I write a lot of recommendation letters. When you train as an academic (ideally) you spend time learning how to write grants, reviews, articles, program notes, etc., ad nauseam, and so forth. However, you never study the art of the recommendation letter.
My faithful readers may question my topic: “Dr. S, I’m a student!! I don’t need to think about writing a recommendation letter!”
No, but we all, no matter our position in life, should be thinking about earning a recommendation letter. No one is entitled to one.
In preparation for this blog, I reviewed letters I have received and sent over the last decade. The individuals behind the most effective, positive letters consistently demonstrated the same four (4) traits:
These individuals demonstrate high moral and ethical standards. Morals define your personal character, and ethics define the behavior by which your morals are represented. Individuals with great integrity show respect: for themselves and for those they encounter. They are polite and friendly, but further, they work to see the good in their peers and mentors. They are trustworthy and demonstrate good judgment in ethical situations.
These individuals are also highly responsible. They are early for classes and rehearsals and are always prepared. This includes practicing and knowing their music ahead of time. It also includes time management in reed making. Responsible individuals have developed time management skills: they maintain calendars and are careful to not over-commit themselves. These individuals are also accessible: they return correspondence in a timely manner.
3.) Work Ethic.
These individuals are successful due to their strong work ethic. They do not work to completion, but to excellence. They are the few that do not leave when a job is completed, but look for more work to be done.
These individuals, without fail, each demonstrated great enthusiasm for their chosen field. Passion fuels work ethic, responsibility, and integrity. These individuals were not ashamed, nor did they hide this aspect of their character. It is a critical part of their success.
I invite you to think about how you exhibit these four (4) traits. How will you take these into consideration in the future to earn your recommendation letters?
Best wishes, Dr. S