personal branding

Personal Branding: what does your email say about you?

An aide who had been with the Clintons since the 1990s, Justin Cooper, registered the domain name, clintonemail.com, which had a server linked to the Clintons’ home address in Chappaqua, N.Y. Obtaining an account from that domain became a symbol of status within the family’s inner circle, conferring prestige and closeness to the secretary.

Chelsea Clinton was given one […]. Huma Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide and surrogate daughter, was also given a coveted clintonemail.com address.
-New York Times

The scandal over Hillary Clinton’s “homebrew” email system has brought many issues to light. The majority of these are political. But for the purposes of this blog post, let’s have a look at one aspect we can all learn from regardless of political affiliation: what does your email address say about who you are and where you stand? What makes an email address a coveted sign of status — or not? What impact does this have on your personal branding? And what, if anything do you need to do about it? Here’s some advice.

Let’s first assume that you’re not using your work email for anything that’s not directly related to your job. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

If an e-mail system is used at a company, the employer owns it and is allowed to review its contents[….] This includes web-based email accounts such as Gmail and Yahoo as well as instant messages[….] In general, employees should not assume that these activities are not being monitored and are private. Several workplace privacy court cases have been decided in the employer’s favor.

So let’s assume all emails related to your personal networking, career feelers, mentorship, etc. are going through your personal email address, i.e. the one that you have created, own and operate for your personal benefit. What image is your email address telegraphing to the world? Is it adding to or detracting from your personal branding?

The rapid pace of digital change and the continuous introduction of new consumer services mean that some addresses haven’t aged well, at all. A few examples:

  • If your email is ____@aol.com, you are saying, “You might as well send all correspondence by carrier pigeon as that’s more in line with my pace of innovation.”
  • If your email is ____@hotmail.com, you are saying, “I’m over here partying like it’s 1999.”
  • If your email is ____@[yourISP.com], you’re saying “I like default solutions just fine, thank you.”
  • If your email is ____@yahoo.com, you’re telegraphing one of two possible scenarios:
    • “I, too, am over here partying like it’s 1999.”
      or
    • “I like a good comeback story.”

These examples are all to do with your email domain, i.e. everything that follows “@”. What are you saying with the first half of your email address, the half that precedes “@” which is known as the “local part”? You may have devised this years and years ago, before we all learned just how much our online identity and personal branding might come to influence our reputations and the availability of offline career opportunities, like jobs and speaking events. Does it contain something that’s no longer fit for purpose, like “golfingjack88” or “brentsmom_01”? If so and if you do want to put it in service of your personal brand or career, you may want to consider changing it…today!

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