A handwritten thank-you note helped me land a job working for Oprah


After a job interview, never underestimate the power of a thank-you note. I worked as a business coordinator for The Oprah Magazine for three years, and it was actually a thank-you note that helped me get the job and set me up for an incredible career journey.

My journey began in my junior year of college, studying Biology but yearning for something different. That summer I took an internship at Hearst Corporation. Interning at Hearst opened doors to a world previously beyond my reach. It was through these connections that I unearthed an opportunity to work alongside Oprah Winfrey's then-business manager, Nancy Denholtz, in 2007.

During the interview with Nancy, I absorbed every word she said. She asked me about my life plans for the future; why did I want to work there; and if I could give her at least three years if I were hired.

Boodie posing with Oprah.
Boodie and Oprah at a magazine event in 2010. Courtesy of Boodie

She showed me the magazine and how we charged advertising based on region and size of the stock print requested. We discussed budgets and how trust and privacy were imperative for this job. Following the interview, I went to the lobby and wrote a thank-you note while the specifics of our discussion were still fresh in my mind. Then I placed the note in the building's internal mail drop.

By sending it from the office, the letter reached the destination quicker and left an immediate impression.

The thank-you note played a pivotal role in the job offer. Nancy mentioned it two years later when I was finally comfortable enough to ask for the reason I was hired. Also, while working for the company, I saw firsthand how candidates who wrote thank-you cards or notes stood out from those who didn't.

I wrote a thank-you note infused with authenticity and purpose

I always looked at interviews like dating. Am I speaking with someone I can spend each day building something greater with? I wrote the thank-you note to include specifics about the job description we discussed and expressed how and why I was prepared for the job.

I included the values I knew I could bring to the position and wrote about my excitement to learn from someone seasoned in their career. I included details we discussed about Nancy's family and my understanding of what it's like to work hard and build success for those you love.

Just thanking someone for their time is important, so I ended the note by thanking Nancy for the opportunity to sit and talk and I wished everyone good luck.

Not being a fan played a big role in me securing the position as well

I may not have been a "fan" of Oprah then, but I recognized the unparalleled potential for growth and learning in such an environment. Years later, I realized that not being a fan also played a big role in securing the position. We were there to work on business, not praise.

Celebrities want people around them who can add value in an area of expertise, and offer a solution to their problem. If you only ask for a photo to put on Instagram, you become a fan — not a future business partner.

During the interview, I wasn't nervous. I was just curious. I had no idea what three years would look like but I knew I wanted to learn from someone successful in business. I was intrigued to learn that beyond this person, "Oprah" was a whole business model and strategy.

This job was career-defining and life-changing

My role was a gateway to understanding the intricacies of media, finance, and influence. I attended and worked at our O You! events nationwide. O You! events were designed to make the magazine come to life and celebrate our readers in a meaningful and enlightening way.

I helped ensure all our VIP guests felt welcomed and their immediate needs were handled. Besides events, I navigated budgetary constraints, liaised with various stakeholders, and witnessed firsthand the power of information and leverage.

My tenure with Oprah wasn't just a chapter but a catalyst. I was able to quickly understand how we made revenue and how important keeping track of it was. This job was career-defining. It allowed me to be a trusted source to a brand and an individual who's very private and protective of those who work for her.

To this day, I'm asked how I have access to so many people with influence and wealth. I'll forever give Oprah Winfrey credit for giving me opportunities because I was vetted by someone so many people respect.

I forged my identity, in a competitive landscape

I'll never forget when I asked for a meeting with Gayle King, O's editor at large after Oprah had given us a Christmas bonus. Instead of signing a card (something we did every year since and before I'd been there), I brainstormed with Gayle to do something that would be more meaningful. I came up with the idea to create a video where staff could say "thank you" and share how they used the extra cash over the holidays. It was a success.

I stepped up without realizing that's what I was doing. I just wanted to show that our team could be more grateful, and we could use video to express our gratitude to Oprah.

Boodie with O You! colleagues holding a giant $10,000 check
2010 photo of Oprah gifting all of her staff $10,000 checks each for the success of Oprah Magazine celebrating 10 years. Courtesy of Boodie

After three years, I wanted to find my own path, so I left The Oprah Magazine. People thought I was crazy, but I realized I was attached to a brand that gave me influence, and I wanted to forge my own way.

Now, as the founder of ConnectUp Media, a brand and influencer social impact company, I'm committed to bridging gaps and fostering relationships and business partnerships at the highest echelons. Think of us as high-level partnerships focusing on social impact. I work with celebrities, major brands, and billionaires. And it all started with a thank-you note.

A thank you note could be stronger now than ever before

With emails being skipped and accidentally deleted, a handwritten note is possibly more powerful now than ever. The note should be sincere and specific about the conversation and the takeaways from what was discussed. It should also include the added value you'd bring to the role you're applying for. Be as specific as possible.

The biggest takeaway from my entire experience interviewing and working for Oprah is that you're more likely to stand out when you position yourself as someone who can add value to the team. No matter how famous someone is, they all need support and a team they trust.

Boodie leads ConnectUp Media Agency, where he advises and manages influencers, royals, wealthy families, nonprofits, and brands on systemic impact, business strategy, events, and partnerships.  

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