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The Best Way to Write a Letter of Recommendation? Let the Person Asking Do It

The Best Way to Write a Letter of Recommendation? Let the Person Asking Do It

Whether you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student or colleague, or you need a letter of recommendation yourself, deciding exactly what to include can be tricky.

Maybe you’re busy, and don’t have much time to spend on the letter. Perhaps you’re not that close to the person asking you for the letter – what does she work on again? Fear not. This article will help you to write an amazing letter of recommendation with very little effort.

Before you start, first consider letting the person asking to write it himself

Not all letters of recommendation were actually written by the person who signed them. In fact, it’s actually pretty common for employees to write their own letter of recommendation, simply giving it to their boss to read through and sign off.

There are a few key reasons why writing your own letter of recommendation is a good idea:

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  • You know your own work better than anyone.
  • You can tailor the letter to include points you know will be relevant to your future career.
  • Your boss/teacher might not have time to write a thorough letter – you do.

So, if someone’s asked you for a letter, why not propose letting them write it themselves? At the very least, ask them for a few points on what they’d like you to include, as well as some details on what they plan to use the letter for. This makes the whole process much quicker and easier.

One teacher said this about the experience of asking her students to write their own recommendation letters [1]:

They can write a much stronger letter than I ever could about their performance.

The beautifully constructed and thoughtful letters that they produce on their own behalf are always mind-blowing.

If you really need to write it, read on…

If having the person who needs the letter write it themselves isn’t an option, don’t worry. We’ve summarized the key points that should be included in an employer recommendation letter and a character recommendation letter below.

Key points for an employer recommendation letter

For employer recommendation letter, specific details that can highlight the person’s key strengths are always favoured. Check these things

  • Your employee’s job title
  • Length of employment
  • Key achievements while working for you
  • Skills, experience and personal attributes that make the person a strong employee
  • The reason you agreed to write the letter
  • Details on how to get in touch with you for questions

Here’s an example of a great letter of recommendation. [2]

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    This letter gives details on exactly what the employee did, what her key strengths were, and why she’d be a valuable asset to another employer. It mentions her personality as well as her professional experience, creating a well-rounded picture.

    Key points for a character reference letter

    A character reference letter focuses on personality and will look a little different to an employer reference letter. Check out the list of key points to include below.

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    • How you know the person (friend, co-worker, family member, business partner, etc).
    • Positive personality traits the person possesses, with examples if possible. For example, ‘Kate is very organized and caring – she runs a charity fundraiser every year.’
    • Key skills. For example, ‘Joe is great with animals and often cares for my pets while I’m away.’
    • The reason you agreed to write the letter.
    • Details on how to get in touch with you for questions.

    Check out this example for further inspiration. [3]

      This letter is great because it gives lots of details om Jane’s strength, clearly explains the author’s relationship to Jane, and gives examples to back up the points made.

      Don’t despair next time you’re asked for a letter of recommendation. Either ask the person to help out by writing it themselves, or follow the simple formula above to easily write an excellent letter.

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      Reference

      More by this author

      Eloise Best

      Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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      Last Updated on October 22, 2019

      How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Get Unstuck

      How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Get Unstuck

      There are plenty of people who successfully made a career change at the age of 40 or above:

      The Duncan Hines cake products you see in the grocery store are a good example. Hines did not write his first food guide until age 55 and he did not license his name for cake mixes until age 73.

      Samuel L. Jackson made a career change and starred alongside John Travolta in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46.

      Ray Kroc was age 59 when he bought his first McDonald’s.

      And Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at the age of 44.

      I could keep going, but I think you get the point. If you have a sound mind and oxygen in your lungs, you have the ability to successfully make a career change.

      In this article, I’ll look into why making a career change at 40 seems so difficult for you, and how to make the change and get unstuck from your stagnant job.

      What’s Holding You Back from Making a Career Change?

      There are a flood of amazing reasons to make a career change at 40. Heck, you could argue the benefits of making a career change at any age. However, there is something a little different about making a career change at 40.

      When you are 40, you probably have lots of “responsibilities” that come into the decision-making process. What do I mean by responsibilities, you ask?

      Responsibilities tend to be our fears and self-doubt wrapped in a bow of logic and reason. You may say to yourself:

      • I have bills to pay and a family to support. Can I afford the risk associated with a career change?
      • What about the friends I have made over the years? I cannot just abandon them.
      • What if I do not like my career change as much as I thought I would? I could end up miserable and stuck in a worse situation.
      • My new career is so different than what I have been doing, I need additional training and certifications. Can I afford this additional expense and do I have the time recoup my investment?
      • The economy is not the best and there is so much uncertainty surrounding a new career. Maybe it would be better to wait until I retire from this company in 15 years, and then I can start something new.

      If you have experienced any of these thoughts, they will only pacify you for a short period of time. Whether that time is a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.

      Since you know that you prefer to do something else for a living, you start to feel stagnant in your current position.

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      Your reasons for inaction that used to work are no longer doing the trick. What used to be a small fissure in your dissatisfaction in your current position is now a chasm.

      Ideally, you never stay in a situation until that point, but if you did, there is still hope.

