Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. In this week’s edition, let’s learn why you do or do not get the perfect letters of recommendation…
Parents, please share with your kids, professionals please apply to your lives. Educators, please share with your students.
As many of you know, I work with college students in a higher education setting. In the Spring semester (January- May), I get a lot of requests from students for letters of recommendation for several reasons (graduate school, jobs after graduation, fraternity/sorority life, campus leadership positions, etc.).
So not too long ago, I was approached by two students that I have a "hi and bye" relationship with to-do letters of recommendation. Generally, I'm not someone who likes to say no to students because I think the role of an educator is to provide opportunities for students to advance their lives. However, the keyword in educators is "educate" so I feel I am doing them a disservice by writing a letter if I truly can't speak to who they are and rewarding last-minute requests. On top of that, I was approached Friday and the letter is due Sunday so that tells the whole story.
A lot of folks are losing out on opportunities because you are NOT using strong references. I haven't been on a job interview since I got hired almost eight years ago but if I started my job search process today I already know who would be my top five folks I would use to be my references.
In my conversations with my students, past, and present, I realized we don't necessarily teach the youth "business relationship/reference etiquette" so here is a thread of suggestions (feel free to add to this list or even disagree with me)
1. A person should ALWAYS be notified they are being used as a reference. I can't tell you the number of times I have been called by an employer and I had NO CLUE I was being used as a reference. When you put someone in a tough spot like that, you are taking a huge risk on the responses they may give to the company doing a reference check on you.
2. A good reference is someone whom you interact with regularly (even semi-regularly). Someone you haven't talked to in five years can only speak to the "old you". You wouldn't ask an old friend from middle school you haven't talked to in 15 years to be in your wedding party, would you?
3. A good reference takes time so please do not hit someone up the same week it is due unless you want something generic and thrown together.
4. A good reference is specific so let the person doing the reference know what they should highlight or any other details they should know (pdf format, word count, signature at the bottom, letterhead, etc.).
5. You should provide the person with a resume so they can be accurate with the information they are sharing. You don't want someone putting the wrong information down. People get busy so they are not going to remember every single detail about you.
6. The art of follow up is key. People get busy and you may not be the only one who asked them for a reference so a polite email always works. Depending on your relationship with someone, a call or text message will suffice as well.
I just want everyone to be great. This was not made to offend but simply inform.
Moral of the story: It is your future, please take it seriously. Find the best people to speak on your behalf but do your part. Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! Until next time, stay classy...
For more Classy Gent Chronicles blog post, be sure to visit https://www.authorjon.com/blog
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.