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07 About Endings And Avoiding Sincerely

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"Thank you for your time and consideration" appears too often and sounds like a form of begging. "Sincerely" is generally a poor close to a letter, because nearly everyone uses it. Why should you? This is your chance to be "new and different"—and employers like that.

"Very truly yours" is nearly as bad, because it's used almost exclusively by lawyers. After threatening to sue you, they close with a coldhearted "Very truly yours."

World-famous photographer Ansel Adams was a great letter writer. (See Ansel Adams: Letters and Images 1916-1984, Little, Brown and Company.) We can take a lesson from him. Some of his letters ended with humor: "Cheeriow, luff and all that," "LET'S GO!!!," and "Whoops." Others ended with heart: "All best, always," "With all best wishes," and "Warmest greetings to all."

Business letters can be warm and friendly as long as they're not too personal. You have to sense the character of your audience and write accordingly. Some readers can stand more warmth than others. In general, it's better to be too warm than too distant.

Phyllis Record sent me a thoughtful note that ended with "Thinking the best for you." That heartfelt note encouraged me to renew an old friendship—and hire her again!

This year Howard Edson wrote his own Christmas card, a small booklet of his thoughts on life. He signed it "Season's blessings"—quite striking compared to the usual "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!"

After an eight-hour job interview, Steve Jorgensen wrote a thank you note that ended "With kindest personal regards." It was the perfect touch.

Next time, instead of closing with "Sincerely," "Best regards," or "Very truly yours," let yourself risk a better ending. Two of my personal favorites are "Enthusiastically," and "Good wishes, always." You could try something like:
  • All best wishes,
  • Best wishes for your future,
  • With confidence,
  • Just to keep in touch with you,
  • More shortly,
  • Warmest greetings to all, or
  • Yours always.
Remember, the ending of a letter is just as important as the beginning and the middle. It's your one chance to make a strong lasting impression.

Try using stamped reply envelopes
If you're doing a small mailing to a carefully selected list of important contacts, say to thirty recruiters

in your targeted geographic area, it might be worthwhile including a self-addressed stamped envelope. It's a convenience to the reader, and it may increase your response dramatically. I would try this tactic with any important letter where I definitely want an answer.

Advantages of the plain white envelope
I always open envelopes with no return name or address. I'm afraid not to. Who knows what's in them?

I once received a mailer that looked like junk mail. It was one of those envelope-like packages you pull apart at the seams to expose the contents, like the things your bank sends at the end of the year for tax purposes. I opened it on the way to the trash can. And surprise! It was a $5,000 check for a consulting assignment. Since that time I seldom throw away unopened "junk mail." There are some real treasures in there.

I never throw plain envelopes away unopened, either—especially if the name and address are handwritten or typed onto the envelope (mass-produced labels and bulk postage are a tipoff that this could be junk mail). Try some different mailing approaches and see what results you get.

Personal and confidential Never mark an envelope
"personal and confidential," unless it really is. Yes, you may fool the administrative assistant and get the letter to the right person. But if they open it expecting something extremely urgent—perhaps an emergency—only to find a job-seeker, the results can be negative. Most people don't like to feel they've been tricked.

It's like getting an executive on the phone by saying his house is on fire. It works. You do get the targeted person on the phone, but the rest of the conversation can only be disastrous.

There are times when "personal and confidential" is appropriate, such as when security would be breached, in an emergency, or when time is of the essence. In these cases, use the notation without worrying. That's what it's for.

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.