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Michael Owolabi
Michael Owolabi

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Your email could be your biggest career advancement enemy

My email is usually one of the first things I look through in the morning to check for anything new overnight. Recently, I was having not less than 15 unread emails in my inbox for about 5 consecutive days and I wasn’t feeling comfortable with it. All I do during these times is just to quickly scan through my mail for anything important and new and I could easily miss things this way.
So, after about a week, I decided I was going to take the time out to correctly sort out my personal email, not just my inbox but my entire email and that was exactly what I did. While doing that I discovered something shocking and that is the reason I thought to write this article and I hope that it benefits and charges you to change your habit towards your email.

What I discovered

As I was taking my time to properly sort my mail moving from tab to tab (by the way I use Gmail) I finally clicked on “All Mail” and was shocked to see tons of unread emails that never made it to my inbox and some even carried the inbox flag. So I continued the email sanitation by deleting irrelevant emails and clicking the unsubscribe buttons whenever necessary.
Just as I was doing this, I came across two mails that didn't look like marketing or spam so I decided to take a peek into its content and alas! my suspicion was true in the two instances.

The two mails were interview invitations from two organizations, one local, the other foreign. I was dumbfounded for a little while because the emails have been sitting somewhere in my mail for over four (4) months and that was the first time I was seeing it.
On looking closely at the timeframe of the emails, it was around the same time I was out of a job and was looking for new opportunities. During that time I had sent out multiple applications and reached out to my network for a new job.

Eventually, when I did some research about the two organizations, I discovered that I never directly applied to them which means someone had dropped my contact as a form of referral at the companies and you know what they say about referrals when it comes to job search 😭.

Yes, just like that, it dawned on me that I had missed what could have turned out to be an interesting opportunity had all mails carrying the inbox flag actually did make it to my inbox or had I made a habit of always checking all emails instead of just the ones that make it to my inbox and spam.

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Why did I say your email could be your biggest career advancement enemy?

Come to think of it, email is the professional means of communicating official information between different parties. What this means is that if you’re going to get a new job or contract you will most likely get to know via an email, likewise, if you’re being promoted or probably getting a raise it will definitely be accompanied by an email, the same is true even for business owners/entrepreneurs.

Moreover, With different anti-spam algorithms flying around chances are that some of your important emails may be wrongly classified and never make it to your inbox. If you are like me who prioritizes my inbox and rarely check spam or other tabs quickly enough, you might miss out on great opportunities.

However, there are other times when our emails aren’t wrongly classified but we are just too lazy to read and properly sort our mails and by that, we have so many unread emails at the same time making it very easy for important ones to get lost in the stack of read/unread emails. In this case, it is not the email service providers that are hampering your professional progress. It is you due to your bad habit towards your email.

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I know some might be thinking, “of course, I’ll pay better attention when applying for a new job or when I have something important on the way”, this can not be more wrong. There are times when you might have been referred or otherwise and a great opportunity would just be missed because you are never in the habit of tidying your email until you have something on the way.
This is even more terrible because your bad email habit coupled with some wrong email classifications is a recipe for professional disaster.

I did a poll on Twitter barely 24 hours to publishing this article regarding how people miss opportunities because they got to see email a little too late and the result I got was alarming. From the result, 65.4 % of the respondents said they have missed opportunities due to seeing email a little too late. That’s some very scary percentage. Here is the link to the poll

Twitter poll showing the result of a question on email issues

How can this be resolved 🤔?

Now that we have identified some of the reasons that may be contributing to missing great opportunities emanating from our emails and its usage, below are the mitigating steps that can be taken to ensure we don’t miss great opportunities to poor email management.

1. Check all emails, not just the ones in your inbox

Just like I stated earlier that as a Gmail user, even some emails with the inbox flag did not appear in my inbox and I did not get to see them until I checked the All mail section so also can your important emails be wrongly classified and placed under a different tab than your inbox so, always ensure that you check all emails from all tabs so as to ensure that you do not miss a great opportunity due to wrong email classification.

2. Read your emails daily

There’s no fun in having tons of unread emails and increasing the chance of missing important ones. Make a habit of actually reading your emails daily. Not just logging into your email system and scanning through, but properly reading them and deleting unnecessary ones so that it becomes easier for you to spot new emails one of which may come bearing good news of juicy opportunities.

3. Unsubscribe often

Yes, I said it. Most of the emails we get are usually some marketing related stuff that does not directly have anything to do with us or help our career in the shortest time possible. Be truthful to yourself while wielding the “axe of unsubscribe” and properly weed out all mail correspondence that is not beneficial to you in any way. Also, swiftly click the unsubscribe button because if you don’t, these are the ones that will mask important emails thereby increasing your chance of missing out on what could be a life-changing opportunity.


Emails will continue to be an important part of our professional lives and we must be deliberate about using it well to our advantage. Failure to do this may gravely impact our careers and what should have been a great tool for us could easily turn out to be our biggest career advancement enemy.

  • Check all emails not just the ones in your inbox
  • Read your emails daily
  • Unsubscribe often

If you have other great tips, feel free to share it in the comment section. I can also be reached on twitter via @iMichaelOwolabi

Top comments (2)

sudhanshup04 profile image
Sudhanshu Pandey

For work I prefer yahoo 🤟

imichaelowolabi profile image
Michael Owolabi

Awesome! Whatever works best for us is fine