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Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

Before you hit send, think

One of those things about being on a boat that isn’t well understood by those of you who spend most of your time on dry land is what I call the sploosh syndrome. As a backyard mechanic, I have dropped nuts and bolts on the ground from time to time while working on my car, and though they might be hard to find in the dirt or the grass, if you search long enough and hard enough, you just might find them again.

On a boat, however, most things dropped over the side are gone and will never be seen again. Sure, if it is big enough and you dropped it off the boat at the dock, you could have a diver come and try to find it. But, it would have to be something of reasonable value, because divers don’t come cheap. Let’s just leave it that a moment of inattention or carelessness will always cost you. If it is a tool, like a screw driver or a wrench of some kind, you would be best advised to keep a tight grip on it. Even things dropped into the bilge on a boat have a way of disappearing, but I digress.

Email is one of those things that is subject to the sploosh syndrome. Although it has been around for a while, it is my belief that many of the individuals who write to me are still not clear about the finality of it all. Unlike that letter you left by the front door to be mailed tomorrow, once you hit send, that message is gone, and it better be right.

Let me start with a basic concept that I am constantly beating the drum about – outgoing signatures. If you don’t know what one is, try typing “signature” into Google. Why do you need one? How do you expect those to whom you are writing to get back to you? If you think they know how to reach you or that they will go to the effort of looking you up so they can call, think again. An outgoing signature needs to appear at the end of your message, even on replies. If you have an email account that puts it at the end of an email string, you might want to figure out how to fix that. (Hint, you can write to yourself and see how it appears.) You also want to include a physical address. No, they probably won’t send you a gift, so they don’t need it for that purpose, but they do want to know what time zone you are in. If you are concerned that someone might come to visit unexpectedly, I would suggest that this is an irrational fear. At least provide a City/State to solve the time zone issue.

Let me move on to what sparked the idea for this editorial. Today I got an email from a member who is starting a job search. In addition to not having a subject, this brief email had a few typos, no outgoing signature AND, it wasn’t personal. By that I mean, it was sent to a mailing list.

Now, if you don’t care enough about my relationship with you to send me a personal note, why should I care enough about you to help you find a job? And, if you want me to help you find a job, was there some reason you didn’t send me a copy of your resume? I am a firm believer in sending actionable messages. If you are expecting anyone to expend extra energy on your behalf, when you’re the one asking for the favor, dream on. Make it as easy as possible for the person to help.

However, the most important thing you can do with any email you send out is to think. The most important question to ask yourself before hitting send is how is this going to look at the other end? Am I going to appear to be the professional that I want others to believe I am?

The problem with the electronic world in which we live is instant communication that lives forever. A silly note can be forwarded to others and damage your reputation. An incoherent note leaves an impression that is hard to erase.

When it comes to your networking contacts, all they know about you at any point in time is the messages you are sending them. You can destroy a carefully crafted image in short order, and one that subsequently can be hard to change.

That send button is one of the most dangerous things ever invented by man. Use it with care.

Regards, Matt

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