Professional Engineer Career and the Art of Email

This is an article I wrote for where I provide practical insight and wisdom to those preparing for the the FE Exam and the Professional Engineer Exam.


Professional Engineer and Email ArtI used to be terrible at email.

And you probably still are.

But it’s not because you can’t write eloquently, or that you can’t get your point across…you likely write a whole lot better than I ever will.

Its just human nature…we are born horrible at everything until we put the time in to mastering and understanding the art of whatever it may be.

Email is an art?!

Well, when we are looking for a job it is…when we are looking to build our network and surround ourselves with influential people it is.

You see, before I understood this art of emailing other people, I was like anyone else looking to connect with someone. I would sit down, crank out a detailed message, click send, and say to myself “boom, that one’s gonna be the one!”

3 days later…silence.

Other than the fans spinning in my Macbook Pro….silence.

Enter, my typical “Why am I not getting a response” thought process routine.

Refresh once, refresh twice, refresh three times and in my inbox…nothing.

“Man, did they get my email? Did it get caught in the spam?!”

Check the sent folder, it’s there…read it, wonder…”Is there anything offensive?”

You know this feeling, don’t you?

Emailing our family and friends is one thing, getting influential people to respond to emails is another…it’s an art.

[box type=”note” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Emailing our family and friends is one thing, getting influential people to respond to emails is another…it’s an art. – @prepineer” – Click to Tweet[/box]

Influential people are people of exceptional value, hence the reason they are influential. They are where they are because they are taking action in doing the things they need to do to advance their careers as individuals…and dissecting their email isn’t something that is likely high on their list of things to conquer.

So we need to provide golden nuggets when they do in fact hop in to their email.

So what can you do now to instantly see your response rate go up? Be human, have empathy, and stop hurting other people’s brainiums.

1. Be Human.

Sometimes our mind can wonder so much that we find ourselves in full on robot mode, shooting out words simply as electronic beams across mediums, taking any and all emotion, empathy, and consideration out of the process.

This creates a stiff, one-sided message from the start. Though it is the individual skills that we possess that will be the base to our success, it is the human-to-human connection that will be the accelerant to any real progress in our careers.

Spend some time to get to know the individual you are contacting. These people have families, hobbies, and other activities that they spend their time outside of the office doing, and in a world of “everyone needs to know my business” (ie Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)…a little effort can go a long way.

2. What’s in it for them?

Before you send your email out, take a look through it and ask yourself, what’s in it for them? If you are seeing a lot of “I”s and “me”s, then there isn’t much hope that you have a bunch of “you”s bringing the balance back in to your recipient’s favor.

If you can’t define that benefit for the recipient of your email, then you might as well change the To: address line to head directly to the “trash”…you are more likely to get a response there.

[box size=”large” style=”rounded” icon=”none”]

Hi Mr. Important person,

I know you are really busy, but I am the greatest thing since the snow cone. I do a lot of reading and I got a really good grade in hydraulics. Aren’t you looking forward to writing me back?



3. Don’t hurt their dome piece.

If you find that your email answers the ‘what’s in it for them’ question, then go one step further and make sure that that answer isn’t so wide open that it hurts your recipients brain…or in other words, makes them work any harder than they already do.

Here is an example of what not to do:

[box size=”large” style=”rounded” icon=”none”]

Hi Mrs. Important person,

I know you are really busy, is there anything I can help you with?


Great intentions, but hurts the brain. Why? You are creating work for the Individual because they have to actually stop and think…which when you are already busy, is a sure bet to hurt the ol dome piece.

Rather, maybe you should say something like this:

[box size=”large” style=”rounded” icon=”none”]

Hi Mrs. Important person,

I know you are really busy, and noticed your latest post on Twitter saying that you couldn’t figure out how to do X in Excel. I’ve put together this document to show you how I typically complete this task, I hope it helps!


I will put a Caillou Christmas movie on the line to say that you are more likely to receive a response when you are more concrete and definitive in how you can provide value to them. The less brain power needed to process, the better.

So like with any idea, it’s the ACTION that makes the tactic come to life…now I want you to do two things:

Number One – Do you have a friend that is in need of help in building their network? Send this article to them so they can start getting better results in their efforts today.

Number Two – Looking at email through this lens, can you identify from the messages in your inbox what makes one good and what makes one bad? If so, share in the comments.

And in a house with two baby girls, that Caillou Christmas movie holds some pretty solid weight…holler if you hear me!


  1. VERONICA says

    Great Post! I’ve recently taken a “how to effectively communicate” class where this exact thing was discussed.


    • Justin says

      Veronica, Thanks! When it comes down to sink or swim, it’s these in the trench details that will help make a difference.

      Take Care!

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