Are These Email Mistakes Killing Your Reputation?

Are These Email Mistakes Killing Your Reputation?

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Martin Yate, CPC

I’m a sick puppy who sometimes suffers from Work Avoidance Syndrome, so thirty minutes ago when I received an email from bigbearsbooty@yahoo, I opened it. “Bigbear” was approaching me for advice on serious resume and career problems, but why should I take someone seriously when he so plainly doesn’t take himself seriously? Are you, like BigBear, one of the millions of professionals damaging their professional reputations by making careless email mistakes?

Email has become the default business communication tool, and your job search emails play a significant role in how you are perceived. This perception in turn colors the way your professional communications are interpreted.

E-mail Addresses Define Your Professional Brand

Your email address is the caller ID that tells the reader who is trying to get through; it defines the way you are seen by others, and it’s the most enduring symbol of your professional identity, your brand. Names like aphrodites_myth@gmail or pookietush@yahoo may have been funny once, but you cannot hope to be taken seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously.

Create an email address that captures the essence of your professional brand, such as SystemsAnalyst@hotmail or TopAccountant@juno. Names that speak directly to your job are often already taken, and your e-mail provider will encourage you to accept variations like topaccountant136794@juno. Before accepting one of these, try variations that are relevant to your professional world: adding your area code—TopAccountant516@juno—your or zip code—TopAccountant11579@juno—or your town—TopAccountantCharleston@juno.

Subject Lines Define Your Professional Competency

Your subject line is your headline: it tells the reader what you are writing about, and draws her in if it is relevant to her interests. This means a good subject line improves the odds of your email getting read. Furthermore, your emails are also saved and filed for future retrieval and reference, just like paper documents. So if the subject line’s irrelevancy makes it difficult to archive appropriately, you will be viewed as inconsiderate and—because you obviously don’t have an organized archival system yourself—unprofessional and probably incompetent.

The Message Defines Your Professional Manners

Your greeting determines if your message will be read with any degree of engagement. No greeting or a generic greeting tells your reader that you don’t know, or can’t be bothered to use, his name. Good manners and common sense dictate that if you want something from the recipient (an introduction or an interview, perhaps) you start with a personalized greeting. With those at your level whom you know personally, it is okay to use a first name: “Hello Jack” or “Good Morning Jane.” Those senior to you in age or position should be addressed more formally as Dear Mr. Black, or Dear Mr. James Black. Courtesy, respect and professionalism always score points.

Message structure. Your message needs to be accessible to tired and distracted eyes in order to communicate. There are these things called paragraphs, which contain a logically connected sequence of thoughts. New thoughts get their own paragraph. Blocks of type longer than 5 lines are hard to read, as are lines longer than 6 inches.

Spell check. There is no excuse for misspelling someone’s name: take the time to check and confirm. E-mail also comes with spelling and grammar checks that can scan every word of your message before it’s sent and save you from being labeled sloppy.

Your sign-off. “Yours sincerely,” “With thanks,” “Regards,” followed by your name is the work of a moment. Lack of an appropriate sign-off gives the impression that you don’t care, or simply never learned professional manners.

Professionalism is defined in many ways, but always included in each definition is the awareness and motivation to pay attention to the little things. Email is a powerful communication tool that you will be using for rest of your days, and every e-mail you send will shape someone’s perception of your professionalism. You control the message, so your reputation should be in good hands.

A lot that goes into written communication during a job search. Here are some useful resources:

Martin Yate

Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization. 

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