The Importance of Recommendation Letters
College provides students with not only the opportunity to gain the skills needed to pursue their dream career/profession but also develop the skills necessary to network with others and become a viable candidate in the workforce. In order to showcase an individual’s strengths and moral character, certain types of documentation are often required by employers and others in the working world. Obtaining a letter of recommendation is one of the most important forms of documentation a student can have.
What Is a Letter of Recommendation?
Simply put, this type of letter is written by someone that knows the person the letter is for–either professionally, personally or both. The letter discusses the individual’s strengths, character, qualities and includes examples of instances or situations to support the writer’s opinion.
Who Writes Letters of Recommendation?
Depending on the reason for the letter, just about anyone can write this type of document. The most common types of people that write letters of recommendation include but are not limited to college professors, high school teachers, guidance counselors, former/current bosses or supervisors, colleagues, best friends or even family members. It is important to check who is eligible to write your letter of recommendation according to the guidelines set (if any) by the individual, company or organization requesting this type of documentation. For example, some organizations will only accept a recommendation letter from someone that is not directly related to you or from a person of authority that has worked with you in the past 5 years.
When Are Recommendation Letters Necessary?
There are a number of reasons when a recommendation letter may be needed, such as:
- Applying for an internship
- Applying for graduate school
- Applying to colleges and universities (this is applicable for soon-to-be high school graduates)
- During the interview process for a job position
- Applying for scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid
- Applying for a volunteer position
How Do I Ask?
It is vital to be professional in your approach. Don’t turn to shortcuts such as email, a phone call or even writing a traditional letter. In fact, before even contacting the person you’re interested in asking, lay out a plan of action first. Know the reasons why you chose him/her to ask. Be prepared to discuss why you feel you’re deserving of such a letter and how it can help you advance and reach your career goals. Research the internship, job position, graduate school program, degree program or other purpose that you are interested in so that you’ll be prepared to answer any questions you may be asked about it. The more knowledgeable and confident you are, the more likely you’ll be to convince the person you’re seeking a recommendation from to do you this favor. Remember, that’s exactly what agreeing to write a letter of recommendation is: a favor and privilege–not an obligation.
Timing is everything. For instance, if you’d like to ask one of your professors, arrange an appointment outside of class to discuss the matter instead of asking before, during or after class. Find out when he/she is available and set aside enough time to have your discussion. Once you’ve received your letter of recommendation, follow up quickly with a thank you letter. If you are turned down, thank them for their time and move on to the next person.
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