Email signatures for Graduate Students

Twitter has shown a lot of chatter recently about email signatures for graduate students.  Understandably, they want their signature to stand out, but they don’t have a job, so they can’t boast a title.  What options are there?

If you are a graduate student, we recommend limiting your email signature to data that cannot be discriminatory to HR departments.  We recommend the following format:

John Smith   +1 (xxx) xxx-xxxx

Common questions:

  • Quotes: We receive hundreds of emails each day, and reading a quote about drive, competitiveness, or zen, is not valuable. Your resumé or your cover letter should impress your employer
  • MBA, BA, and other acronyms: If you’re looking for a job where your education level is a requirement, you are not pushing yourself out of the pack by saying you meet the basic requirements. This is a tough one, because we know that there are many of you for whom higher education is a very big deal.  Your parents may have sacrificed, or you may have worked a ton to obtain scholarships or accumulate student debt. There is a lot of pride that comes with your education level; congratulations on your achievement.  However, that pride is best explained in person rather than on an email signature
  • Mr, Miss, Mrs, age, race, sexual orientation, a profile picture:  Some companies have a policy in which  they will not hire anyone that volunteers information that may be judged discriminatory. Do not include it
  • Social Media, personal blog: It depends on how you want this to play out.  This may be a way to get your employers to know who you are a bit better, but I’d advise against it.  However, if you are looking for a job in a specific industry (ice-cream  recipe developer), and you have a blog about that very item, you should certainly include it.  It will show that you are passionate about the industry and that you are knowledgeable
  • Student, Graduate, and other variations: That’s basically the same as saying you’re unemployed. Yes, you may be unemployed because you just graduated, but it isn’t a title by any means.
  • LinkedIn:Note that we separated LinkedIn from Social Media because this one really increases your value.  If someone adds you to their network, they are volunteering information about themselves, and they make it possible for you to contact them directly through LinkedIn.  Also, they are expanding your network.  We do recommend spending time on your LinkedIn profile and make it as attractive as possible.


So that’s it?  Just a name, number, email, and perhaps a blog or website?  Yes, that’s it.  Believe it or not, this has the benefit that you won’t have to update it at any time, unless you change your personal phone or email. You can leave this signature in your personal email and you’ll be set for an indefinite amount of time.

Make sure that your email signature is professional.  For example, is probably not the best email address you can hand out. Memorable, for sure, but really?  We recommend using and over hotmail and aol.  Many companies are using Google Docs, so Gmail is one of the most professional looking amateur emails.

One workaround is to use your school’s email address.  If your employer reads, they know you’re attending or have attended Harvard before opening any of your attachments.  See how your school ranks in your industry and profession to determine whether this is worth doing.  If you went to a school that didn’t rank well, but you have great items to point to, then you are better off with a Gmail address.


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