Getting Letters of Recommendation

February 1, 2024

As you navigate through your career you will soon learn how to make professional connections. Those connections will allow you to collaborate with colleagues, mentor and be mentored, and assist as you navigate through your career.  As a rule of thumb, you never want to burn bridges.  You will learn that your industry, especially within your city and state can be a very close-knit community and you never know if you will cross paths with someone later down the line.   

As you progress as a professional, you will need to apply for internships, scholarships, membership into organizations, applying for graduate school, and seeking professional positions.  One of the things that you may need is a letter of recommendation.  Letters of recommendations will help you distinguish you from other applicants.  The letter will allow readers to paint a picture of who you are and what you have done or accomplished. 

One of the very first professional connections you will establish will be the person(s) you seek for a letter of recommendation.  If you have already identified a mentor, you may already have someone that you are comfortable with and can easily approach to assist you. If you do not have mentor and are unsure who to approach you may have to put more thought into your request.

If you are nervous or unsure who to approach, here are a few things to consider. 

1.       Update or create your resume.  Highlight your accomplishments, what you have done, and you are at a glance. Provide your resume when making the request so the person can refer to your accomplishments in the recommendation. 

2.       Identify a potential list of people to ask.  You may need 3 or more letters of recommendation and they may be required for different reasons.  One to speak on your work experience, one referencing your community service, and one that can speak to your educational aptitude. Consider coaches, professors, counselors and advisors, colleagues, classmates, and former supervisors.

3.       Ensure your recommender can speak to your skills and will have positive things to say.  You do not want to enlist the help of someone that has negative things to say about you, your work ethic, and your ability to succeed in the new capacity you are applying for.  

4.       Provide enough time for the recommendation to be completed. Provide ample time for the recommendation to be completed. 

5.       Know the requirements for the letter.  Make sure you know the required length, if there are specific questions or information that should be included. 

6.       Know the deadline and how recommendation should be submitted.  Some applications will require online submission while others will need to be physically mailed.   

7.       Be prepared to write your own letter.  Some people may need your guidance and for you to jumpstart the letter and they will adjust and add to suite their needs.

8.       Be prepared to hear “no”.  You may select someone that does not feel comfortable completing the recommendation.  The person may not have time or be able to meet your deadline.  The person may not know you well enough.

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