4 People to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

By Ian Acosta on December 19, 2016
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Letters of recommendation and references are a vital part of your professional career. Successful networking is becoming almost as important and necessary as favorable work experience.

In asking for a great reference, work experience goes hand-in-hand. By performing well in a job, class, project, or task, this opens up the door to a multitude of great networking opportunities, namely, asking for a solid reference or a well-thought out, candid letter of recommendation.

Now comes the question of who to ask for a great reference or letter of recommendation? Also, how should you go about asking for it?

Here are a few tips of who to ask for a great reference and how to go about the process.

1. Professor

This might be an obvious one but it is quite important. Professors have a great wealth of knowledge and a depth of experience. Many students choose to pursue research as part of their studies in college and for great reason. It is an amazing way to learn from a respected person in the field while also deepening your knowledge in your own field of study.

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From this research commitment, it is a great and pretty easy way to learn more about the professor and he or she can learn more about the student researcher, thus allowing a more personalized letter of recommendation or reference if needed.

For those who do not research, here are some ways to get to know a professor and still impress them: ask questions during and after class, attend office hours, have casual conversations on anything and everything. Remember, the whole point of a letter of recommendation is personalization. The better the relationship, the better the letter.

2. Teaching Assistant

Similarly to professors, teaching assistants are a great way to learn more about the subject matter while also learning from their experiences. Whether going to office hours to ask a question or two about a lecture or to just strike up a conversation, it is a great way to get to know a mentor a bit better. Remember, connections are everything and this could make all the difference.

How to ask for a reference from a teaching assistant is similar as well. Because teaching assistants usually interact with less students than a professor but on a higher frequency, it is much quicker to form a strong personal relationship which will in turn lead to a better reference down the road.

3. Counselor

For those who see their counselors regularly and consult their advice in terms of classes and career advice, a letter of recommendation should be fairly easy to acquire. Counselors are with students from day one on in their college careers. They can provide great insight into the growth of the student in terms of grades, work ethic, and development of the student’s college and professional career.

Counselors can provide more of an emotional background into the student, i.e. their thoughts on a specific class or subject, how they handle stress and exams, and their overall attitude during various aspects of a student’s college career.

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4. Work Supervisor

For those students who have or had a job while on campus, like yours truly, asking a direct supervisor or boss for a letter of recommendation or reference is perfect. A supervisor knows exactly how the student is as both a worker and team member. A supervisor sees all aspects of student workers such as how they approach tasks, their attitude toward them, and also how to handle pressure situations.

For those who take up a job while in school, remember that someone is always watching. There is always an opportunity to go above and beyond and do more than what is asked. Those experiences get remembered and thus recorded when asking for a reference or letter of recommendation. Because after all, an internship or career employer will need to know how the student performs in a work environment, i.e. either by themselves or in a team and how they respond and handle tasks assigned. When it comes time to move on from the life of a student worker, see if the current boss or supervisor offers to be a reference or to write a letter of recommendation. If not, it is not out of the ordinary to approach the supervisor the student worked the most with to ask about a possible reference.

All in all, these four mentioned are the most likely sources of a well-detailed and unbiased reference. Try to avoid family members generally as that will most likely be viewed as somewhat skewed or biased. Remember, the whole point of a letter of recommendation is to have the student’s talents, skills, work, attitude, and overall personality portrayed accurately and concisely while demonstrating applicable abilities and traits for whatever the letter is for.

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