The first thing I know about a person is often their e-mail address. From that small scrap of information, I start building an image of what the person is like. If you think first impressions are important, think about what your e-mail address says about you. Your e-mail address is often the first element of your personal brand.
Some people use their e-mail addresses to identify their hobbies or interests, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. But I’m usually more interested in the information after the @ sign. If I receive an e-mail from an @aol.com address, I think the sender is over the hill and out of date. If it comes from a cable company (e.g. @comcast.net), I think they’re not very technically astute. If they change cable companies, they’ll have to change their e-mail address as well. How boring!
I thought I might be alone in these perceptions so I was interested to learn that no less an authority than the New York Times‘ David Pogue has similar biases. In an article in yesterday’s Times, Pogue introduced Microsoft’s new e-mail service. In passing, Pogue referred back to Microsoft’s previous service, Hotmail. Pogue writes that, “Even today, a Hotmail address still says ‘unsophisticated loser’ in some circles.”
For these reasons, I was deeply disappointed when Apple tried to shift its e-mail service from @mac.com to @me.com. My e-mail address has long been a variant of email@example.com. Part of my personal brand is that I use a Mac. It’s OK with me if people know that. Maybe they’ll think that I “think different”. When Apple changed it to me.com, I was horrified. In my humble opinion, anyone who uses an e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org is self-centered at best or a psychopath at worst. Even if I think “it’s all about me” (and I do sometimes), I don’t want to project it in my personal brand. Thankfully, I can still use @mac.com designation and I hope I always will.
I teach my students that they need to think about their personal brand. It’s important for getting a job or a promotion. Your brand is a combination of how you behave, how you speak, how you dress, and so on. Each of those sends clues about who you are and whether you’d be good teammate or not. When you think about your brand, begin at the beginning — your e-mail address.