How should I acknowledge my job references for helping me land the gig?
August 21, 2013 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I recently started a job that I'm really excited about. Part of the reason I was hired is because I got great endorsements from my references. I'd like to send flowers to the Manhattan offices of each one, but if you have a better idea for a considerate thank you gift for three smart, accomplished women in their late 20s/early 30s, I am all ears! I want to send something nice that makes it clear how grateful I am for their confidence in me.

All three are in the online news industry, living in Brooklyn and working in lower Manhattan. One is a former boss and sort of mentor to me, one is a college buddy and former co-worker, and the last is an editor at a news website who I got along with, but who I don't know well enough to feel confident about buying a thoughtful gift for. My instinct is to send each a nicer-than-average bouquet (vase? bunch?) of flowers. Though I'm a guy, the relationship I have with each of them is unambiguously platonic and I don't worry that the gesture will be misinterpreted.

SO: please give me your recommendation for a tasteful flower delivery place in Soho, Wall Street, the Village, or the downtown area generally. I'd like to spend $40-80 on each--not a firm number but basically something nicer than grocery store carnations, and less fancy/corny than a dozen long-stemmed roses. I don't know a ton about flowers, so please recommend specific blooms that are in season, or combinations thereof, that send the message "Thank you so much for the help. I admire you professionally and you're a great buddy."

Alternatively, give me an idea for another non-flower thank you gift! I'm open to the idea, but as I said I don't know one of the three very well personally, so it'd need to be something popular enough that most anyone fitting her description would like it. Food is probably a no-go because of dietary restrictions, so no gift baskets (and no goddamn Edible Arrangements). I don't know if this is a thing, but I kind of like the idea of sending a flower/plant in a pot. A bouquet of flowers is pretty and all, but it always seems a little silly to me that you go to the trouble of finding and buying these gorgeous things that wither and die in a few days.

Thanks in advance!
posted by andromache to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Aw, this is very thoughtful of you.

I'd go with a bottle of Champagne or wine and a note offering a toast for their support.
posted by kinetic at 9:07 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my professional culture (academia), giving gifts to people for writing positive letters of reference would be a very bad idea. Reference writing is part of the job, and in any case it's something most people enjoy. But perhaps more seriously, to give gifts would imply a quid pro quo that might make letter writers uncomfortable.

posted by caek at 9:13 AM on August 21, 2013

Personally, I'd send a note to each now, and then take them out to lunch when you're a bit farther along in the gig. Do they all know each other? If not, would they like to? This is how you build networks. Flowers are nice, but allergies, office practices, etc.. In online/media/entertainment gift-giving is common, so I think your instincts are right.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:18 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Note and lunch.

Gifts are too much of a much. You may return the favor some day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:19 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have always done well with sincere thank-you notes, expressing my appreciation and my happiness in my new position, but I am in a very different industry.

You might offer to take them out to a nice lunch. This will allow you to express your gratitude while further strengthening these valuable relationships. It is very, very platonic.

Flowers...even though you know that the relationship is platonic, their officemates might not and they may be embarrassed or the subject of gossip/speculation should they get flowers at work. I've seen young women get flowers at work when I was doing office work and it always got attention from coworkers--sometimes welcome, often not.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:19 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Potted plants: way better than a bouquet, IMO—your references' coworkers might tease them for receiving a big bunch of flowers, no matter how tasteful/platonic it might appear. Best to avoid the potential for awkwardness. The croton is pretty cool-looking, as is the bromeliad.

That said, though: I think the best gift is a sincere, handwritten note on a nice card. Perhaps followed up with an invitation to take each person out for coffee or lunch, at which you can chat about the new gig and express your thanks in person.
posted by rebekah at 9:19 AM on August 21, 2013

I love flowers but they do have romantic overtones and people ask who the admirer is.

I'd drop by personally with a flowering plant and a note, and if that doesn't work for your schedule, send a very heartfelt thank you note.

I think I'd be uncomfortable being asked to lunch as thanks for a reference. It really does feel like a quid pro quo.
posted by bearwife at 9:24 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a guy, regardless of what you say, I am not sure sending flowers to these women is the correct move here. I do think it's sweet that you want to thank them. A "gift" may be more appropriate for the friend you know well than the professional contact. I'd send a handwritten thank you note in the mail -- it would be more special than an email and help get across your gratitude.

I don't know where your new job is, but maybe there is something small you could give them. Like I've worked at jobs that created their own branded merch or little promotional items. Maybe something like that as a "gift" because at least it relates to the job they helped you get? I don't know, maybe that's a bad idea. No clue.

I'm no expert and have no experience with this. One time a guy gave me flowers and my male coworker cigars for something we did featuring his company -- different situation, yes. It was nice, but afterward I felt like he was buying me off, or as the others have said, engaging in a "quid pro quo." If the references thought you were capable and deserved the job, I honestly think the best gift for them is knowing you got the job. Helping someone feels good. I'm not sure you want to mess with that feeling and change it. Perhaps later down the line when you've been there for a while you can send something, not as an explicit thank-you for the reference.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing notes and lunch.
posted by Kwine at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2013

I had a guy friend who once sent a bouquet with a helium balloon attached as a thank-you to a female client's office. The florist messed up, and instead of including a balloon with "Thank you" on it, they attached one that said "I LOVE YOU". Ha ha ha. Boy, did he have some 'splaining to do.

No flowers, please. Shop around for a unique, tasteful, expensive notecard, and write something that includes how wonderful your new gig is, how happy it makes you, and how much you appreciate your recommender's help in getting you there.
posted by nacho fries at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2013

Notecard of thanks, no gift. References are a "what goes around, comes around" endeavour.
posted by slateyness at 12:17 PM on August 21, 2013

Response by poster: This is why I come to you guys! I thought I'd already considered the potential for misinterpreting flowers as a romantic gesture, but hearing the wise council of the hive mind, I agree that there's no need to take the small chance that someone else in their office would gossip/be scandalized/etc. Also there is wisdom in the consensus that a gift could be seen as tit-for-tat. (I don't think it is anything like a bribe, and none of them would, either. But again: appearances matter with these things).

I am going to send handwritten notes on nice stationary with a modest trinket from my new employer, per AppleTurnover's suggestion, and take each of them out to lunch.

Thanks, all--I'm genuinely glad to get this input.
posted by andromache at 1:52 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

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