Though we may have thought we were done with letters of recommendation after college applications, that’s not the case. They can be quite useful both during and after your undergraduate degree. Whether you want to continue studying in a graduate program or are applying for jobs, there’s always a chance that one will be required from you. And this makes sense because these types of letters show that other individuals believe in your skills and abilities. If you’re wondering how to go about asking someone to write one for you, see a few steps below:

1. Make lists.

Create a list of professors, internship coordinators, or employers with whom you have developed connections. These people would not only make great references but can also provide recommendations. Always keep the lines of communication open to sustain these relationships.

2. Make your top selections.

Out of everyone, choose the top two or three people you want to ask and get ready. Ensure that these individuals can speak to both the quality of your work and character. If they might not be familiar with everything you do, prepare a quick “cheat sheet” with some key information about yourself that you can give them. Remember – it’s also important to ask with enough time buffer so your mentor/professor/employer knows that their time is valuable to mention yes or no — two or three weeks should suffice as a great amount of notice!

3. Get together in person.

It’s always best to ask for what you want in person, if possible. Make an appointment or take your mentor/professor/employer out for coffee and make your request then. You’ll be surprised at how much more valuable face time is than you could have imagined, and making the effort to ask in person will be significant to whoever you choose to ask.

4. Send a follow-up message.

If you don’t hear anything back after two weeks, it’s okay to send a brief follow-up email or give them a call. Acknowledge that you understand they are probably busy, and then ask politely about the status of your request.

5. Get crafty with your appreciation.

I thoroughly enjoy sending cards for holidays, birthdays, and thank-you notes. It’s always a kind gesture to send a card, but if you want your message to truly stand out, try adding in a small token of appreciation like cookies or cupcakes. This is an inexpensive yet creative way to show mentors/professors/employers how grateful you are for your time!

Keep in mind—not all recommendations have to be letters. If you’re looking for an online recommendation, LinkedIn is a great place to start.

If the idea of asking for recommendations fills you with dread, don’t worry! By following these steps, you’ll have a well-planned process that will lead to success.

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