      4 Tips To Change Your Career at 40

      You do not have to feel stagnant in your current role any longer. You can take steps to conquer your fears and self-doubt so you can accomplish your goal of changing your career.

      The challenge of changing your career is not knowing where to begin. That feeling of overwhelm and the fear of uncertainty is what keeps most people from moving forward.

      To help you successfully change your career at the age of 40, follow these four tips.

      1. Value Your Time Above Money

      There is nothing more valuable than your time. You are likely receiving a pay-check or two every month that is replenishing your income. Money is something you can always receive more of.

      When it comes to your time, when it is gone, it is gone. That is why waiting for the perfect situation to make a career change is the wrong mindset to have.

      Realistically, you will never find the perfect situation. There will always be something that could be better or a project you want to finish before you leave.

      By placing your time above money, you will maximize your opportunity to succeed and avoid stagnation.

      If you feel disconnected when you are at work, understand that you are not alone. According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of U.S. employees said they were actively engaged at work.[1]

      Whether you think your talents are not being properly utilized, the politics of promotion stress you out, or you feel called to do something else with your life; the time to act is now.

      Do not wait until you retire in another 10 to 20 years to make a career change. Put a plan in place to make a career change now. You will thank yourself later.

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      2. Build a Network

      Making a career change is not going to be easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.

      One benefit to being further along in your career is the people you associate with are further along in their career as well.

      Even if most of the people in your immediate network are not in your target industry, you never know the needs of the people with whom they associate.

      A friend of mine recently made a career change and entered the real estate industry. The first thing he did was tell everyone he knew that he was a licensed real estate agent.

      It was not as though he thought everyone he knew was getting ready to sell their home. He wanted to make sure he was in the front of our mind if we spoke to anyone purchasing or selling their home.

      You may have had a similar experience with a financial adviser canvasing the neighborhood. They wanted to let you know they were a local and licensed financial adviser. Whether you or someone you knew was shopping for an adviser, they wanted to make sure you thought of them first.

      The power of your network being further along in their career is they may be the hiring manager or decision-maker.

      You want to let people know you are considering a career move early in the process, so they are thinking of you when the need arises.

      Let me put it to you in the form of a question: When is the best time to let people know you have a snow shoveling business?

      In the summer when there is not a drop of snow on the ground.

      Let them know about your business in the summer. Then ask them if it is okay to keep in touch with them until the need arises. Then you want to spend the entire fall season cultivating and nurturing the relationship. As a result, when the winter comes around, they already know who is going to shovel their snow.

      If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, start throwing out those feelers before the need arises. Then you will be ahead of your competition who waited until the snow fell to start canvasing the neighborhood.

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      Learn about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

      3. Believe It Is Possible

      One of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to try something new, is they never talk to people living the life they want.

      If you only talk to friends who have not changed their career in 30 years, what kind of advice do you think they will give you? They are going to give you the advice that they live by. If they have spent 30 years in the same career, they most likely feel stability of career is essential to their life.

      In life, your actions often mirror your beliefs. Someone who wants to start a business should not ask for advice from someone who never started one.

      A person who never took the risk of starting a business is most likely risk adverse. Consequently, they are going to speak on the fact that most businesses fail within the first five years.

      Instead, if you talk to someone who is running a business, they will advice you on the difficulties of starting a business. However, they will also share with you how they overcame those difficulties, as well as the benefits of being a business owner.

      If you want to overcome your fears and self-doubt associated with changing your career at 40, you are going to need to talk to people who have successfully managed a career change.

      They are going to provide you a realistic perspective on the difficulties surrounding the endeavor, but they are also going to help you believe it is possible.

      Studies show the sources of your beliefs include,[2]

      “environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs.”

      By choosing to absorb the successes of others, you are choosing to believe you can change your career at 40. On the other hand, if you absorb the fears and doubts of others, you have chosen to succumb to your own fears and self-doubt.

      4. Put Yourself Out There

      You are most likely going to have to leave your comfort zone to make a career change at 40.

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      Reason-being, your comfort zone is built on the experiences you have lived thus far. So that means your current career is in your comfort zone.

      Even though you may be feeling stagnant and unproductive in your career, it is still your comfort zone. This helps explain why so many people are unwilling to pursue a career change.

      If you want to improve your prospects of launching your new career, you are going to need to attend industry events.

      Whether these events are local or a large conference that everyone attends, you want to make it a priority to go. Ideally you want to start with local events because they may be a more intimate setting.

      Many of these events have a professional development component where you can see what skill-sets, certification, and education people are looking for. Here you can find 17 best careers worth going back to school for at 40.

      You can almost survey the group and build your plan of action according to the responses you receive.

      The bonus of exposure to your new industry is you may find yourself getting lucky (when opportunity meets preparation) and creating a valuable relationship or landing an interview.

      Final Thoughts

      Whatever the reason, if you want to change your career, you owe it to yourself to do so. You have valuable in-sight from your current career that can help you position yourself above others.

      Start sharing your story and desire to change your career today. Attend industry events and build a mindset of belief. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal, you only need to take action.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/HY-Nr7GQs3k via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] News Gallup: Employee Engagement In US, Stagnant In 2015
      [2] Indian J Psychiatry: The Biochemistry Of Belief

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