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The Importance of Saying Thank You

It happened again. Someone reached out from the internet with a burning question and I took the time to answer it. And they didn’t even bother to thank me. It’s such a small thing, but this happens to every professional. And if you’re that person who’s not saying “thank you”, it’s massively hurting your career.

Every single working illustrator I know gets asked for advice. You read the question, carefully consider it, and then find the time in your busy day to write a thoughtful response. Sometimes it takes five minutes. Sometimes half an hour or more, depending on how intricate the question is. You hit send, feeling good, knowing that you’re spreading the positive vibes around. And then that person doesn’t even bother to write back like a decent human being and thank you for your time and thoughtfulness. This happens so frequently, I literally went through this with six people in the past few weeks—one of whom I even took the time to meet with in person. It’s a massive problem and here’s why:

I can’t speak for other professionals, but if they’re anything like me, they have memories. When I take the time to help someone out and they don’t have the common courtesy to thank me, I mentally move them into the “never help again” category. Why should I go out of my way to help someone who shows no appreciation for it?

It also hurts because professionals are less likely to respond to these types of questions and requests for guidance, knowing that there’s a good chance their recipient won’t even be gracious about it. I know a few illustrators who have a zero tolerance policy toward replying to these kinds of emails because of this. So you’re not just hurting yourself when you don’t thank people, but other aspiring illustrators who might need help.

I don’t know the reasons why people don’t bother to thank other people they ask for help. Maybe it’s poor manners. Maybe entitlement. Maybe just plain forgetfulness. Whatever it is, it if you’re not thanking people, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.

Conversely, those who do thank people who help them out or meet with them succeed more. They get moved into the “good people” category. They form dialogues, bonds, and friendships. They get hired for day jobs, rather than just thinking they had a good interview and wondering why nothing ever came of it. They get referrals. It’s a small thing, but it can make a world of difference.

So, if you’re already thanking people, you’re doing something right. If you’re not, you might want to examine some of the requests for help you’ve initiated, interviews you’ve had that you never followed up with, and other acts of kindness that have been paid to you professionally or personally. It’s never too late to reach out to someone to thank them. Take the time and do it now. And make it a habit. Those two words can make all the difference in your career.

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Neil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, author, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He's an instructor at Parsons the New School for Design and the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling book Middle School: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou. His new authored and illustrated book, The Secrets to Ruling School: Class Election, comes out this September from Amulet Books.

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