Student blog: 7 professional email writing tips for students
Ocean Cheung is the Managing Director and Co-founder of Startup Interns, where he connects international students to Queensland’s tech startups to accelerate students’ employability and entrepreneurial mindsets.
Writing professional emails is a big part of effective communication in a workplace. Here are five tips I have learnt from my personal experience.
1. Use a professional email address
I have received emails from addresses like email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and to be honest, they look unprofessional. My suggestion is to create an email address like email@example.com (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com — p.s. these are not my emails). Always ensure your email address looks formal, short and easy to read.
If you are studying things like Architecture, Virtual Art, Graphic Design, Software Engineering, UX/ UI, etc (courses that need a portfolio), you should build your own online portfolio (a website) and a professional email address. In this way, you can showcase your work or even start working on casual projects while you are studying.
It costs around $50 USD to build and host your website on Wordpress and HostGator. You can have your business email address on GSuite for $6 USD per month. For example, my site is www.oceancheung.com and therefore I can create a professional email address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Create an email signature block
Who says a student doesn't need an email signature? An email signature will help you stand out from the crowd and you can simply do it on Gmail, iMail, Hotmail and most webmail platforms.
As a student, your signature block should include your name, education, mobile, email, social profiles (make sure it looks professional, like LinkedIn & Twitter). You also can include your published work, research, articles and favourite quote at the bottom.
WiseStamp is a free email signature generator. Practice creating a professional email signature now and as you gain more experience, it will look better!
3. Write follow-up emails
Whatever your career path is, making great connections by networking will impact you significantly along your journey. However, the secret of making real connections is to follow up with people. After attending a networking event, you should send a follow-up email to the person you want to connect with in the next 48 hours.
Example subject lines: Following up from XXX / Great to meet you at XXX / Follow-up for the conversation on XXX
It was nice meeting you yesterday at XXX. Thank you for sharing ideas on XXX, and I am really interested in XXX.
It would be great if I could have a coffee catch-up with you and learn more from you. I am keen and available to meet you on next XXX, XXX or XXX (it’s better to give more than one option). Please advise me on the time and the location if you are available to meet.
Thank you once again and hope to hear from you soon.
If the person did not reply to you within two weeks, you can send another email.
I hope this email finds you well. It was nice to meet you at XXX.
I was thinking about the conversation we had at the XXX. I wonder if there is a chance we can catch up in person. I am available for a coffee catch-up on date XXX, XXX or XXX.
Alternatively, I am available for a call at XXX. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
If the person still does not reply, then it is time to move on!
4. Email potential mentors
One of the many things I learned from the career mentoring program at the University of Queensland is that mentoring can be a great way to kickstart your career, giving you valuable insights into your industry.
If you find a mentor through your university’s mentoring program but have not met him/her in person yet, I would recommend writing an introduction email that is as formal as possible.
Example subject lines: Introducing XXX as your mentee from the XXX Mentoring Program
Dear XXX (Mr./ Mrs. / Ms. Last Name),
I hope this email finds you well. I am XXX, a XXX - year XXX student, majoring in XXX. I received your email from XXX. Thank you for being my mentor.
Here's a bit about me, XXX (personal background).
I know you are an expert in XXX (his/ her background). These are areas that I have always been curious about, especially about XXX (your interests).
With regards to the XXX (his background), I am interested in all your stories. XXX (the topics you would like to learn from him/ her). For example, your experience with XXX, the transaction from your study to work, the challenges that you have faced, the success that you have achieved and your motivation for life.
It will be great if we could have some meetings during this mentoring program. I am available for most of the XXX, XXX and XXX morning. I am also keen to talk to you over the phone, video chat or even emails. Please advise me as to which channel suits you the best.
In this email I have attached my resume, I hope you get to know more about me through my attachment. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
If you met a person at a networking event and would like to ask him/her for mentoring, just write a normal follow-up email but adding a sentence like:
I am looking for a mentor, and if you would consider it, I would like you to be my mentor to share your experience with me. It will be much appreciated if I can meet with you again and tell you more about myself. I am available for the following dates: XXX, XXX and XXX.
If you find a potential mentor on LinkedIn, you can send a quick LinkedIn message within 30 words:
Hi XXX, I came across your profile and I am impressed by the work you are doing. I am (personal background) and interested in XXX. Can I buy you a coffee in the next couple of weeks? Please connect with me on LinkedIn so that we can chat further. Cheers, XXX.
Once you two are connected, you can discuss the time and the location to meet.
5. Send calendar invitations
There are a few reasons why you should send a calendar invitation when you are scheduling a meeting with people:
To confirm the time and the location of the meeting
To set a reminder before the meeting
To show your professionalism
In most cases, you can select the time block, click [Add event], [Add location] and [Add invitees] on your calendar app.
Example event titles:
XXX & XXX Catch up / Discussion on XXX / Follow-up on XXX
If you are using Google Calendar, it also generates a Google Hangout link for a video meeting. Alternatively, Zoom is a great tool for video conference.
Please make sure time zones are the same when you are scheduling a meeting.
6. Handling introduction emails
Sending introduction emails is one of the best ways to connect people with people. When you meet someone who is beneficial to/benefited by your contacts, it’s always good to connect them with each other. It helps building your personal brand and developing a better relationship with your network.
Example subject lines: Introduction to YYY from XXX
I would like to take the chance of introducing YYY (to introduce) to you. ZZZ is … (e.g., his/ her background, the work he/ she is doing, the potential value he/ she may make, etc).
YYY (be introduced), ZZZ is … (e.g., his/ her background, the work he/ she is doing, etc).
I will leave both of you to connect and have a conversation. Please let me know if there are things I can help with.
If you receive an introduction email, you can say:
It is nice to e-meet you. I am XXX (personal background). I XXX (the thing sparked your interest or the potential value you can add).
It will be great if I can have a coffee catch up with you on __, __ or __ (leave a few options for the other person to choose from with flexibility). Please advise me on the time and the location if you are available to meet.
Please feel free to contact me at XXX. I look forward to hearing from you.
XXX (the person who connects you), thank you for connecting us.
7. Never say "Sorry, I was busy …” in emails
For me, if I am busy and happen to reply to an email late, I would not find a reason to explain my action. Instead, a simple sentence like “Sorry for my late reply” is sufficient.
Besides having a serious illness, personal issues like having a family problem, lack of internet connection, or being busy with work or study are not good reasons to reply to an email late. It only shows the other person that you do not prioritise or value their time and relationship. Normally, replying to an email within 1-2 working day(s) is fine.
There are many ways to write emails. But as long as your emails look professional, polite, clear and easy to read, then they are good to go.
If English is not your first language, use Grammarly, read your writing out loud or even find a native speaker to proofread an email before you send it out. But the most important part is to “learn by doing”.
I wish there was an article like this in my first year, so I hope what I have written will benefit you in your next professional email.