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The Perfect Letter of Recommendation: Sincere, Positive & Affirming

The Perfect Letter of Recommendation: Sincere, Positive & Affirming

Writing a perfect letter of recommendation can seem intimidating, especially if you have never written one. The struggle between staying honest to yourself while trying not to destroy one’s future is always challenging. You don’t want to make things up, but you are even more unwilling to write a template-like vague, dull and unconvincing letter.

Letter of recommendation can really decide one’s future. If carefully written, the letter can help someone to stand out from the crowds of talents. Otherwise, it is more like a killing letter rather than a killer letter. Here is a complete guide to help you writer a killer recommendation letter (plus useful letter of recommendation template!)

1. Apply the standard letter format to your letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation follows the same general rules as any other professional letters.

  • Your address should be on the top right, followed by the date
  • Below your address, on the left, have the recipient’s name and address
  • Start with a formal business greeting. For example, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’

2. Start by express your passionate praise in brief

Let the potential employer of the person you are writing for know that you believed in this person right from the start. Try not to sound overzealous; you do not want them to think it is insincere.

“Any corporation should count themselves fortunate to have an employee as determined, sharp and friendly as Mark.”

3. Show how well you know the person you are writing for

Give some concrete contexts and examples for your recommendation. Inform the reader how you met them, how long you have worked together, your experience working with them and summarise your basic qualifications.

“As MD of Media Central, I was Mark’s direct supervisor from 2007 to 2011. We worked together on several key projects together as I got to know him well, as a hardworking man.”

4. Highlight the candidate’s qualifications and past achievements

Give a clear and concise description of what the person has done, in your company. Cite their greatest achievements in their assigned departments as well as team projects. Use examples, give evidence or summarise a story of their work.

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“Mark’s enthusiasm for solving problems through media combined with his grasp of media technology, polished editorial skills and team spirit, has improved our company’s productivity in the visual and print media departments.

5. Illustrate their success and what makes them stand out through comparisons

Comparisons help the recipient to have some basis to fathom why you are recommending the candidate.

“Mark’s ability to get the job done even before the deadline, keep up with technological trends and serve diversified markets has surpassed the combined efforts of other media efforts I have witnessed during my five years at XXX LTD.”

6. Cite where and how the candidate is improving without any exaggeration

Do not set expectations for the candidates that may be almost impossible to meet. Praise them without looking plausible.

“Mark is always active in seminars, summits and complementary courses as he works hard to improve technical skills in field work.”

7. Mention their good qualities outside of work

Give a basis of their participation whether it is in the company’s sports team or voluntary work.

“Mark is also an active member of the company’s football team where he performs outstandingly.”

8. Maintain action-oriented writing

Start every paragraph with an active affirmation of the candidate’s character traits or qualities.

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Replace “I have been pleased with his ongoing work” with “Mark’s skills have drastically improved in the last couple months. His selfless attitude is inspiring.”

9. Close the letter with an affirmative tone

In few words, restate your recommendation of the candidate and invite the recipient to contact you.

“For all the above reasons, I know Mark will be of great value to your company as an addition to the team. Should you have any enquiries, I invite you to contact me at the phone number and address, above.”

10. Don’t forget to sign your name!

The most important thing it to still sound professional, at the end of it all. If the recommendation letter you are writing is to be sent to a physical address, print and sign it by hand. Otherwise, type your name and sign off.

Remember, make this person look good without putting them on the pedestal. You are putting your reputation on the line for this person, make it perfect. If you aren’t completely confident that you have covered everything in your letter, ask for feedback from an associate who may also know the candidate.

And more tips from professionals to help you write an all-rounded letter of recommendation.

It’s not ending here. We still have some wise words from some professionals in the field for you. Their expertise and experience are the perfect proof of their credibility. And it is highly advisable to listen to them before starting your letter or you may accidentally step on some traps which can be avoided.

Keep the letter of recommendation brief and concise

One-page MAX. This may seem like common sense, but can be hard if you are trying to get across a lot of accomplishments or the person has an extended CV. If you can get to the heart of the matter in one page, highlighting the person, as opposed to waxing poetic about how great they are will keep it authentic. — Brandyce Stephenson, Corporate Culture Consultant[1]

Don’t be vague, list examples to demonstrate the candidate’s qualities instead

My best advice for writing an effective letter of recommendation is to focus the writing and praise on a specific project or area of work that the person completed. Rather than the vague cliches of saying that candidate X is “hard-working, attentive, and detail-oriented”, it helps to say exactly what the person did when you were working for them and what astounded you about that particular practice. Anyone can be a “conscientious worker”, but few may have the fortitude to work long hours and late nights to achieve a goal, or the ability to instantly pick up a new program online, for example. — Jake Tully, Editor In Chief TruckDrivingJobs[2]

Mention the lasting impression

Finish your letter with a statement about how you would be “happy to hire X person again”. This firmly indicates to the hirer that you parted ways on good terms. — Jamie Stone, Human Resources Consultant, Mature Dates Online[3]

Introduce yourself in the letter as well

It may not be very obvious to the reviewer who you are and why you have the standing to recommend this person. State in the letter why you have the experience to make this judgement. So, for example, I would say: “I am a professor of medicine with 25 years of experience. I have mentored hundreds of postdoctoral fellows in a top 20 medical research center. Therefore, I have extensive experience assessing the skills of applicants at this level.” — Dr. Luz Claudio, director of training programs and author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide[4]

Tailor the letter to the job sought

Familiarise yourself with the position so that you can tailor your letter to the specific requirements of the job. If the job heavily entails people management, make sure you mention a time when this person did a great job at that, even if it wasn’t their main responsibility. — Freda Francis, Human Resources Expert, Mums That Work[5]

Get personal and trigger emotions

People like to get their hearts tugged at a bit and if some one can stand someone enough to hire someone or have someone as a student and actually want to recommend them after the experience, they probably think they’re pretty good people. Opt for sincerity versus perfection. People dig it. — Joan Barrett, Freelance Writer, Joan Barrett Media[6]

Emphasise the great attitude of the person you are writing for

A great recommendation letter speaks to the candidate’s stellar attitude. I don’t always expect candidates to meet every requirement of the job as long as they have the basics down. But I do expect them to come with a great attitude and positive energy regarding tackling new challenges. You can train people on skills, but you can almost never train attitude. — Jeff Kear, Founder, Planning Pod[7]

With all these tips and suggestion, you are now capable to write a sound, convincing yet neat killer letter of recommendation. No worries for the possibility of killing now. And be prepared to be a favourite to write more in the coming future!

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

[1] Brandyce Stephenson, Corporate Culture Consultant
[2] Jake Tully, Editor In Chief TruckDrivingJobs.com
[3] Jamie Stone, Human Resources Consultant, Mature Dates Online
[4] Dr. Luz Claudio, director of training programs and author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide
[5] Freda Francis, Human Resources Expert, Mums That Work
[6] Joan Barrett, Freelance Writer, Joan Barrett Media
[7] Jeff Kear, Founder, Planning Pod

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

Reference

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