Signatures: how to get them right

Un-sCWRU your lifestyle

Theresa Smetona

It’s a short, routine email, asking for responses to a survey or participation in a campus event. I’m about to click out of the message when the author´s signature catches my eye. It spans not three lines, or even six lines, but fourteen, and has significantly more text than the body of the email.

Curious as to how it is possible for a seemingly average student to have more titles than the president of the United States or a medieval king, I begin to scan the signature. Too soon, my hopes for having received a personal message from an important player in world affairs are vanquished. The student is extraordinary only in his capacity to convert every activity he has ever participated in into another line in his signature.

A shortened version of the signature might look something like this:

Smith S. Smith, III
Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Estimated Graduation Date, May, 2015
Member of XYZ Fraternity
Author of an influential letter to the editor of the campus newspaper
Potential candidate for Dean’s High Honors
Former Resident’s Assistant
Participant in Case for Community Day
Former member of high school football team
Member of Talented Students of America (Admittance fee $500)
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” – Confucius

Signatures such as the above are unfortunately not infrequent. While they sometimes offer entertainment value, it is always at the author’s expense. In light of the fad of never-ending and irrelevant email signatures, I offer a few points to keep in mind if you choose to create your own email signature.

1. Signatures should be short and succinct. You know how résumés do not have an indefinite page limit? The same applies to signatures. Quality over quantity is always a good rule to keep in mind.

2. Along those lines, you shouldn’t be trying to fit a one page résumé into your email signature. Include only pertinent information, please. Choose one or two of your most significant activities, and then stop.

3. Make sure your signature is up to date. There is no need to include your high school GPA or mention that you once participated in a summer camp. If you do, you will appear desperate and give off the impression that you are stuck in the past. College students are much too young to be allowed to indulge in the latter, and the former is never an advisable behavior.

4. Look at your signature from the perspective of your audience. If you only send out emails to your peers, do you think they will be impressed by your inclusion of something as meaningless as “Full-time critic of Bon Appétit Dining Services” or “Entertainment Engineer for Suite 337”? Likewise, if you are trying to impress potential employers or deans of admission, you might want to reconsider what message your signature is sending them.

5. There is such a thing as being over-involved. Quality over quantity principle again. If you feel a page-long signature is essential because you are an absolutely vital member of 16 campus organizations, hold two jobs and volunteer several hours each week, you could be Superman, but chances are you’re just delusional. Successful professional applicants are generally qualified by their complete dedication to a few activities rather than multiple nominal involvements. Are your extra-curricular activities adding value or only distracting background noise?

6. Save the inspirational quotes for Pinterest. Or your bedroom wall. No further explanation is necessary.

Theresa Smetona is a senior majoring in Spanish and English. In her free time, she likes to drink coffee and consider the possible benefits of her future unemployment.