Many of you went to HIMSS with the express purpose of finding a new Healthcare IT career opportunity, or, at the very least, strengthening and building your professional network to do your “passive candidate” due diligence. Maybe you participated in a bona fide interview with a recruiter and/or potential employer, or perhaps you simply stopped by the booths of prospective employers and dropped off your information. Either way, at an event like HIMSS, special as you may be, you were not alone -- hundreds, and quite possibly, thousands of highly qualified Healthcare IT professionals like yourself did the same thing. So, what’s your next move to ensure that you don’t get lost in the CIO shuffle?
Write a handwritten thank you note, and mail it - IMMEDIATELY.
Here’s why. If you’ve never had the …pleasure… of manning an exhibit booth for four days straight, I will tell you – it’s brutal. By the end of the second day, it’s all a blur, and the exhibitors have met a slew of captivating, professional, qualified potential employees. Names and faces and backgrounds begin to meld, and even if they’ve taken copious notes, tucked your resume’ safely in their briefcase, and assured you that you would be hearing from them shortly, let’s face it – you are competing with many other qualified candidates who were told the same thing ten minutes before and ten minutes after you. You must now do something memorable to distinguish yourself from the competition.
Why handwritten? In this age of Web 2.0, wouldn’t it be quicker and easier to just shoot them an email? Yes. This is exactly why you want to take the time and effort to write a short handwritten note and mail it – immediately. After a trade show such as HIMSS, participants will be overwhelmed with the mountain of email from potential candidates and vendors – both solicited and unsolicited – that begins to clog up their Inbox the second they drag themselves back into the office. A handwritten note from you will stand out from the rest of the crowd of emailers.
Why immediately? No one wants to haul a bunch of collateral marketing materials home from a conference or trade show (have you ever noticed what’s in the trash cans at the exhibit floor exit doors?) So, vendors generally begin mailing materials to prospective clients upon their return. In my experience there is usually a week or so lag, and then here comes the (junk) mail. By mailing your thank you note immediately, you are beating the onslaught of mailed correspondence, keeping one step ahead of the competition, and showing initiative, to boot.
Who merits a thank you? If you are actively seeking a new opportunity, the answer to this question is clear cut. Send a thank you to anyone who took the time to speak with you about your quest for a new opportunity – even if you are sure you don’t want to work at their company, because you just never know who they know. If you are currently a passive candidate, the lines get a little blurry here – if you weren’t really “interviewing” for a specific position, then who are you thanking? I highly recommend thanking anyone who gave you something of value while you were at the conference. Did you have an “a-ha!” moment as a result of a conversation with a colleague at the hotel bar? Send him/her a thank you note. Were you particularly inspired, motivated, or educated by one of the featured speakers? Send a thank you note. You get the picture. Not only is it the most polite thing you can do, it’s also the most “building your own personal brand as a consummate professional” thing you can do.
What should you say? Nothing really substantive needs to be said here. A handwritten thank you note is simply a gesture that says, “I appreciate the time and effort you expended on my behalf, and I’m intelligent, considerate, and classy enough to acknowledge it in this way.” If they took the time to actually sit down with you for a real deal interview, thank them for it. If they gave you their rapt attention for ten minutes to discuss your background, thank them for it. If they immediately started talking about themselves and constantly interrupted you to tell you how great they are, grit your teeth and thank them for it anyway.
If you don’t already have personalized note cards, get yourself some standard thank you cards, and get to work. Be sure to enclose your business card, and sound sincere! Yes, it’s a time-consuming hassle, but you are investing in your future by building your own intelligent, classy, stand above the CIO-crowd brand – and isn't that well worth your investment?