How Not To Get A Job #1: Email

Published:  September 18, 2013
Josh Vann
How Not To Get A Job #1: Email

First, you have to understand — I am not an important person. Not even a little bit influential. Yet every single morning I wake to 30 and 50 work related emails. Clients, printers, suppliers, students and co-workers flick over thoughts and requests that need only a moment of my attention. But if a moment is 2 minutes, a request is 5 minutes and a serious ponder becomes 15 minutes, and I end up spending three and a half hours of my eight hour day just courteously replying.

So knowing that, can you imagine what the inbox of a real life important person must look like? Imagine an overflowing sack of letters to Santa – an impossible tidal wave of appeals for attention that no mortal could conquer in a single earth day.

Because email has no physical form, it is quick to create and easy to ignore. It exists as part of the ‘data deluge’ that swamps us constantly. At one end, you may have worked really hard on your cover letter, but if it arrives at the same time as ten others, there’s no guarantee that an overworked art-director, up against a ‘capital threat’ deadline, will take the precious time to read it, or even register its arrival with anything more than a pained eye-flicker.

The sudden prominence of email has changed the job-hunting process irreparably. Once upon a time you would type out your cover letter, print out your resume and a few work samples, fold them all into an envelope, lick a stamp and walk it to the mailbox. This implied an inherent level of effort and interest in the position. These days, many assume the process involves typing up an email, attaching some files and BCC-ing it to a dozen different employers simultaneously. This ability to application-bomb is why email is considered an impersonal thing that is guiltless to delete. Your unsolicited declaration of employability is spam to most people.

I hear horror stories from graduates who have applied for upwards of 50 jobs and haven’t received a single reply or read-receipt. That’s a terrifying thing to encounter at the beginning of your career. Everybody knows how competitive the Graphic Design industry is, they know about that fact that every year, Australian universities and colleges indiscriminately pump out thousands of graduates into a world where there aren’t nearly that many jobs, openings or workplace deaths. So when jobs do open up, the competition is fierce. It’s not uncommon for a job advertised on to receive hundreds of applications, which is why many good jobs aren’t advertised at all.

For this reason, email can’t be the only way you make contact with potential employers. A few paragraphs outlining your positive attributes aren’t going make the required impression, especially at the start of your career when your cover letter is going to sound more like a desperate plea than an appealing prospect. You’ll make a much bigger impression by logging out, going outside, meeting people and smiling a lot.

One of the biggest advantages of being a member of an industry association like AGDA, DIA or Illustrators Australia is the networking opportunities they offer. Attending talks, lectures, workshops and award ceremonies puts you in the same room as important and influential designers. Once you’re there, it’s much easier than you think to walk up and introduce yourself to a real life person. It might be appropriate to hand them a business card. You are aware of who they are and the work they have done because you have done some research. But even if you only get one minute with a potential employer, that’s one more minute of guaranteed engagement and eye contact than your email would receive.

Unless you are a seriously good schmoozer (but hopefully not like Zaf), you’re probably not going to get a job offer on the spot, but the long-term benefits are enormous. What you’ll find is that following up on a conversation you had is much easier than trying to start a new one electronically. Contacting a person you already know changes the dynamic drastically on both ends. An email received from a stranger is just a string of letters with no voice, but an email from a known name is read and received in a very different way. It’s not a guiltless delete anymore. Being able to assign a human face to an email address adds a level of personality to your online conversations, it humanises the situation, changing it from a dry, formal proceeding, to a friendly chat between peers.

The jump from ‘desperate job hunter’ to ‘recent acquaintance’ might not seem like a momentous one, but that small shift will help you stand out from the sea of contenders and give you the slight advantage you need at the start of your career.

I hope this advice has been helpful, but please politely refrain from emailing me about this article. Thank you.

One Response

  1. Priceless advice! Thank you for the article :)

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