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How a Thank-You Note Got Me a Job With Oprah
- Jeff Boodie
I was hungry. Not in the literal sense, but I was hungry to have a positive impact early on in my career. While in college, one summer I went back to New York City and interned for Hearst Newspapers.
For all intents and purposes, I interned with the most influential group on the newspaper side, including George Irish (Hearst Newspapers president at the time). I got through the door, and now it was up to me to take ownership of the opportunity.
The corporate world (if you haven’t experienced it yet) is one of the biggest hierarchical ladders in our modern workforce, and to say the least, not everyone is a good guy. Honestly, I had no idea I would stand out. I got noticed immediately because I wasn’t afraid to do the simple things, like say good morning to everyone and ask the people I worked with how they were doing.
Arriving on time was arriving 30 minutes before my scheduled internship. I didn’t have to come in until 9:00 a.m., but I made sure I was never in after 8:30 a.m.
Getting in early before everyone else …
1. Gives you a chance to clear your mind.
2. Gets you a head start on the day.
3. Allows you to notice and study the work patterns and habits of everyone else trickling in.
But what does this have to do with Oprah? I know, I’m getting there. While delivering budget files to George Irish, he came out of his office to speak with his secretary, and during that time there was a moment of pause where I was able to ask him how he was doing. It was that moment that changed my life forever.
I’ve always seen people as people and realized then that my co-workers thought I was brave for speaking to the president. I thought to myself, He’s just as human as I am! It was that initial pleasantry that built a foundation for a lasting friendship with someone so many were afraid to engage with because of fear and his title.
Fast-forward two years later and, graduating college, I wanted to work in magazines. George Irish helped me get a meeting with Oprah Magazine’s business manager, Nancy Denholtz. Remember, when you get through the door, it’s up to you now to always go over and beyond to leave a lasting impression.
I don’t believe you can be taught charisma, but you can be taught manners. Before my interview with Oprah’s team, I picked up a thank-you card. The power of a handwritten thank-you card should never be underestimated, especially today. Gen Z’s, take note. After my interview, I went downstairs to the lobby, wrote specifics about the meeting still fresh in my mind, and dropped the note in the building's internal mail drop. Why did I do this?
1. By leaving it at the office, I didn’t need a stamp.
2. Internally, it would get there faster than USPS, leaving an immediate impression.
I didn’t know until after being hired that it was the thank-you note that sealed the deal and got me a call the following week with an offer to work for one of the most powerful people on the planet. I was passionate about wanting to learn all I could from one of the most influential brands of our time, and it was the thank-you note that got me the job with Oprah.
To conclude, if you’re going for your first job or even your second or third, never underestimate the power of a thank-you note. Remember, the person you’re emailing receives hundreds of emails a week. If you want the job and want to stand out, send a note that resonates with your attention to detail and willingness to go over and beyond in a world inundated with email. A handwritten note will always go a long way in leaving a lasting impression.