As the semester ends, my thoughts always turn to reflection. How do I make sense of the semester that is past and prepare for the semester to come? My career in higher education has always revolved around semesters, but perhaps your career will revolve around other beginnings and endings. Either way, it’s important to note those beginnings and endings and use them as an opportunity for retrospection and gratitude.
After you finish finals projects and papers, make a list of all the people that helped you this semester. Think of an AI who met with you to explain difficult material, a professor who gave some great lectures, an RA who helped you find a resource, a lab partner who always had the right answer, a professional connection you made in a field in which you hope to work one day or your uncle who told you all about his career on the Thanksgiving Zoom chat.
Once you have your list dedicate an hour or two to write some notes of appreciation to each person on the list. Handwritten notes are more formal and show greater appreciation but you might not have someone’s address or just aren’t able to at this time. That’s ok — sending emails will work just fine.
Not only does the time spent in reflection help you to better understand yourself and what you have learned this year, the act of list-making and note writing will help you recall the people who have helped you the most. Also, the people on the receiving end of the notes will appreciate the thoughts and better remember you. It will be easier to ask professors for recommendations and future colleagues for coffee if they can recall you. Sending a well thought out note helps reinforce a connection. Again, it is not opportunistic or insincere to write thank you notes. All industries and careers will bring with them a give and take of appreciation and helpfulness. You are beginning that practice now.
Notes don’t have to be long and complicated! I’ve included two examples below, but be sure to switch it up and make it personalized to your situation.
Dear Professor Smith,
Thank you for a great seminar. I wanted to let you know how much I learned in X444 this semester. I thought your interpretation of the material was particularly interesting. I hope you have a pleasant and relaxing holiday.
Dear Ms. Brown,
Earlier this year I called to talk about your career in marketing. I enjoyed our conversation very much. It helped me clarify some ideas I had about the profession. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me and offer me advice.
My best wishes for a relaxing holiday,
Sending notes of appreciation is as important for you as it is for the recipient. Exchanges of thoughtful gratitude are always the best gifts and the time spent writing and sending them can become an important semi-annual ritual. I hope you will come to enjoy the practice.