Allison Cheston, Career Connector


Career Connector Blog

Why Email Isn’t “Just for Old People”


Millenials are not good about responding to email and that is bad news for their careers. While email doesn’t have the immediacy associated with texting, IM, or Google Chat, there are some important rules associated with email that should not be ignored.

Who cares about rules when it comes to email, a Millenial might ask. Putting aside the issue of human courtesy, and knowing that Millenials always want to know how they will benefit, there is one important reason: Employers.

Email is How Prospective Employers Will Contact You

If you’re in the job market, and if you’re not now, you will be soon, know that companies who want to contact you will do so by email. They may call you to come in for an interview, they will likely contact you via email. They are highly unlikely to text you or Facebook you. To make sure you don’t blow a good opportunity, I recommend checking your email a couple of times a day at the very least.

Email is How You Will Interact with other People and Companies at Work

Regardless of your career path, you will be interacting with other people and other companies. This will require you to regularly introduce yourself, set up meetings, maybe sell directly to prospects. When communication is one-on-one, and it’s at work, it’s likely to be done by email and (gasp) phone. This holds true whether you work for a big corporation or a small start-up. There is no other tool that provides both professionalism and immediacy for one-on-one communication. This may change in the future, but at the moment we’re stuck with what some consider to be dinosaur technology.

Email Has Some Basic Rules

A rule of thumb is that it’s correct to respond to email within 24 hours. After that period of time, if someone is specifically expecting your response, they will wonder if you received their email. The right thing to do, if you’re not ready with your reply, is to acknowledge receipt and ask for more time.

I rarely see this behavior from Millenials, and when I do, I automatically have a favorable impression of that person. I’ve had only two prospective Millenial clients contact me over the past few months who wrote standout emails. Contrast that with my clients over 30, who almost always produce friendly, courteous, and well-written emails.

Because we now rarely write letters for work, email is the only real substitute. That means that some formality is implicit, except when you have a pre-existing, casual relationship with the recipient.

That means that an appropriate salutation and closing are required, and the email should be grammatically correct and free of typos. Email is not texting, where lack of formality is expected. If you fail to adopt a courteous tone or don’t proofread your emails, you may not get the response you hoped for. In the case of communicating with a hiring manager or an important client, sending a sloppy or discourteous email may have all kinds of negative consequences.