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Hello, Goodbye

The perils of e-mail only

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The modern world has spawned any number of unusual and potentially awkward situations, especially in the realm of employment. Lately, it is not uncommon to have a situation such as the following happen at a company function:

Person A (walking up to Person B): Hi, Craig, nice to meet you. I'm Jack.

Craig (blank expression): Hi, how are you?

Jack: I'm Jack Douglas? I've been running the Midwestern distribution department for your company for the last eight months?

Craig (Look of recognition): Oh, hi! Nice to finally meet you!

I'm sure that this conversation is not particularly unique in the annals of employment history, but it underlines an important fact of the modern world: When wireless networks are everywhere, with access to them available to just about every jackass with a laptop, it's easier to work — and get paid — without ever meeting your employers.

While this might seem like something that could only happen in today's society, there are plenty of examples through history of personnel and supervisors who have only communicated through other means: letters, radio broadcasts, ads in newspapers (granted, the last is usually reserved for spies and their contacts), and yet have had long and storied careers doing such work.

The modern era has also yielded such situations, with websites like monster.com, careerbuilder.com , and jobs.com — to name a very few — allowing you to put your resume online so that potential employers can look at who is available in what field and make their decisions based on how well you manage to pimp yourself out. While nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the dot-com boom a few years ago, these job-related websites have continued to do steady business for anyone looking to find a better job.

Of course, the internet can also fail you in a completely spectacular fashion.

A few months ago, a friend of mine was contacted and asked to do some spec work for a high-tech company, with the potential to get hired as an independent contractor in the near future. Needless to say, he was extremely excited and spent the next several days getting everything in line for his proposal, doing research and a wide variety of reading to properly prepare the submission. After a week of this, he was done, and sent it off to the company, eagerly awaiting the response, sure that he had some truly dynamite material.

When a week went by with no response, he grew slightly concerned and eventually sent a message asking an opinion on his proposal.

The response he got back, of course, was that the company had never received the proposal. So, he sent it again, and waited, again, and heard from them a few days later asking where the work was, again. By the time he sent it a third time — and confirmed, this time, that it had actually arrived — the proposal was out of date and no longer in consideration for the project at hand. Thanks, internet.

I'm sure he's not the only one with a story like that — everyone knows of relationships that have ended due to a few missed e-mails back and forth, where one link in that chain disappearing into the ether can put everything in a completely different context.

This, of course, just goes to show that even as computers make our lives easier, they also provide new and unusual ways of screwing us over completely. So, if you're seeking employment online, it's a pretty good idea to make sure your contact has received your e-mail before you start planning to buy that dream house.

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