It’s helpful to get reminders now and again about how everything we put out into cyberspace can be viewed. Sure, we’ve all heard that the NSA is likely spying on all of our communications but occasionally seemingly run of the mill and presumably private correspondence can make its way to the public sphere. Each year, we hear of cases where individuals’ attempts at creative job search strategies backfire—the original take on a visual resume, “hire me” commercial, or even email strains with prospective employers get passed around on message boards to the derision and delight of readers. Or, perhaps your light-hearted (if alcohol induced) email exchange with your career counselor makes its way to UTB. Sadly, not all appearances on social media can be as innocuous (and fun) as that. Just ask Kelly Blazek who has taken down all traces of her online presence after being featured in a story on CNN about a nasty email she sent in a response to a request to join her job board on LinkedIn.
Increasingly, I hear feedback from employers that email messages from students are too informal. In the era when text message is king, most email communication has evolved to feel more like short-hand. While this can be fine in many situations, it’s important to remember that when speaking with potential employers, you will benefit from striking a more formal tone. Yes, it’s more time consuming, but having formal greetings and closings is the appropriate way to go and entirely worth the effort. Obviously, full sentences and spell check are a must. Also think about time stamps–even though you may be at your most productive at 3 am, that might not be the ideal time to send an email to the person who will be interviewing you next week. And, of course it goes without saying that answering email while under the influence of any illicit substance may not be the best idea, even if they can produce amusing results. Most importantly, however, is to always be polite. As someone who responds to hundreds of student emails a year, I can tell you that thoughtful and appreciative emails always inspire me to go out of my way to be as helpful as possible.