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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

                  More by this author

                  Alli Hill

                  Lifestyle Writer and Marketing Consultant

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                  Last Updated on December 10, 2019

                  How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

                  How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

                  It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

                  So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

                  1. Find Your Good Reasons

                  Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

                  You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

                  If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

                  Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

                  Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

                  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
                  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
                  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
                  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

                  2. Make It Fun

                  When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

                  Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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                  Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

                  They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

                  Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

                  A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

                  • How can I enjoy this task?
                  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
                  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

                  As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

                  Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

                  However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

                  3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

                  When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

                  You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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                  That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

                  If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

                  Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

                  My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

                  4. Recognize Your Progress

                  Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

                  We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

                  Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

                  Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

                  For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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                  You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

                  Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

                  For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

                  5. Reward Yourself

                  This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

                  Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

                  Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

                  For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

                  For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

                  For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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                  Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

                  The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

                  Mix and Match

                  Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

                  Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

                  Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

                  Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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                  Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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