As we’ve grown up, the world has gone digital, so naturally we have a different perspective on technology and its communication uses than older generations do. As young college women just starting out in or preparing to enter the professional workforce, proper email etiquette is essential to come across to employers as serious and qualified.
Sometimes we don't even realize the mistakes we’re making when it comes to emails. Here are several common errors to avoid before you hit send.
1. Your tone is too casual
OMG, LOL, and LMK are great for letting your squad know what’s up, but maybe not the best move for your colleague or boss.
Since we’re comfortable using email and text messages to talk to our friends, it might be hard to switch tones between audiences.
“Sometimes, younger people email professionals as if they were emailing their friends,” says Darlene Johnson, Director of External Relations at the Career Center at Hofstra University. “Always remember, you would speak in a different manner over the telephone to a professional than you would to a friend. That same difference should apply to email.”
Avoid using slang or casual words when talking to employers and colleagues. But make sure to find a balance between showcasing your mature “adulting” side and your actual self.
“The most common mistake young people make when communicating via email is not finding a balance between professionalism and personality,” says Heather Huhman, President of Come Recommended. “While some send overly formal emails that lack personality, others send emails cluttered with typos and slang.”
Find an appropriate balance that shows you’re a young professional ready for the working world, while also demonstrating your positive personality traits.
2. You don’t proofread for spelling or grammatical errors
Spellcheck exists for a reason!
When your emails are riddled with typos, it just looks careless. It suggests that you didn’t care to take the extra minute or so to glance over your email. Not to mention, you seem ignorant in disregarding the plethora of available resources that can help with the proofreading process.
“I have received emails with poor capitalization, grammatical errors or informal greetings,” says Johnson. “This does not show that you have a grasp on basic business communication, and could reflect poorly on you in an internship or job search.”
An email full of basic grammar issues just proves you didn’t put a lot of thought into your message, which might make an employer think you aren’t taking personal interactions, or the job, all that seriously. Don’t let a stupid typo or misuse of your/you’re stand between you and your dream job!
3. You don’t follow up
Having a solid convo with a potential employer is intimidating enough, so don’t let it go to waste by letting them forget about you.
After a networking event or career fair, make sure to follow up with any new contacts with an email so they remember you. Briefly reference any particular conversation you had, like, “I really enjoyed talking to you about the many opportunities for sophomores,” or, “The summer program you mentioned sounds like a great experience.” And make sure to say thank you!
“If sending a follow-up email to a professional that you met at a career fair or networking event, always attach your resume, event if the recipient has it,” advises Johnson. “This will make it easy for the recipient to re-familiarize him/herself with who you are and what experience you have.”
The night of or day after a career event is generally a good rule of thumb for following up because the conversation will still be fresh in their mind. Not to mention, they might be scheduling job interviews in the next coming days and you want to make sure they remember your name when it comes time to make the calls.
4. You forget your target audience or goal
Make sure to communicate clearly the purpose of your email and keep your wording clear and concise. There’s no need to include excessive details or ramble on.
“Many young people believe a professional email needs to include a lot of detail to show they’re competent and experienced,” says Huhman. “However, most professionals appreciate a brief email that gets to the point, is polite, and acknowledges the fact that their time is precious.”
Be present in the moment when you are writing your emails, not just hurriedly typing something out on your phone while on the go. Think about who you are writing to, and what you would say to the recipient in person if you ran into him or her on a 30 second elevator ride. You would have to give a greeting, but then get to your point fairly quickly! The best way to clearly communicate your purpose is to actually know it ahead of time, so have it mind when you prepare to type it out.
5. You are the only one reading your emails
No, not talking about some incognito internet hacker reading your witty banter with your friends.
Have friends or a family member read through an email, particularly a follow up hoping for an interview, to make sure they can identify what you’re trying to say. Not to mention, they also know you and your personality well and they’ll be able to call you out for trying too hard to sound professional and losing your own voice in the process.
“If you are not sure if an email sounds professional, run it by someone,” says Johnson.
Most colleges also have career centers with advisors available to give feedback on almost anything, from resumes to cover letters to emails, so make sure to maximize the use of those resources, too.
6. You are too generic
Keep it professional, but don’t forget to make your communication personal.
Aside from the tendency to be too informal in email, sometimes emails are sent out that are too generic. You shouldn’t be able to copy and paste the same email to multiple employers, or even multiple people. This applies to follow up emails, as well as normal office communication.
“If you are emailing a professional contact, be sure to include his or her name and also reference where you met this person, as they may not remember,” Johnson says.
Adding personal references differentiates yourself from other candidates as well as the many other emails the person you are emailing is receiving.
7. You haven’t changed your email address since 7th grade
Sorry, but jonasluvr5 might not come across as strictly business.
Be sure that you are using a professional account both on your resume and for job and internship search correspondence.
“An inappropriate email address will certainly put off an employer,” says Johnson. “A student I worked with had "thongangle@..." as the email address on her resume. I had her change it immediately.”
Also, if you have separate email accounts for work and the rest of your life, make sure you are checking the work one regularly. Creating a completely separate account might be helpful, but a school email address also works fine.
Related: The Lazy Girl's Guide to Networking
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you’re preparing to go from group texts to office wide emails. Some might seem obvious at first, but they are definitely common mistakes to watch out for. Just keep it professional, clear, concise, and make sure you sound like you! That’s why you got the job in the first place.