What’s Your Email Address?

Posted on March 12, 2009 on EmploymentCrossroads.com.

Woman with computer.Here in the first decade of the 21st Century, we may lack flying cars, personal teleportation and household robots. But what we do have is the Internet, which is taking over every aspect of our lives.

That’s why today, if you’re going to hear from a recruiter, you’ll most likely have your first contact by email, rather than by phone. Your email address needs to be on your resume and cover letter; it must be associated with any info you have posted on job search sites or company career pages; and it should be on your personal web site.

You don’t have a personal web site? What are you, Amish?

But it’s important what email address you provide to possible employers. Create an email account specifically for your job search, separate from any other accounts you use in personal life or your work.

Absolutely DO NOT use your current work email. Not only may your company be monitoring your email, they actually own any information you share via that account. Also, if prospective employers see you using your current company’s email for job searches, they’ll assume you would do the same thing to them.

Who hosts your email is important. If you have your own web site, let’s say jennywilson.com, then having the email address jennyw@jennywilson.com is pretty impressive.

If you can’t host your own email, the only real option for a free account is through gmail.com. Nobody will think less of you for using Gmail.

But on the other hand, DO NOT use any aol.com address. People who still use aol.com email come across as unprofessional. Maybe your grandma still uses AOL, but professional people do not. If you are still, for some unfathomable reason, using AOL as your service provider, then use AOL to sign up for a Gmail account.

Make sure you choose a professional-sounding email address. You’re not going to get an interview if the recruiter has to type in “ilovesex69@gmail.com” in order to contact you. Likewise, no one wants to hire spongebobfan@ or tonylovessylvia@.

Stick to your real name: johnsmith@, john_smith@, johns@, jsmith@. Lots of people like to add their birthdate (johnsmith1963@), but are you sure you want to advertise your age up front?

Don’t get cute. The address johnsmithworksrealhard@gmail.com might get a laugh – and then your resume hits the round file. Keep your email address short, easy to spell, and directly relevant to you as a professional.

Good luck with your search!

Don’t Let Illness Derail Your Job Search

Posted on February 16, 2009 on EmploymentCrossroads.com.

Depressed?It’s just an unavoidable fact — the stress of a prolonged job search can cause physical illness that makes it even harder to find new work.

If you have ever been unemployed for more than a few weeks, you know what I’m talking about — cold and flu, depression, headaches, chronic tiredness. All these symptoms are triggered by the stress and worry of your job search, and the economic problems that come with being unemployed.

But there are ways to fight back.

Take care of your physical health. Concentrate on eating right and exercising. Take a walk every day — this will help with both stress and keeping your immune system strong. If you already exercise regularly, then keep it up! And eat right — this is not the time to be vegging on your couch eating Doritos all day. Stick to three healthy meals, and you’re likely to improve your health and save money in a difficult financial time.

Take care of your mental health. Stress reactions that worked so well for our evolutionary forbears on the Serengeti — panic, anxiety, fear — don’t help us so much with modern problems. It’s one thing to be concerned about your career and financial prospects, and quite another to paralyze yourself with negative emotions. Don’t pretend you can deal with this on your own. Talk to friends, family members, clergy or professional advisers about your fears. If it’s really bad, see a psychiatrist — you don’t have to be crazy to seek medical help. If your emotions are getting in the way of your job search, then please see a doctor. If you have no insurance or benefits, then look online for free help in your area.

Don’t exaggerate your problems. Yes, this is a very difficult time to be looking for work, and it’s not helpful to pretend that it isn’t. But if you convince yourself this is the end of the world, it may become a self-fulfillng prophecy. Commit yourself to your job search — work on it every day. Open yourself up to the prospect of relocating, or changing careers, or taking on work outside your field that you may see as beneath you, even if just temporarily. America will get through this economic downturn. Your family will get through it. You will get through it.

Pedantry: A Simple Way to Impress Current or Future Employers

Originally posted on EmploymentCrossroads.com on 2/6/09.

