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Sunday, January 28, 2001

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i m emailing american companies 2 get IT employment can u help me do it rite?

job seeker

Dear Job Seeker,

YOURS is a classic example of email that may be appropriate for chat rooms or communicating with friends, but is totally inappropriate for business. When I first wrote that in my book, At Ease Professionally, in 1992, I was besieged with email telling me I didn't understand the on-line medium. I did understand the medium; the people who flamed me didn't understand business. It is very simple. If you hope to be perceived as a competent professional and have companies hire you, it is important to focus on making a proper professional impression rather than writing email in a style that is easy and comfortable for you. Here are the rules of professional email to help you make a positive impression.

Use upper and lower cases in structuring your sentences. It is much faster to ignore that shift key and write all lower case, but only the poet e.e. cummings was able to succeed professionally using only lower case in his writing. Nor should you write in all upper case; it is the electronic equivalent of shouting. Begin each sentence with a capital letter and capitalise all proper names, and use lower case for the rest.

Avoid shorthand, emoticons and smileys, those little punctuation faces like :), :(, ;) that say so much with so few key strokes. Cute as they may be, they have no place in professional communications. Abbreviations like "u" for you or "2" for to and too are the norm in chat rooms, but they are unacceptable professionally. And, abbreviations can have different meanings to different people. Just today, while checking my email, I received an IM (instant message) that read ICU. Because a good friend is in hospital in the intensive care unit, that's what immediately came to my mind. I rushed to telephone the person who had sent me that message, worried that something was wrong, only to learn he had meant 'I see you' because he had seen that I was on-line.

Use proper grammar, correct your spelling mistakes and punctuate your sentences properly. Misspelled words can cause a reader to wonder what you were trying to communicate because he couldn't make out the word. Commas and periods help a reader to understand you more clearly because they define each thought or idea. Some email programmes incorporate grammar and spell check functions, but most do not. So, consider writing your message in your computer's word processing programme, which should have those features, then cut and paste it into an email if you can't send it directly from the word programme. Always, always proofread anything before sending it out. Remember, too, that spelling can differ when writing American English and U.K. English. For example, words like colour or favour are spelled color or favor in American English. See if the spell check programme on your computer allows you to check for American spelling to make your missive even more appropriate to the market you are trying to contact.

Get a virus scan programme and update it frequently to make sure that you do not send out any email with a virus attached. In the last six months, I've received four infected email from India. While my virus programme caught three, the fourth struck its mark and I was without a computer for nine days; you can only imagine how happy I was with that reader! While most major American companies are much more diligent than I in keeping their virus protection current, and some will even notify you by return email that yours was infected, few will actually open and read your email. Even if they did read it, what do you think the chances are that you made a good impression?

Consider your style of writing when sending an email. While email is less formal than a letter, it is still more formal than telephone communication. While it is not necessary to start your email with Dear Sirs, and end with Yours Sincerely, you should include at least a simple salutation of the person's name and a less formal close like Regards, followed by your name.

Keep your email brief. If this is your initial contact with a company, you should only be asking if they would be interested in seeing your resume with one or two reasons why it might be of benefit to them. Remember, you are asking a person to devote some time to reading your email, and by keeping it short and to the point, you show them respect. Excessively long email can cause other problems, too. On a recent trip, I was unable to access my email for five days because a company sent me such a long email about its services that I was unable to access this promotional piece using regular land lines. This email effectively blocked all other incoming email while I was away from my office and a DSL line. Once again I was less than pleased, and I deleted this email without reading it at my first opportunity.

When writing to someone, whether it is a professional or a personal missive, you will always make a much more positive impression if you keep the body of your email "you"-focussed rather than "I"-focussed. No matter where you go in the world, people have a WIFM focus, especially when dealing with strangers. Oh, you don't understand the abbreviation WIFM? It means What's in it for me? Rather than writing about your achievements and how wonderful you are, write about how your training or experience can benefit their company. It's easy to put people on a company's payroll; it's difficult to find employees who will help to enhance a company's profit statement. The more professional their initial presentation, the more likely it is that their work will be of professional and profitable calibre.

I wish you much success in your job search.

All the best,


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