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A Good Reference Letter Is the Best Gift for the Person You Value

A Good Reference Letter Is the Best Gift for the Person You Value

When you were asked to write a reference letter, did you get a warm fuzzy feeling or did you cringe with anxiety? Perhaps a little of both?

Either way, having to write a reference letter comes with great responsibility. And while you might feel excited to help someone on their journey to a better future, you also realize there is a lot relying on your writing abilities.

First, do you know what a reference letter is?

Do you know what to say in a reference letter? How long should it be? How can you sell the person’s strengths and abilities without sounding overzealous?

It’s important first to understand the purpose behind the reference letter. Companies and institutions who ask for reference letters want to know why a candidate would be well suited for a position, but it’s equally important for them to know what qualifies you to recommend them for such a position.

Before you start writing, make sure you understand the context of the situation. Is this letter for school admission? A new job? Entry into an organization?

If you still aren’t sure about content, formatting, or what exactly you should say, here are a few tips and tricks you can apply when crafting your reference letter:

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10 Features of Standout Reference Letters and What Makes Them So Special

Speak from a personal perspective

    This example from Monster.com demonstrates the writer’s personal experience with Sharon, the person she is referring.[1] She takes care to include her own observations when working with Sharon, along with a specific situation in which Sharon attended optional professional development seminars.

    However, make sure that your personal testament is just that – personal. Don’t forge instances or embellish events because you think they sound good.

    Use a business letter format

      If you are sending a hard copy letter, you want to make a professional presentation to the reader. Using a standard business letter format, like the one above, can give your message a toned, polished look without distracting from the content.[2]

      Write your letter based off the job description

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        It’s important to know in what context your letter will be used. If it’s for a particular job, ask the person for a copy of the job description. You can use the description to search for clues about what qualities the ideal candidate will have, and then tailor your letter to demonstrate those same qualities, if they apply to the person you are referring.

        The example above shows the writer understands the position the person is applying for, and relates his skills to ones that will benefit the position.

        Keep it positive

          The purpose behind a recommendation letter is to showcase why a person deserves the attention of the company or institution who requested the letter, as demonstrated in the above example.[3] We all have our shortcomings, but a reference letter isn’t the place to point those out.

          If you don’t believe you can truthfully describe the person in a positive light, you may want to consider declining the request to write the letter.

          Only write a letter if you know the person well enough

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            If you are writing a letter, you should be familiar enough with the person to speak about their abilities and accomplishments, just like the example above.[4] You would be better equipped to write a letter for a colleague with whom you worked side by side for a year, rather than someone who simply worked in your building and spoke to you weekly for the past five years.

            Make it simple and to the point.

              You don’t need to write an entire saga of why a person deserves your recommendation. On the other hand, you also don’t want to make your message too brief. Keep your reference letter to one page, and use as much of that page as necessary to paint a clear, concise picture of the person you are referring.

              Don’t worry too much about creativity, and certainly avoid “fluff.” Instead, focus on how to deliver the most content in the shortest amount of words and space, like the example above.[5]

              Include your contact information

                Let the reader know how they can reach out to you if they have any additional questions. You can share your direct phone number or email address, as shown above.

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                Ask for the person’s resume or CV.

                Understanding other aspects about the person you are writing about can give you important clues to include in your letter.

                Share specific examples of the person’s work

                  The more specific you can be about the person’s true abilities, the better idea the reader will have of how the person might perform. In this example from Resumo, the writer shares that the person he is referring successfully helped to closed new contracts worth several million dollars and developed a new business line focused on Public Safety.

                  Once you finish your first draft, look for instances where you can speak more specifically about the person’s accomplishments or skills. This might take the form of numbers, statistics, rankings, how much money the person saved the company, etc.

                  Submit your letter to the right person

                  Do you need to give the letter to the person for whom you wrote it, or should be it mailed directly to the person requiring the letter? If you aren’t sure, ask.

                  You don’t have to be a good writer to write a great reference letter!

                  Use the above tips and samples to help ease your writing anxiety. Remember, if the person doesn’t reach their ultimate goal, it’s probably not because you wrote a bad letter.

                  Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

                  Reference

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                  Alli Hill

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                  Last Updated on September 24, 2020

                  17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

                  17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

                  In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

                  The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

                  Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

                  1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

                  Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

                  For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

                  2. Use the Pareto Principle

                  Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

                  Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

                  3. Make Stakes

                  Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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                  However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

                  4. Record Yourself

                  Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

                  5. Join a Group

                  There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

                  6. Time Travel

                  Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

                  Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

                  7. Be a Chameleon

                  When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

                  Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

                  “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

                  Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

                  8. Focus

                  Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

                  Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

                  9. Visualize

                  The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

                  Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

                  Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

                  10. Find a Mentor

                  Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

                  Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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                  If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

                  11. Sleep on It

                  Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

                  Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

                  12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

                  Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

                  His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

                  Check out his video to find out more:

                  13. Learn by Doing

                  It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

                  Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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                  14. Complete Short Sprints

                  Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

                  One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

                  15. Ditch the Distractions

                  Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

                  Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

                  16. Use Nootropics

                  Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

                  Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

                  Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

                  17. Celebrate

                  For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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                  The Bottom Line

                  Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

                  More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

                  Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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