How to Snag a Great Written Recommendation

letter_of_reccomendationIn a world where jobs and internships are hard to come by, even the lowest coffee-fetching positions are becoming more and more competitive. And while a resume and previous experience is extremely important, having a great recommendation letter can often make or break your future career aspirations. Here are a few tips to help you get that glowing recommendation:

1. Pick someone who knows you well

Your resume tells the employer your experience and related skills. Your cover letter gives you a chance to explain why you want the position. But your recommendation letter shows one of your most important aspects: your character. This is why you want to ask someone who knows you and your work ethic very well. Pick a professor who knows what a determined or motivated student you are, or a former boss who remembers how reliable you are. Also, when it comes to the recommendation letter, always choose someome who you think will do the best job- despite their professional title. If you are able to talk the dean of your college into writing you a letter (but you have never actually met before), chances are good that a letter meant to describe your character will be totally lackluster- something many employers frown upon. Instead, opt for the visiting lecturer who can tell the employer how amazing and talented you really are.

2. Pick a professional

As much as Aunt Jill or your longtime neighbor loves you, don’t use them as a character reference. Employers want to know how you act in the workplace, and part of that has to do with understanding proper business etiquette. When it comes to job opportunities and letters of recommendation, keep family and close personal friends out of the mix. Although it might be tempting (after all, who knows you better than those closest to you?), anyone other than professional acquaintances are null and void. It’s just good business to ask people who are less personally involved with your life because employers are looking for an objective view on who you are- something your mom couldn’t exactly give.

3. Work hard

Remember that part where I said to pick a professor who knows how motivated and driven you are? Well in order to do that, you need to have shown someone that you actually are motivated and driven. As simple as this may sound, it is extremely important. View every class you take and every job you have as an opportunity and a stepping stone. Be ready and prepared to show your teachers and bosses what you’ve got and what a hard worker you can be. Perhaps the best example of this is a piece of advice a professor once told me: “When someone calls your boss for a reference, you want the first thing they say to be, ‘Crap! She’s leaving?!’ It shows how important and vital you are to their team. That’s the best recommendation you can ever get.”

— By Kristy Shaulis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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