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.

Do you know how to sell yourself professionally on paper? If not you should. Having a resume is a critical piece of your professional success. The resume is the first step in securing a position.  It is best practice to keep an updated resume on hand.  You never know when an opportunity will present itself.  Crafting a strong resume does not have to be intimidating.  There are resources available online and on campus to help you present the best version of yourself.

Below are tips to help craft a strong resume to show employers you are the best candidate for the position:

  1. Be professional in presentation.  Avoid colored paper, avoid adding your picture, and avoid overly casual email      address.
  2. Make sure your name stands out. Use a font and size that stands out and allows your name to be clearly and easily read.
  3. Use bullet points to help information stand out and easy to read.
  4. Use action words to describe your experience.  Each action word, should be a verb (in present tense if still      employed, in past tense if previously employed) to help the employer gain a complete understanding of the role you fulfilled.
  5. Don’t leave anything out.  No role or responsibility is too small.  Give the employer a full scope of your responsibilities.
  6. Fill the page. Do not leave blank space on your resume. If your information does not fill up one page find things to tell the employer about you.  The same rule applies if your information flows over to two pages. Discuss your service experience, describe computer skills, highlight awards, or share a concise mission statement. Blank space on a      resume is a definite no-no and should be avoided, so either delete or add information to get one or two full pages.
  7. Label each page. This very helpful tip can save your resume should your pages get separated.
  8.  Tailor your resume to fit the needs of the job.  Use the position description or job posting of to edit your resume.  Use the same “buzz” words used to describe the job throughout the resume. Using these words and crafting your resume will allow you to stand out and send the message that the position was created for you. If you are applying for jobs in multiple fields, craft a resume for each industry.  You can tweak each resume to highlight relative experience, use relatable key works, and leave out irrelevant  information.
  9. Be truthful. Only include information that can be verified and where you can provide examples or demonstrate your skills.  You do not want to put yourself in the position where your ethics are questioned by questionable information on your resume.
  10. Update regularly. Once you have crafted the perfect resume, it is important to regularly update it with your most current experiences.  Each time you gain a new skill or experience…add it to your resume! Get an award…add it! Present at a conference…add it! Publish an article….add it! Create/Develop something….add it!

Resumes evolve.  As you grow professional, so should your resume.  Each new position is a new opportunity to expand your resume.