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10 Email Etiquette Tips To Build Your Professional Image

10 Email Etiquette Tips To Build Your Professional Image

In my daily work as an academic advisor in higher education, a large percentage of my professional communication is composed via email correspondence. Though it is a part of daily routine, email correspondence from students who are training to enter the work world as competent professionals are often littered with barriers to effective communication.

Whether you are a student making the leap to the “real world,” applying for jobs, or a new professional, what can you do to project a more polished image?  Start by considering these 10 common pitfalls in professional email etiquette, and learn how each may be damaging your professional image.

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  1. Know when email is appropriate. Is great detail or explanation required? Can tone be easily misconstrued? Is the subject matter time sensitive? If the answer is yes to any of the previous questions, email may not be the appropriate venue. However, if you are contacting someone who is difficult to reach in person or by phone, asking a simple question, or providing informational items, email is probably most appropriate.
  2. Don’t assume the recipient knows you. Especially if the email is your first contact with the individual, or the recipient will be receiving a high volume of emails, don’t assume they know you. I may be the only person by my name who is an advisor at my institution, but there may be dozens of similar first names in the hundreds of students I have contact with each semester. This problem is compounded when the institutional email or an email without identifying information (like allstar29@mail.com) is used. Refrain from any use of a personal email address if an institutional or business email is provided. If a personal email must be used, keep it clean and practical (joesmith@mail.com).
  3. Don’t assume the recipient knows all the details. “I need to drop that class,” is a common email request I will receive. Certainly worth honoring, but such a request is inherent with an entire host of issues. Namely the absence of key details. Whose class am I dropping? Which class? This goes for any form of professional communication. Take the time to provide as much detail as possible on the front end. This will eliminate time and effort taken later in the “back and forth”, and convey that you are organized and pay attention to detail.
  4. Include full contact information. Consistent with your professional image, be sure and sign off with not only your full name, but also any contact information that may be helpful for the recipient in getting back in touch with you. The content of some emails may be involve a request to contact you by phone or through another form of communication.
  5. Don’t use text speak. Just because you may be composing the email on a mobile device or tablet, does not mean it is professional to use “text speak” in a professional email, ever. When you are composing emails from these devices, it is imperative to proofread before hitting send, as most now contain predictive text technology that may incorrectly finish words and change the message or tone entirely.
  6. Forget about backgrounds, crazy fonts, and colors. Keep it black and white, and simple. Extra colors and backgrounds only serve to make it more difficult to the reader, and make them less likely to respond or take the email seriously as professional communication – especially in an age where scams are prominent. Fonts that are not standard are distracting, hard to read, and make you come across as silly.
  7. Use “out of office” correctly. This can be an important feature in email, especially if you are planning to be away for any extended period of time outside of normal anticipated working hours. Rather than just say you are away, include alternative contacts so those who are trying to contact you can still conduct business if needed. Use it with discretion though. I once had a student who had their email set full-time to auto-reply with “I will consider your message and respond accordingly.” He would then never reply. You can only cry wolf so many times.
  8. Beware of auto-fill. I often receive emails not intended for me because of this very issue. Most email systems will begin to generate options to auto-fill the “To:” field as you begin typing the address, based on previous emails you’ve sent to. Be sure to read these options carefully, and review before clicking send. It may be the difference between sending an email to your wife or the President. You don’t need to be told these are entirely different audiences.
  9. Don’t say things you wouldn’t say in person. Some of the more intriguing email exchanges I’ve experienced include those from individuals who will display more aggression or unprofessionalism in an email, but will never correspond that way in person. Don’t act in a way or say things that you wouldn’t normally in conversation. First of all, it won’t do you any favors in getting a response, and second, it may damage your rapport with that person in the flesh.
  10. When in doubt, err on the formal side. Using “Mr.” or “Ms.”, or the full first name instead of assuming a shorter form should always be done in cases in which you are unsure. When applying for a job, stick with the formal “To Whom It May Concern”. As communication progresses, certain formalities may be dropped, but initiating contact informally sets the bar below a professional standard.

Featured photo credit: Focus/Financial Times photos via imcreator.com

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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