A job recommendation from beyond the grave
August 1, 2012 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What, if anything, can I do professionally with my late mentor's very general job recommendation?

A very close mentor of mine died suddenly a few months ago. I took one class with him, at a college that is not the one I graduated from. That one class was so influential to me, however, that we kept in touch after that. I presented on an undergraduate research panel with him at our field's most prestigious conference, and he gave me a lot of career advice. (He'd done a lot of non-profit work in organizations similar to the one I worked at straight out of college, as well as working in academia.)

He never wrote me any formal letters of recommendation, but he did write a glowing general recommendation that appeared on my LinkedIn page. LinkedIn pulls people's profiles down after they die, though, and any recommendations they've written for others go away at the same time. Anticipating that this might happen, I snagged the text from his rec and saved it in a word document.

His note recommends me for "a wide variety of employers," and mentions my performance in his class and on his panel. It also alludes to my terrible experience in the previously mentioned first job out of college, which he helped me navigate. He talks about my professionalism and resilience in the face of pretty awful work conditions, recommending me for other non-profit work.

Are there any contexts where it might be acceptable for me to bring up or use this note professionally , or should I just treat it as a good memory? I ask mostly because this person was well-connected within certain non-profit and activist circles in my city that I'd be interested in breaking into career-wise. Bring this up in those circles and nowhere else? In other related fields? What's the correct way to navigate this?
posted by ActionPopulated to Work & Money (4 answers total)
Honestly, all things balanced against one another, there is a real possibility this will come across as hawking from a gravesite. Additionally, you want to actively avoid any reference to how a past job went so spectacularly poorly it became a topic of public discussion on LinkedIn. I would advise you simply to highlight the panel on your CV. You could also touch upon the connection in your covering letter if you think it's of particular interest to the organisation.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2012

Probably the only way you can appropriately use this relationship professionally is mentioning it in person, or possibly in a cover letter, to someone who would know him or know of him. In a cover letter or a conversation, you could say how this person was such a big influence on you and you worked with him closely and he became your mentor, which should be just as good as having a note from him saying, "I recommend this person and I am their mentor." I don't think you can use the note itself for anything.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm inclined to feel that unless you're either applying for an Masters program or your very first job out of college, using a college professor's recommendation comes off as very "bush league." In your position, I'd have stopped using his recommendation letter after my very first real job.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:12 PM on August 1, 2012

Part of the value of a recommendation is that I can call the person who wrote it. Unfortunately, your mentor isn't available for follow up.

I don't think you can use it for a recommendation, but you could mention that person was a mentor to you. As a written document, it's time has passed.
posted by 26.2 at 11:45 PM on August 1, 2012

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