How to write my own professional reference?
May 24, 2005 5:29 PM   Subscribe

How to write my own professional reference?

I am applying for a Masters course, and as part of the application they have requested that I submit a reference from my current role. My employer wants me to write it myself, however I don't have any examples to go on, or the first idea where to begin. Everything I've tried so far has come out as a dry "He was here."
Any tips? Anything I should specifically include/exclude? What sort of language should I use? How effusive/modest should I be, and how much detail should I get into about specific instances of 'good stuff' (if they should be included ata ll)?
posted by coriolisdave to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert, but might I suggest that you offer some of the projects/responsibilities that you excelled at while on the job? If you increased sales, rave about that. If you were a great brand ambassador/people person up front, rave about that?
posted by tozturk at 6:30 PM on May 24, 2005

Response by poster: Bah! Forgot to mention - I'm sysadmin/desktop support for an Accounting firm. It's hard to think up good ways to say "the servers were never happier" ;)
posted by coriolisdave at 6:39 PM on May 24, 2005

Just my opinion, but it seems really unethical that your employer ask you to write it yourself. Sounds like they are just lazy and don't know as much about you as they should. As if you don't have enough to do while applying for grad school and still working!

Get your boss to write it himself/herself. Sheesh. People are so lazy.
posted by elisabeth r at 6:40 PM on May 24, 2005

Ugh. I have encountered this situation before. Like elisabeth r said, it is lazy and wrong for your employer to ask you to write a recommendation yourself. It's also disrespectful of you for them to imply that they don't have the time to help you advance your career.

I would ask them again if they will write a good letter for you. If they refuse, ask another coworker who you trust to write a good recommendation. It needn't be your immediate boss - a glowing letter from a colleague can be just as good. If that fails, you may be stuck, but it's worth a shot.
posted by nyterrant at 7:04 PM on May 24, 2005

It's also disrespectful of you for them to imply that they don't have the time to help you advance your career.

Make that, it's also disrespectful for them to imply...

/ambiguous wording
posted by nyterrant at 7:06 PM on May 24, 2005

Get your boss to write it himself/herself. Sheesh. People are so lazy.

I don't think that's fair to say. Not everyone has the same hours as we do to lounge around on MeFi. Writing a recommendation - a good recommendation/reference, takes time - and coriolisdave's boss may just not have that time free to do it, let alone do it at work while he or she is on the clock.

At least instead of totally ignoring coriolisdave's request, the employer said they would sign off on something. By asking dave to write it, I don't read it as a rubber stamp, presumably they can always say no or make changes.
posted by tozturk at 10:01 PM on May 24, 2005

It's hard to think up good ways to say "the servers were never happier" ;)

I don't work in your field, but maybe keeping the servers working well during the tenure of your position shows strengths like diligence and reliability? Perhaps you could elaborate a little on that, and mention related problems that you solved in the course of your work, contributing to the smooth functioning of your dept./office? Are you a punctual employee? What's your attendance record like? How would co-workers describe you (energetic/enthusiastic, easygoing, etc.)? Asking yourself these questions might help you get a start in determining what to include in your reference.

What sort of language should I use?

Professional language. Write as if you are your employer. If your current job has any relation to your masters program, use the jargon of the field when relevant.
posted by PY at 3:38 AM on May 25, 2005

Agree with the thought of having a coworker write it, or at least edit what you write. My boss asked a coworker to come up with a recommendation for herself for a program and she really struggled with it. When I took a crack at it, the positive things I said about her were things she didn't see in herself or didn't think were important.

Also, don't discount the importance of your position. I spend time with our tech guys at work and can't believe what they have to deal with every day. Desktop support? You must have the patience of a saint to put up with some of the ridiculous questions people ask you. Server upkeep? I sure as hell couldn't do it.
posted by SashaPT at 4:27 AM on May 25, 2005

It's always hard to look at yourself without over- or under-shooting things. A possible solution: ask a colleague you're close with to write it for you, tweak/edit it yourself, then give it to your boss for them to approve.

...unless, of course, you can get one of those very happy servers to write it for you...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:20 AM on May 25, 2005

Best answer: If your recommender isn't an academic, he may also be concerned about not having the appropriate know-how to write a graduate school recommendation letter himself.

Having been in the business of both reading and writing letters of recommendation on behalf of others, some things come immediately to mind:

-- If you end up writing the first draft yourself, try making it completely over the top, no holds barred -- even if it embarrasses you and seems silly. That way, you can cut down rather than padding up.

-- I agree that asking a coworker would also be a good way to go. Even a close friend who understands your work environment might have some good insight.

-- If you are comfortable with it, use superlatives. In my experience, letter readers do keep an eye out for phrases like "one of the best" or "easily the finest", etc.

-- Provide at least one anecdote. The admissions committee is going to read a zillion dry letters of recommendation glibly describing people as hardworking, responsible, intelligent, self-starting, and so on. If you can demonstrate WHY that's true for you, the letter will already be ahead of the pack. Details stick with readers, not adjectives.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2005

Best answer: Describe your responsibilities; coriolisdave maintained x linux vx.x servers and a userbase of x. Configured and maintained server hardware and software, inlcuding x, x, x, and more. Server uptime was exceptional(if it was), and response time for problems was very good. blah, blah, as if you were writing a resume. Then describe any supervision of other staff, relationships with cow-orkers, managers, users, etc. Add any training attended/presented. List why the person was great, and state "I would highly recommend dave for employment or education." It should in some way comment on your character. positively.

Googling "letter of reference graduate school" will get samples and expectations from grad schools. It's mildly cheesy of your boss to get you to write it, but just think of it as a task. Maybe she wants you to list what you thought was important in your job. In the parts where the letter should be complimentary, you could always ask your boss to fill in. Make sure you keep copies, but the original should be sent from the boss directly to the school, and should be on letterhead. I think an anecdote would be a great addiiton.
posted by theora55 at 9:43 AM on May 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the help all. Hopefully I'll be able to make a decent crack at it now.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2005

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