group has less than 30 members, I have class members introduce themselves and share something they wrote down that they KNOW or WANT to know. I love this tool because it:

  1. Makes the student do a knowledge dump in the KNOW column before you start talking.
  2. Allows the instructor to find out if something a student KNOWS is actually incorrect.
  3. Tailors discussion around questions students have with their WANT to know issues.
  4. Helps students who need time to reflect before they speak have a chance to gather their thoughts.


Entry/Exit Slips: The Entry Slip can pave the way for class discussion on a particular topic where the student turns in a written reply at the start of class. I’ve used this when we’ve had a visiting speaker where the Entry Slip was a requirement for them to write down 2 questions they had for the guest. The Exit Slip is a great way to obtain feedback from a class or group to check for understanding about a particular topic.


The Muddiest Point: A tool to check for understanding, the Muddiest Point gives an instructor immediate feedback about issues that are still unclear for students.


These are just a few of the tools I like to use as I speak to groups or run meetings. What tools do you use to engage your audiences? Let’s share!

Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director, Career Services AuxiliaryClaire Childress, Virginia Tech Career Services Senior Assistant Director for Job Search and Graduate School Preparation, advises students and leads a team of advisors and a portfolio of services and programs. Prior to over 19 years at Virginia Tech, she worked in distance education and as an adjunct faculty member at New River Community College, as a healthcare marketer and as a banker. A former President of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Employers, Claire currently serves as SoACE Director of Professional Development. She writes regularly for her career advising blog,CareerChassé. Connect with Claire: LinkedIn.


Let’s Chat: Opening Communication with Students from Day One



Post submitted by Hanna DeBruhl, Career Coach at Columbia College
october 15.a1

The school year has officially began and I couldn’t be more excited! I love meeting with new students and reconnecting with returning ones. It’s always a fun time to hear about students’ experiences and summer opportunities. It’s important to begin right away to develop a rapport with new students and continue a positive one with others. Career coaches, need students to know from day one that career development is important.  There are many activities coaches can participate in to meet students.

  1. Send a welcome letter before students arrive on campus to let them know career coaches are on campus ready to serve. Discuss the student’s major and the career exploration process to help students achieve goals.
  2. Host a career lunch event as an informal “meet and greet” for students to stop by and see you and find out what the career center does. Follow up with a thank you letter to all of “your” students who attended.  This follow up can open the door for students to set up a first meeting.  In this thank you letter, also ask students to send back a mini bio about themselves: major, subjects they enjoy, hobbies, other interests in music, movies, and anything else they want to share. Tell them about yourself so they can get to know you as well.
  3.  At a first meeting with new or returning students, make it informal. Talk about the summer, what’s new, how they chose the college or university, etc.   Meet students where they are- some may be ready to discuss career goals and plans; others are just trying to adjust to college Set up for students to take any career assessments your career center has,  this provides an opportunity to meet again and discuss the results.
  4. Participate in any extracurricular activities that you can to let students see you outside of the office as a “regular” person beyond your job title.
  5. Lastly, take opportunities to go into classes and speak with students on various career topics such as resume writing, interview tips, and how to market yourself.  This is a great way for students to ask questions and your credibility as a career coach and a resource for them.

All of these opportunities involve talking to students and opening up the communication lines.  Students want to know that career coaches care and when they understand that, they will be willing to start a conversation. Students will want to meet with you and share their goals and dreams. They will seek out your advice and help.  Students will begin to be an advocate for you by   telling their friends about how their career coach has helped them and this will be a way for even more students to visit the career center.

What have you done as a career coach or educator to start the conversation?

Hanna DeBruhlHanna DeBruhl has been in the career development field for almost 10 years. She is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and currently serves as a career coach at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. Hanna prepares students for the workforce through on-one-on coaching, classroom presentations, and on-campus workshops on various special topics. Previously, Hanna worked as a career specialist on the secondary level, teaching career exploration courses and connecting community speakers to educate students on various career fields and job oppotunities. Connect with Hanna on Twitter @HannaDeBruhl | LinkedIn | Personal Blog