A thoughtful recommendation is a fine thing to give or receive. LinkedIn has made this process a whole lot easier. My first attempt to get a recommendation from the Head Librarian where I worked during college didn’t go as well as I planned. While she appreciated the work that I had done, she never did get around to writing that recommendation and sending it to me. I think that she might have been more likely to follow through with her intention if she’d been able to post it to my profile.
Back in the day, a professional kept a portfolio that would include originals of recommendation letters on company letterhead, carefully saved in clear plastic sleeves. I still have my dad’s judiciously built portfolio, in a nice leather binding, glowing letters spanning his career.
I have actually enjoyed writing the recommendations that I have given. (I also see benefit in thoughtfully writing employee reviews.) I spend time thinking about the characteristics and skills of that person that make them effective at their job. I tie these to specific projects and tasks that the person has completed. Sometimes if time has elapsed since we worked together, I might ask to meet and talk to refresh my memory. Vague platitudes from me aren’t going to do anybody any good.
I learned about having that conversation beforehand from one of my HR friends. I asked her for a recommendation and she asked me about my goals and expectations from the recommendation. A nice addition to the question – would you give me a recommendation – and the usual casual answer – sure.
But I don’t want to be told exactly what to say either. Any more than I am going to answer a survey on a company when they tell me that they want to hear that I was highly satisfied. (If you already know the answer, why bother to pretend to ask the question…) The reader will be able to tell when I have taken the time to craft my impression of that person from my own experience and interactions.
I’ve come to see recommendations as another facet of writing as communication. It might be simpler to ask and to post now, but that just means the effort can all go to being thoughtful in your expression.
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