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Bwog Gives Advice: Letters Of Recommendation 101

me searching for an internship that will pay me in more than just colorful beads

Zӧe Sottile is Bwog’s internal editor and also a full-sized human woman! At this point, she is considering asking for recommendations from Tinder matches.

It’s spring semester which means it’s officially JOB SEASON in Morningside Heights. Freshmen and seniors alike are scouring Handshake for (un)paid opportunities to put their education into practice. But a lot of jobs—and also study abroad programs, scholarships, fellowships, grad school etc.—require recommendations! Some ask for recommendations from past employers, some from professors, some from both. Asking for recommendations can be stressful and confusing, especially if you don’t have close relationships with your professors. You might not have asked for a rec since you were applying for college. But don’t worry! Bwog’s here to break it all down for you.

  1. Be thoughtful about who you choose! Ideally the recommender will both be someone who can speak to your particular qualifications and who has some relationship to the opportunity you’re applying for. So if you’re applying for a law internship, it’s probably better to ask your polisci professor than your art history professor. There are exceptions to this, of course: if you think you have a really strong connection with your professor and you’ve shown your best work in their class, ask away! Seminar professors can be really great for this because they have more of a chance to get to know you and see your mind work. Freshmen, this is why going to office hours matters; your future self will thank you when your LitHum professor helps you get the internship of your dreams. Think of the long game.
  2. Don’t be afraid! A lot of people feel anxious about asking for recommendations, but it is literally part of the job description for anyone who works with young people. They give plenty of recommendations—they know what to expect. With employers, a lot of people are scared that maybe their past employers don’t remember them. But in general, if you did a decent job, they will both remember you and be more than happy to write you a good recommendation! Everything from old internships to your boss from summer camp is fair game—ask and ye shall probably receive. Also, this is probably obvious, but don’t ask your friends or family! Not professional, yo.
  3. Ask in person. Like they did in the olden days! Unless you absolutely have to—like if you or the recommender is abroad—try to ask your professor in person. Swing by office hours, chat them up a bit. Don’t like, bring them presents to bribe them, but make it clear that you respect their time and energy.
  4. Ask WAY IN ADVANCE. Ideally a year before (jk). Always err on the side of earlier rather than later. Your recommenders have jobs, families, commitments, maybe even social lives! If you show them respect by asking in advance you’ll get a better recommendation. This means keeping on top of your deadlines—no last minute fixes here. The general rule is to ask around four weeks in advance of the deadline. If you’re really polite or the recommendation is a really big deal go for six weeks.
  5. Be prepared to offer additional materials. All recommenders are different in regards to this—some want to see your resume, some want you just to write up a little statement on yourself and your desires. Usually the recommender in question will ask you to send these via email—put together a nice, professional email.
  6. THANK THEM! This is the most undervalued but essential step. This person maybe helped you get a job! Whether it’s an ex-boss or your old UWriting professor, make them feel valued. Go drop by their office hours, send a really nice email, or even send them a handwritten card if you’re fancy! It’s nice to keep them updated, too—tell them if you got the position!
  7. Profit!! Receive a dope recommendation a few weeks after you ask and get the JOB OF YOUR DREAMS. Go get ’em Bwog babes.

Cute candid via Wikimedia.

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