Dear College Student Who is Good with Words:
Everyday in this country, young people decide that they should go to law school because they are good with words. Popular culture certainly promulgates the belief that it is both practical and romantic to have a law degree. Practical, because it is the natural manifest destiny of your linguistic skills and pesky penchant for wanting to be right all the time. Romantic, because great cinema and literature is peppered with mysterious, brilliant, misunderstood characters who have unused law degrees collecting dust in their attics. What a stupid way to think your way into a quarter-life crisis!
Guess what, brainiac: Being good with words will give you a significant advantage in all kinds of jobs, not just the law.
For example, consider advertising.
I know, I know. There is a dearth of cinematic hero copywriters --the law has Atticus Finch, advertising has um, Nick Marshall. You've always fancied yourself to be someone who belonged to a profession that requires its practitioners to pay several hundred dollars to pass a largely irrelevant test. But before you completely ignore my suggestion, perhaps you should use those dangerously sharp English major skills of yours to compare and contrast the differences in structure, tone, and content of a couple of departure emails --one from an advertising company, and the other from a law firm.
To make this exercise more relatable to you, I have chosen last day at the office emails from interns --young people at the beginning of their careers-- instead of seasoned veterans. This is the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you will be in your entire career trajectory, before you've even had a chance to stop getting a thrill out of automatic staplers and compressed air spray cans.
The first farewell email is from our advertising intern:
Today’s my last day at XXXX – as most of you may know from the goodbye cupcakes. I just wanted to say thanks for a great summer and an amazing internship that’s taught me loads. Not only did I learn a great deal about the ad industry here, I also picked up a lot of great life skills, like how to dodge rogue ping pong balls and tie bundles of wood with twine.
My email is XXXX@gmail.com if any of you would like to stay in touch, and I’m also on Facebook and Linked In.
Thanks for being a great team to work with. Hope you all enjoyed the baked goods.
Is there a more beautiful pair of compound words than "goodbye cupcakes?" This short farewell message is chockfull of phrases that sound like they were plucked out of a Huckleberry Finn novel. The message is simple, direct, fun, and most significantly, unguarded. Our advertising intern boldly addresses the office with a casual but emphatic "Hi everyone!" She is not afraid to use the term "taught me loads" even though it makes her sound, frankly, high as a kite. Nor is the writer afraid to suggest Facebook as a legitimate way to keep in touch, even though it reminds readers of her relative youth. The email is energetic, high-spirited, and full of life.
Below is the departure email of a legal intern:
I just wanted to notify you that the last day of my clerkship at XXXX will be Friday, November 12. Please let me know if there is any pending project that I need to finish up before that date. It has been a pleasure working here.
Our law intern's departure email doesn't mention any celebratory desserts or Japanese game show-like activities, but the most glaring difference between the law firm email and the advertising email is how guarded the law firm email writer sounds. I imagine a young man with his shoulders scrunched up to his ears, wearing a trench coat with the collar turned up (but not in a sexy way, we're talking about real lawyers here), peeking out from under a thick, protective, Ignatiusian cap. He's afraid to show any emotion or personality, and his main concern isn't whether his colleagues enjoyed his goodbye cupcakes or even if they will keep in touch, but whether he has forgotten about any pending projects that he needs to do before he leaves.
Only a few months ago, both interns were probably very similar to each other --excited, invigorated, and a little bit nervous at their first forays into the rest of their adult lives. But now, after being exposed to their chosen professional environs for a few months and having sent off their last day emails, our advertising intern is going to run around the office bopping people on the head with ping pong balls as they compliment her on her baked goods. Meanwhile our law clerk is going to continue to sit quietly at his desk, noticing grammatical mistakes in his email and dying a thousand deaths inside, and hoping that his departure date will not inconvenience anybody too much.
So what is the no. 1 reason why you should go into advertising instead of law? Let me answer that with a question: Which email would you rather write?
Last Day at the Office Emails