Get Great Letters of Recommendation

Dear Hiring Manager: Barry the Study Dog would make a great dolphin statue. Sincerely, Dr. Professor. (Photo: Sarah Sloat)

T he most competitive programs and best jobs have application deadlines several months before the gig actually starts, meaning that now is a good time to think about how you’re gonna get great letters of recommendation for the applications you plan to submit next fall.

Whether you’ll be applying for an on-campus position, a summer internship, grad school, or an honest grown-up job, you’re gonna want your recommenders to writing something convincing for you ASAP after you do an awesome job on the work they ask you to do this spring, which means that you should start priming them now to see you as someone who does an awesome job.

Make connections, go to office hours, read for fun, but read for fun at night.

If you’re applying for an academic summer program, you want one letter that says you’re effortlessly brilliant and one that says you’re the MVP of every class discussion.

If you’re applying for a standard on-campus job, get a letter that says you’re great at multicultural communication and another that says your work ethic is unmatched.

If you’re applying to grad school, one letter should vouch for your academic chops and the other should let the school know that your well-formed post-grad plans make you a mortal lock for a starring role on the alumni poster.

And if you’re making the jump to the real world, you need a letter that says everyone who works near you likes you, and one that says you’re the first to volunteer for every difficult task.

Consider that the letters of rec you submit will take up as much space in your application file as your essay or cover letter and résumé combined. That’s how important they are!

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