Dwight: [reading Michael’s recommendation letter] “To whom it may concern.” Good, real personal. Thanks Michael. “The dictionary defines superlative as: of the highest kind, quality, or order, surpassing all else, or others. Supreme.” That’s great. If I wanted the dictionary definition, I’d buy a dictionary. “I define it as Dwight Schrute. As a sales executive, as a leader, as a man, and as a friend, he is of the highest kind, quality, and order. Supreme.”
In a field that is so dependent on reviews and gatekeepers, the recommendation letter is clearly a necessary piece for your #29DaystoDiva success. It is also one that can present many a headache and heartburn on both sides of the equation. Part of creating our diva systems is to have a process for recommendation letters that make it easy to ask for them, receive them, and write them for others.
Your 29 Days to Diva Challenge for Day 15 is to Develop Your Recommendation Letter Method and Practice.
Improperly asking for a recommendation letter does significantly more harm than good. Not only will you likely miss out on getting a good letter, but you can damage your standing with the person you have asked to recommend you. Not providing the right information, making the process difficult to complete, or not following through can all derail your prospects.
Recommendation Letter Pre-Request Steps
- Set-up a Recommendation Letters file in your Dropbox or Google Drive now. Bonus points for sub folders: Letters Requested and Letters Written.
- Make a list of people in your field with whom you have had positive music-making experiences. You want them to be in a position of authority to show that they have experience on which to draw their conclusions about you and your work. Keep this list in your rec letters file. Make a calendar appointment now in your phone to update this list every six months (or more often depending on the frequency with which you meet new people.)
- Keep a current resume and bio in your rec letters folder to send with every request. Always insert a link to your sound files so that your writer can have a fresh listen to your best media.
- You can also keep a spreadsheet of due dates in your rec letters folder if that suits your organization style.
Asking for the Recommendation Letter
- Ask early! The bare minimum is two weeks. An ounce of organization on your part to ask a month in advance will pay off in good will from the writer.
- Always think of one more person to ask from your list than is necessary for the application. You do not want to scramble at the last-minute if your “go-to” suddenly becomes a “no way.”
- Write your letter/email and keep it both short and sweet. You want to make sure that you cover these four areas without making it too flowery and without coming across as ungrateful.
- Let them know you’re requesting a recommendation letter.
- Explain for what you are applying.
- Quickly make it clear what you have been up to that is relevant to this request, why they are the right person to write the recommendation letter, and why you are seeking this opportunity.
- Finally, give them the clearest, bulleted list of logistical information possible. This will include: deadline, to whom they should address the letter, to whom they should send the letter (to you or directly to the org), and the format in which they can send the letter.
- It is possible to make a few templates for both recommendation letter requests, follow-up emails, and thank you letters. Keep these in your Gmail templates or in your rec letters file.
- When you ask for a recommendation letter, put notifications in your phone to ask for a follow-up or to let your writer know that you are no longer pursuing the opportunity. It is not worth it to make them do the work if you are not going to take advantage. Or if you would still like their recommendation but you are no longer pursuing the specific opportunity, ask if they would mind giving you the letter in a general format instead.
Writing a Recommendation Letter for Someone Else
- Ask yourself, “Can I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse this person for this opportunity?” If you cannot, decline their request as soon as possible.
- Make the letter as official as possible. Use the most appropriate letterhead. Proof read and read your letter out loud. Use formal language. Show that your recommendation comes from a place of experience and knowledge.
- Assume that competition is high. Recommendation letters can often suffer from the Lake Wobegon Effect — “where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average.” Give an accurate and fair assessment of the persons skills with details.
- If you do not get any of the logistical details outlined in the requesting section above, ask before you agree to write the letter.
- Go the extra step and offer a general copy of the recommendation letter to the person who requested it and let them know they can use it for testimonials, if appropriate.
Yesterday’s post was about giving some away so that people we like can stay in the game. Recommendation letters are an extremely positive way to do this. If you have people in your musical circle to whom you would give a glowing recommendation, feel free to tell them. If you are already communication on a regular basis, which I hope you are, mention that you would be happy to provide recommendation letters for them in the future. Your letters of recommendation can be the link between your current diva status level and the next. Put your processes in place now to make sure you have letters that stand out from the pack.
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