Don’t get your lines crossed!

Dr. Joseph Barber

Hello, I love you!”

You don’t expect to receive that kind of e-mail message from anyone other than your significant other or family member.  You might be surprised to hear, then, that several of the counselors at Career Services have stories about receiving this kind of e-mail from students who they have previously advised, or sent program/workshop information to.

There is an explanation. The “hello, I love you!” messages are usually followed by this sort of message:

Dear Dr. Barber, I am very, very sorry that you received that last e-mail. Please ignore it. My phone was taken by my friend/roommate/drunken colleague and they sent out prank messages to my contacts. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

Of course, that’s only if the owner of the phone realizes that messages have been sent out on their phone by their “friends”. Who knows what mischief they are up to with your phone while you are off in the bathroom? At Career Services, we are used to receiving the odd message that has been sent by mistake. After any program announcement that I send out by e-mail to our listservs, I usually get one message along the lines of:

Hey, I’m at the library, let’s do lunch. Are you done with classes yet? See ya!”

I let the sender know that they sent their message to the wrong person – no harm done. But what if your mischievous friends, or a slip of your finger, mean that wrong messages get sent to that prospective employer you have been e-mailing? How are they going to react to messages where you seem to be telling them that you love them (or worse)? Well, probably not well. They are unlikely to e-mail you back and let you know that you sent them a wrong message, and they might be much less forgiving than we are when they receive your hastily sent apology e-mail. First impressions always count, and it is hard to convince someone that you are well-organized and professional if you cannot keep track of your phone or e-mail.

Employers receive far more applicants than they have jobs available, and the job of whittling down 200 applicants to the top 10 is a tough one. Don’t make it easy for them to discard you – keep your phone and your e-mail secure, double check your e-mail recipient list before you send, and don’t drink and phone/e-mail/text (and especially not when driving).

Mistakes with e-mails can happen – it’s not the end of the world when they do, but it should be something that you take care to avoid whenever possible. In a somewhat creepy fashion, Mayor Nutter appears on my TV at night and asks: “Do you know where your children are?”. You should heed the mayor’s advice and always think about the location of your phone in a similar way.

Author: Joseph

Joseph Barber is a Senior Associate Director at Career Services serving graduate students and postdocs. He has a PhD in animal behaviour and animal welfare, and continues to teach these subjects as an adjunct professor at Hunter College (CUNY).