Watching my wife designing holiday cards for clients and friends reminded me of an important topic related to todays modern world: the hand-written note. Yep, when it comes to our industry, it still works, and possibly now more than ever. It can be used in seeking another position or improving your standing with members at your current club. Before we get into it, I'd like to include a snippet of an article from the Harvard Business Review (full article) about the topic that sums it up quite well:
"Some might claim that in a wired world where emails, tweets, and text messages are more accessible than handwritten notes this is the natural evolution of communication. Who has time for stamps, stationery, and manual spell-check, after all? But I think its premature to write off the importance of handwritten notes. They remain impactful and unique in several ways.
For one, handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Emails, tweets, texts, or Facebook messages are essentially costless. Theyre easy to write and free to send, and you and I produce hundreds of them every day.
These electronic communications are rarely notable. But handwritten notes are unusual. They take minutes (or hours) to draft, each word carefully chosen with no undo or autocorrect to fall back on. Drafting one involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps, and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment, and that very costliness indicates value. If, as the U.S. Postal Service notes, we only receive a handwritten note or letter once every two months, each one likely means more to us than the cheaper communication we receive each day.
While saying thank you is important, the beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can. It can follow up on a conversation, remind someone they're not forgotten, raise new issues, or even include a gift that carries its own meaning. And in a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, these simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter to your life and business that they are important to you."
In a competitive industry such as ours, even the smallest details can make all the difference. In my interactions with superintendents, one of the most common talents mentioned is attention-to-detail on the course and how much it means to golfing patrons. This same attention should be paid to the details of communication with the club, or if you are actively seeking a new position. As the article above states, an email or text is quickly forgotten and doesn't result in the same reaction that a hand-crafted note would provide. But like anything, how and when you utilize this technique is critical to its success. Lets go over a few different ways to bring the hand-written note to your tool-belt for career success.
DURING THE JOB HUNT
There are two times during the application and interview process that are absolutely critical to garnering attention and standing out -- the initial application and after a first interview.
During the initial application, anything you can do to differentiate yourself can and should be used in a responsible manner. From the fonts selected to the layout of your resume, its all a part of creating a personal brand that works to present a polished individual. This application is typically digital-only these days, with some postings flat-out prohibiting a hard-copy resume being sent. But you can definitely send a handwritten note, and you should. Do not include a resume or any materials, it should just be a quality, card-stock stationery piece with a couple of simple sentences. Thank the person for considering your application and how much of an honor it would be to represent that specific club. Even the envelope should be hand-written. If you have the card designed to match the look of your resume, you will subtly carry your brand even further.
This technique should result in the hiring person being appreciative of the time you spent to consider their open position and make sure to look at your career in a bit more detail. Timing is important as it will take a few days for the note to arrive. I would suggest mailing the note first, then applying digitally just after. This assures that the note is on its way and that they will have your resume when the note arrives. You also dont want too much time between your digital application and the note; ideally you would only have 2-3 days difference between them.
The second time to use the hand-written note during the job hunt is after a first interview. At this stage in the hiring process, you have gained their attention but are probably still among five or more of your peers they are deciding from to bring back for final interviews. By sending a hand-written thank-you note, it could be the one small emotional reaction you need to get ahead of the competition. Again, timing is critical. While each hiring committee is different, a large number of them will stay together after all interviews are complete and hash it out right there on who to bring back.
Because of this, you cant afford to wait until after the interview. What should be done is to craft a note that thanks them for the honor of interviewing at the club and how excited you are to have the opportunity. You can then send this note either just before the interview or hand it out to all at the interview itself. While your presentation during the interview is the main factor, this small detail could be the difference when most of your peers are able to deliver a similar presentation.
AT YOUR CURRENT CLUB
It has been stated that superintendents get into more trouble over communication rather than turf conditions. No wonder, you are working for hundreds of bosses at your club, all who have their own opinion on how the property should be operated. It is a complex situation that must be managed.
Some members volunteer on committees to genuinely serve their club, but others are actively trying to impose their will on the club and the superintendent, potentially causing a rift with you and your career. You need all the friends you can get to stay on top of any issues that will inevitably arise on the course. Using a hand-written note could be a peace offering to a difficult member or reinforcement of a recent conversation critical to your operation. It could show that you are sincere in your appreciation for their concerns, with much more meaning that a simple email. That could be the difference in diffusing the situation or letting it escalate.
Heres a list of possible uses with members:
- Welcoming new Green Committee members (include your career materials as well... more on this in a future post)
- Thanking your GM for an increase in budget, help in a meeting, a luncheon with members... the list goes on
- Acknowledging a members concerns about the course and offering a chance for them to find a solution with you
- Holiday cards sent to every club official and committee member
- Asking a member for assistance on a key issue
- Inviting a member for a round of golf, or thanking them for a previous round
These are just a few suggestions on how a handwritten note can go a long way in augmenting your career at your current club and when you decide to venture out for a new position. One final fact to consider most individuals on the committees at clubs are of, um, well, older generations. They remember getting hand-written notes and letters and may put much more value on it than today's Millennials. Think about this when you consider your options so that you properly target your brand to the audience.