Hello, Gen Z. Now that we’ve seen how millennials turned out, our only hope for the future rests in your hands. Try not to screw up the planet, OK?

You do have one distinct advantage over the rest of us: growing up with tech. That means you learned to use a computer before you could walk, text faster than you talk and multitask like a pro juggler.

But there’s one gaping hole that will sink your career before you get passed over for that first promotion: In all likelihood, you’ve never sent an email. Also you believe in zombies and vampires — another topic for another day.

Some of you are in college and will soon be out begging for a job. Since your parents have already turned your room into a yoga studio — and I doubt you’ll enjoy sleeping on a yoga matt and waking up at the crack of dawn to old fogies in athleisure wear — here’s what you need to know to survive in the cold cruel working world.

What is email?

Since caveman realized he wasn’t alone, humans have been searching for ways to avoid each other. First we built houses, but people would just come to the door and peer through the window. Telephones were great until some dope built the first answering machine. Then, in 1971, a computer geek named Ray Tomlinson invented email. Bingo.

Email is just like texting except way more complicated, a thousand times slower and nobody ever responds. Most of it ends up in something called a junk folder and eventually gets dumped in the trash bin. So when you ask somebody, “Didn’t you get my email?” get used to the reply, “That’s weird; I never saw it.”

In other words, email is a pointless waste of time … except under certain conditions that will soon become clear as mud.

Where is email?

It’s the only built-in app on your smartphone that you’ve never used. The graphic looks like an envelope. If you’ve never seen an envelope, it looks like a hand puppet made of paper. If you don’t know what paper is, you may as well quit school and join the circus. Don’t know what the circus is? Never mind.

You can email from your phone or tablet (just like a phone but bigger) using the virtual keypad. It goes a lot faster on a physical keyboard — it looks just like the one on your phone except you push the plastic buttons down with your fingers, not just your thumbs. Don’t ask why; it’s a long story.

Who do you email?

Coworkers. Also people you don’t know from Adam but want something from – like prospective employers and customers. You will need to know their email addresses first. They’re like phone number but with letters instead.

Why do you email?

It’s how old people (over 30) communicate at work. You can also email coworkers under 30, but better text these instructions first so they don’t freak out trying to figure it out.

When should you email?

Lots of times, for instance:

When you know that whomever you’re emailing would rather drink from a toilet bowl than hear from you. That’s called direct mail or spam. It ends up in the junk folder we talked about earlier.

When you have bad news you don’t want anyone to know but have to cover your ass and say you sent it.

Late at night so your boss thinks you’re working hard when you’re not. Just take a break from gaming and send him an update once in a while.

When someone sends you an email asking you to do something. In that case, just forward it to someone else and say something like, “Thanks in advance for your help, I appreciate it.” Nobody can resist that.

When you’re drunk, neurotic or in a fit of rage. (JK. Don’t do that.)

How do you email?

After opening the app, click the pen and paper icon, type your message and fill in the “To” field. What’s “Cc” mean? You’re not going to believe this, but it means “carbon copy” – the way copies were made by hand 50 years ago, before electronics. “To” and “Cc” are exactly the same. Why have both? Nobody knows.

Come up with a creative “Subject” designed to trick people into reading it. You know clickbait? Same thing. Attach files using the paper clip icon (looks like a folded up wire in the shape of a capsule you take for your ADHD) and click on the paper airplane to send it. Yes, I know how dumb that sounds, but that’s how it works.

Troubleshooting tips

This is going to sting a little, so brace yourself: You can’t use tons of cryptic acronyms or shorthand and everything has to be spelled right, grammatically correct and composed, more or less. You can use emoticons, but not exclusively. Actually, no more than one per email. Sorry, those are the rules, NK.

Never use “Reply all.” Don’t ask. Just don’t.

Always reread everything before sending. Seriously. The one time you don’t and send something you shouldn’t to your boss’s boss, you can bet that will be the one time he’ll actually read it. Then your boss will get an email from his boss to fire your sorry butt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, that’s about it. Any questions, just email me.

Image credit Kroejsanka Mediteranka via Flickr

A version of this post first appeared at foxbusiness.com.

  • BigGameHunter

    Well . . . this had me howling with laughter as a great start to a Monday morning. It is as true as it is funny. Steve, it makes me wait for the day when you comment on PowerPoint presentations. I am sure that post will be a real beauty. I was once asked why I left a big corporate dream job. My answer: “Did one too many PowerPoint presentations”. I abhorred the fact that no matter how high in the organization I evolved in my career, there was still a string of mooshes above me who needed to know what was going on. PP was the vehicle to communicate when these jazbos would fly in on the corporate jet and take up my time. We seemed to be spending more time telling these guys where we were rather than trying to figure out how to get to where we were supposed to be with the business. And here’s a good one for you — after an especially exhaustive PP presentation that tested conventional business wisdom with a break-out strategy that I was proposing, I actually had a corporate VP tell me at the end of it that the presentation employed “a good use of color graphics”. Period. Amen. PP was a mostly useless exercise that in practice became a signature performance evaluation consideration. A check in the box “Good PP presentations” said you were leadership material. Today, however, and for me at least, PP conjures up many parallels with the present day PP dossier.

    • Steve Tobak

      Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about ppt, BGH? Currently embroiled in ppt hell for my startup. Can’t wait for the first VC to say “good use of color graphics.” 😉

  • Anurodh Sharma

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Steve 🙂