How to share good news with old mentors?
March 10, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

How to tactfully share good news with old mentors?

I've recently gotten an award that is good for my career (go, me!). I have a couple of old bosses/professors who I would like to share this with, mostly because I think they would be genuinely happy to hear that I'm doing well, but also because I would like to stay in touch with them for networking purposes and I sense that this would be a good excuse to reach out. I have not been in contact with them at all for about 2 years. However, they will definitely remember who I am; we had a good relationship, and they have helped me with career advancement in the past (writing letters of reference).

My problem is I'm not sure how to phrase the email. I'm looking for something a bit more elegant than, "Want to know how awesome I am??". I am not naturally a person who boasts about my accomplishments, so it is uncomfortable for me to send a whole email about these new developments. Maybe I can frame it more as a newsy, here's-how-things-are-going-in-my-new-position thing? But these people aren't my mom, I feel awkward writing an update email. I wish I could think of some plausible question to ask them or tiny favor, so that the whole purpose of the email isn't just me me me.

Any suggestions for how to make this feel more comfortable? Have you sent this kind of email? Have you ever received such an email from someone you mentored in the past?
posted by Bebo to Human Relations (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If they were mentors, frame it in a like "Thanks for all your guidance and help, without it I wouldn't have been able to receive the Gizmo Sputmeyer International Awesome Award for Achievement in the Field of Greatness". Give them the credit, make it like a 'Thanks!' instead of a 'HEY CHECK THIS OUT SUCKERS"
posted by GilloD at 2:50 PM on March 10, 2011 [14 favorites]

I struggle with the same uncomfortable feeling and desire for sounding modest ( although I'm totally awesome and love sharing it.) Ideally you can mention something they taught you or an experience you two shared and how that helped you win the award, then you're sharing "our" accomplishment.

You're likely correct that they'd be happy for you, worry that you sound like "how awesome am I?" is probably bean-plating it, after all; mentor's do what they do in hopes that you'll go on to achieve.
posted by oblio_one at 2:52 PM on March 10, 2011

If you were someone I taught and had written a letter of recommendation for and you achieved some great honor, I would totally want to take credit for molding you into the Great Achiever that you have become. :) Therefore, your success would be my success, and I would WANT to get an email that said "BEHOLD MY AWESOMENESS!"

In other words, don't worry about it, just share the good news. They will be happy for you, they'll probably bask for a moment in your reflected glory, and then go on about their day.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Hi there mentor, I know I haven't been in touch in a while. I wanted to write because I have some exciting news - I found out today that I got the X Award! Thank you so much for all your help - it was your class that got me interested/your advice that helped me to get into this field/whatever specifics are appropriate, and I can't thank you enough. I hope things are going well this semester/year/etc; how's [project x going? person x doing?] etc"
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:00 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

After the basic hello, you can say something like "I'm writing because I was just awarded a blah blah blah, and this has caused me to reflect on the people in my life who helped me get to where I am. I am particularly grateful for the guidance etc you showed me and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you." Feel free to gush a little, if you like; it feels good (for both you and them).
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:00 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

thanks is always the best way.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a professor. I have written letters of reference. I would be THRILLED to know that one of my students has won something great. I would be filled with pseudo-parental joy. In short, it would make my day.

Just be direct. There's no need for awkward preamble. Thanks are nice, but I'd prefer news with no thanks to no news. Example:
I have exciting news. I have just won THE NOBEL PRIZE. I am thrilled by this honor. Thank you so much for WISE GUIDANCE, etc.
posted by sesquipedalian at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

In other words, SuperSquirrel has it. This is a not a situation that requires tact.
posted by sesquipedalian at 3:16 PM on March 10, 2011

1: I'm really excited and wanted to let you know.
2: i have just achieved X, thanks for your help.
3: If you're going to be moving to a new position then that's a reason to keep people updated.
posted by biffa at 3:45 PM on March 10, 2011

I agree with everyone that it's fine to tell your mentors about how excited you are and to thank them for their role in getting you to this point. Another thought: depending on the nature of the relationship and of the prize, this may enhance their CVs or other promotion/tenure materials. So it's not necessarily even "all me me me" to tell them of your accomplishment - accomplished students reflect very well on their mentors.
posted by gingerest at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! The emails were (as predicted here) well-received. Both people specifically thanked me for letting them know, so that was great.
posted by Bebo at 7:33 AM on March 11, 2011

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