Thursday, April 2, 2009

teaching professional conduct in correspondence

Earlier this week I blogged about a fantastic student of mine for whom I wrote many letters of recommendation. Just yesterday I was contacted by a different student. Her email went something like this:
Hey Karina!! It's Student know, one of the trip to the museum Students? haha. Ok so I have a huge favor to ask of you, like the subject line says...will you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation???? I will owe you my life! haha. It's for an Unusual Internship with Unusual Employer...random, I know, but I graduated in January and my dream of becoming a [Job Kids Dream About] right away hasn't been going too well so I'm just looking around for anything that will benefit me. It's cool if you don't want to do it, I won't hate you :) but if you are willing to help me out I will send you my resume and the link to what the internship is about so you have a clue on what to write. Thanks for taking the time to read this rambling email! I hope your semester has been going great! Another Student always tells me how she sees you at the gym. I miss BioX!!!

Student X
At first I wasn't sure how to respond. Clearly she needed some advice on etiquette for professional correspondence. After much consideration I replied:
Hi Student,
Wow, that internship sounds quite unusual! As one of my most enthusiastic students, I am happy to help you however I am able. I may be able to write you a letter, but I need to know what the deadline is to know if I have time. In order to write a good letter, I need as much information as possible. Also, I highly recommend reading this page that talks about asking for letters of recommendation. Even in asking for a letter for Unusual Internship, professionalism goes a long way! Especially in this awful job market, you should always err on the side of formality, courtesy, and standard composition. You can start practicing in your correspondence with me. :-)
I decided to add the smiley face, even though it's a bit ironic considering the context. Apparently, my advice was very well taken. She replied:
Dear Karina,
Thank you very much for helping me out! I will try to be as professional as possible in this email after reading all of those guidelines you sent me. I'm going to keep that because it's very helpful! [Many internship details] I really appreciate this! I'll let you know about the deadline as soon as I find out, and if you can't make it, I'll understand :)

Student X
What a huge improvement! I'm so glad that she demonstrated that she's capable of higher standards of correspondence. Seems like it should be common sense or at least previously taught, but apparently not. On the bright, this bad habit in students is relatively easily corrected (assuming they actually do know how to write in complete sentences) and a little advice may go a long way in helping someone develop essential professional skills.


EcoGeoFemme said...

Sometimes I think we might be too gentle with people -- sometimes people need to hear a little constructive criticism. She probably didn't even know that her first email sounded unprofessional. She was probably going for breezy. Good for you for helping her out! It will probably be to her benefit for a long time.

Samia said...

I think you handled that great. Now she knows better for next time. :)

Paulina said...

dude you are strict.