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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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                  Last Updated on April 19, 2021

                  The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                  The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                  Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

                  The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

                  Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

                  In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

                  When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

                  Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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                  1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

                  When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

                  As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

                  That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

                  The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

                  What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

                  Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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                  There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

                  So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

                  2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

                  When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

                  No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

                  3. Move Your Body

                  A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

                  It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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                  So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

                  4. Connect With Another Person

                  Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

                  One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

                  Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

                  5. Use Your Imagination

                  When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

                  That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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                  And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

                  Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

                  Final Thoughts

                  Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

                  Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

                  More on the Importance of Taking a Break

                  Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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