Sunday, August 10, 2014

Networking 101: References and Letters of Recommendation



  Last month we discussed the basics of networking. The ability to network is a powerful skill and knowing how to use it can reap many rewards in the long run. Now let’s delve deeper into this and examine one of the benefits of having a strong network: references and letters of recommendations.  

   References and letters of recommendation are a vital element in, both, getting into an internship and leaving an internship. In other words, it could take a good letter or reference to get you an internship, and it could take a good internship to get you a good letter. Here are six tips that can make this process much easier.

1. Choose Wisely

   Much like forming a resume, choosing your references can require some specificity. Depending on the internship you are aiming for, certain references can be better than others. Some may have had more exposure to your teamwork skills, while others may have seen your abilities to work alone when needed. Go back and look at the duties you have held in your previous positions and see which skill are highlighted by which job and which references have seen that skill at its best. One more important aspect to consider how well your reference can “sell” you. Choosing a more outgoing and energetic person can help make you sound like a much more enticing candidate for the job. Consider these factors when making your list and then move on to the next step.

2. Give Prior Notice

   The obvious, but sometimes missed step of using references is letting the reference know that they are on your list. Always ask for permission before turning in the list to a future employer. If they agree, then give them ample time to prepare for the inevitable call. Just a simple e-mail, call or meeting about your current interview process should suffice. Let the reference know what they have to prepare for and why you believe they are the best person to do this. (You will make them feel appreciated, as well as strengthen your connection with that person).

   For letters of recommendation, the general time frame to give your references use to be two weeks before you needed the letter. However, people are getting busier and busier and, now, two weeks is too short. A month prior to deadline should be a good amount of time to get your letter. Also  during the month, make sure to frequently contact your references and check-in to see how the writing is going. And to not seem like a pest, try to make your reason for contact about something other than the letter and then slip it in later in the conversation.

3. Arm You References

   In the war that is the interview process, other candidates will try their best to put themselves above the competition. You cannot walk into war with unarmed units. Although your references may have some recollection of your skills,  it will not hurt to give them more ammo. Email them a copy of your most recent resume. You may even feel inclined to write a short bio about yourself. Doing this gives them a more positive image of yourself, as well as refresh their memory. It can also help with the letter of recommendation as it gives more material for the writer to use.

4. Have a Back-Up Plan

This one is more for the letter of recommendation.

Sometimes life takes a swing and tasks pile up to the point where your letter gets pushed to the bottom of the list. In an event that this should happen, let your reference know that you appreciate the attempt, and that there is always another time where he/she can help you. Reassure them and hint towards future interactions in order to not weaken any connections. This happens a lot, as I said earlier, people are getting busier and busier. This is why checking in is very useful. If the reference is hinting at not completing the task, ask if they have the time to write the letter and that you understand and it is okay if they do not. Have a back-up reference ready and let them know as soon as possible so they can prepare.

5. Follow Up

Let your references know the results of your endeavors and that you appreciate their contribution, no matter what the outcome was. This goes all the way back to networking and ensuring future contact. It creates a team-like spirit when you let them know the outcome, as they can either celebrate with you on your accomplishment, or give you words of encouragement on your setback.

6. Do Not Leave Empty Handed

Once you get the internship, remember that you are working towards getting future employment. Work your hardest and be as friendly as you can be. Before leaving the internship see if you can get/give contacts from any co-workers and supervisors. This builds your network, as well as opens up more options for you when you need a fresh reference for your next job/internship. Always leave a good lasting impression on someone, because you never know when you are going need their recommendation.

Disclaimer: 

Just make sure a letter of recommendation is requested in the job description. Do not just attach a letter haphazardly along with your cover letter and resume to email applications. The hiring manager might get confused with which is your cover letter. Only submit if it is asked for or as an extra thing on the major studio applications (there is usually a box for it). 

Also do not list "references available upon request" on your resume. Obviously, everyone has references. 

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© No Experience Required Maira Gall.