DictionaryI’m a pedant when it comes to the English language. That’s a word that usually has a negative connotation, but I wear the label proudly.

From Wikipedia: “A pedant is a person who is overly concerned with formalism and precision, or who makes a show of learning… The term in English is typically used with a negative connotation, indicating someone overly concerned with minutiae and whose tone is perceived as condescending.”

Condescending? Is it condescending to point out when an adult professional is violating rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling that they should have mastered in the third grade?

A lot of people seem to think proper English usage is unnecessary, especially online. They are wrong. There are a number of reasons to speak and write properly — clarity, for instance.

But in the workplace, proper language usage is vital. Especially in this new, disastrous economy, you need to do anything you can to put yourself ahead of other employees and applicants.

Even people who themselves are incapable of forming a correct sentence can recognize when someone else is writing or speaking properly. It’s impressive. It says “I am a well-educated professional person, and I take my job seriously.” You don’t have to be pedantic like me, and point out everyone’s mistakes, unless that’s part of your job (it’s part of mine). But by employing proper usage, you’re making a statement about yourself. It’s as important as business-appropriate clothing and personal hygiene, or showing up to work on time.

If you’re not a writer and editor like me, you may have fallen out of practice, or you may be making mistakes you don’t know are mistakes. You don’t have to take classes or read grammar guides to improve your business English, although that would help. You just need to start consciously paying attention to your speaking and writing. By eliminating carelessness, I assure you your English will improve quickly.

Here are some tips to get you started, based on common mistakes I see in my job.

1.) Use your computer’s spell check function, but never rely on it. If the spell check in your word processing software or on your web browser identifies a word as misspelled, don’t just let the program fix it. Check it yourself — sometimes the spell checker makes mistakes. Also, read through and edit your text even if you’ve used the spell check. When I originally typed this very paragraph, I wrote “word precessing.” Since “precessing” is a real word, the spell check didn’t catch it.

2.) Pluralize properly. The plural of “mouse” is “mice,” but the plural of “computer mouse” is “computer mouses.” Yes, really. Words that end in “s” just get an apostrophe, so it’s “my boss’ car,” not “my boss’s car,” unless you’re in England. There is no such word as “mediums.” The plural of “medium” is “media.” So say “I am an artist in several different media.” “Data” is always plural; the singular form is “datum” (isn’t Latin fun?). And proper pluralization brings us to:

3.) Subject verb agreement. What’s wrong with this sentence? “The group of high school seniors and sophomores were late for the big game.” The problem is that “group” is the subject of the sentence, not “seniors” and “sophomores.” And group is singular — “the group WAS late for the big game.” Always make sure your verb matches your subject. Likewise, “the mainstream media are castigating Obama,” not “is castigating.”

4.) Only use quotation marks for quotes. That’s it. Don’t use them for emphasis. Some people will put quotes around a word when they’re using the word sarcastically — “Jane went to see her so-called ‘boyfriend.'” This is okay on occasion, but don’t do it all the time. And as that last sentence showed, a quote within a quote gets ‘these marks,’ whatever they’re called (I didn’t claim to know everything). The final quotation mark goes after the punctuation. “Understand me?”

5.) Here’s a pet peeve of mine. “Literally” does not mean “a whole lot.” It means “take what I say as literal, not figurative.” So “his head literally exploded” is wrong, if you mean he got angry. It’s only correct if his head literally exploded — like in the movie Scanners. Say “he jumped the gun” if someone started something too early, and “he literally jumped the gun” if the person was in a footrace, and started running before the starter pistol fired.

6.) I’ll leave you with this quote, apocryphally attributed to Winston Churchill:”Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put!”

I could go on for days, but this is a good start. This stuff is really easy, and following these “minutiae” will make you, your writing, and any work you do seem more professional.

Oh, and please don’t confuse “its” and “it’s.” It’s really annoying, and English has its rules for a reason!