We’ve heard it many times before: our millennial generation doesn’t know how to be respectful and professional in our interactions with supervisors, bosses, professors, and other adults. We use too much “texting” language (or should I say “2much txtg” language?), are far too personal, and forget that all important spell check function.
Here are a few e-mail/contact tips I’ve acquired over the past few years to impress any professional with your own professionalism:
1. Avoid contacting people for a professional reason on Facebook. I’ve been surprised at the number of people who contact me about PRSSA, the organization I lead, via Facebook. Did you not bother to look up my e-mail address? Also, because Facebook has no “star” or “priority inbox” function, I often forget to respond right away, or at all. So, stay away from Facebook messages and look up an e-mail address. It will make you look much more professional and much less like a college kid who just spends time on Facebook.
2. Use a proper greeting. Always begin your e-mail with some type of proper greeting; if you’re interacting with a professional you’ve never met or have no established relationship with, stick to “Dear __,” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening ___.” ALWAYS use “Dr./Mr./Ms./Professor” when addressing someone; you never want to use their first name or even their last name without a title.
3. Include a direct subject in the subject line. E-mails with “no subject” or an ambiguous subject will often be discarded without even being read. Do yourself a favor and succinctly create a subject line that indicates specifically what the e-mail includes.
4. Review your request at the end of the e-mail. I always like to end e-mails with a brief review of the action items contained within the e-mail. Am I asking the person to attend an event, grant me an interview, share information with another group? If you plan on following-up with a phone call, indicate when you will do that (and then proceed to make the call!). Politely close the e-mail with a review of what was discussed to help focus the individual on your request/reason for contact.
5. Close e-mail politely. Let the individual know you’re looking forward to hearing from them, and end with an appropriate salutation. “Sincerely” is a bit stiff but is always a safe bet. “Thank you,” “Thanks,” “Best,” and “Best Regards” are some of my go-to signatures.
6. Before you hit send, use spell check! It’s a wonderful function that exists for a reason. Also, it won’t necessarily catch all the grammatical errors, so train yourself to proofread things for certain errors you know you’re prone to make. Avoid any type of shorthand, lingo, or jargon.
7. Follow-up is key. If you indicate that you will do something (whether it is a follow-up phone call or forwarding another e-mail or document to the individual), be sure that you do it. Show that you can follow through on tasks in an efficient and timely manner. The action following the “I will” statement is more important than the statement itself.
8. Always be polite and respectful. Avoid using first names until the other individual gives you explicit permission to do so. Use the manners you were taught as a toddler — please and thank you always go a long way!