A letter of recommendation from a previous boss, co-worker, professor and/or associate may either help or hinder in your job searches, matriculation throughout your career and/or desire to enter college or graduate school. One of the most important reasons to never burn any bridges with those you have once worked with or studied under, is the potential need to seek a note of praise from them at some point during your career.
I completely recognized and understood which former employers I could contact to seek a recommendation or reference from, along with those who just should not be contacted under any circumstances. Whether you are currently on the market for a new job or not, it is always important to pinpoint who, when, where, how and why to ask for a letter of recommendation.
Here are a few tips to consider:
1) Why should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
Letters of reference and recommendations are just about required for every job that is out there these days. Potential employers and admissions offices want to ensure they are hiring the person portrayed on the resume and application. I once had a former employer ask for additional references, aside from the three I had previously provided, when he was making his final decision on hiring either me or another candidate HOURS before he made his final decision. Having access to those willing to provide said letters will move hiring and school entrance matters along a lot more efficiently and effectively.
2) Who should you ask?
I have developed a circle of former employers, professors, colleagues and clients I can call on when I need a letter of reference or recommendation. These are all people I have either worked for, or worked with at one point in time during my career with a positive outcome. It is important to seek said letters from someone who can speak from experience regarding your work ethic, productivity and level of commitment to a job or an industry.
3) When should you ask?
I do not believe in catching people off guard with any request, whether it is for a letter of recommendation or to grab an after work cocktail. During your tenure at a particular job, and after you have thoroughly displayed your positive contributions to your company, it may be best to start assessing who you feel would provide the best reference for you in the future. This way, once you need their assistance (more than likely after you have amicably parted ways), it will not come as a surprise to them if you ask them if they would be willing to serve as a reference upon your departure from the company. Additionally, if you are seeking a letter from your professor, do not wait until finals are starting or a week before your B-school application is due to seek such a request.
4) How should you ask?
Would it be better to give them a call? Send them an email? Draft a formal letter of request and mail it them? Well, this is all subjective to who you are seeking assistance from. Gauge the best means to make the request that will not offend and/or surprise the person who may write your letter. Be respectful, courteous and humble in your approach.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.