What’s the Word? (This time, it’s actually another phrase.)
“Would you consider…?”
-”Would you consider serving as a reference for me? I’m thinking of applying for a job this summer.”
-”Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me? I’m applying to get into my degree program.”
-”Would you fill out this scholarship application for me?”
Why am I choosing something so simple this week? Have I already run out of good ideas of things to tell you to say?
But let’s think about this: We’re in early April. When most students approach me for recommendation letters, scholarship forms, or any type of “support me in my quest for fire” need, it is almost always way, way, way (way!) later than is ideal.
And, it’s usually when 20 other students (maybe 22!) are also coming to me with the same request.
Most profs are more than happy to honor students’ requests for this type of assistance, but we’re less than enthusiastic when the ask comes so late that we don’t have adequate time to actually do what the student needs, or give the document the time that it (and the student!) deserves.
I also want you to think about the underlying issue here: A prof is speaking to your work in his/her class, but also to your overall work ethic. What do you think the nonverbal message says about your work ethic (because you know it’s my job as the communication prof to remind you of that, right?) if you’re rushing to your prof at the last minute, begging for a recommendation letter that you, yourself, might have delayed because you were just too busy to take care of it, didn’t know what to do with it, or didn’t know what to say about it? (Or, even worse, couldn’t find the requirements!).
I think you know the answer, right? Your work ethic doesn’t look very good. And, the last thing you want when your prof is writing amazing comments about you is for your work ethic to be in question!
So say this instead…
Right now, as in this week, while there is plenty of time, start thinking about the people who you want on your “credibility team” (I also call this your “credibility totem pole”–the people you carry with you who think you’re incredible). Who do you want/need to support you as you apply for entrance into your degree program, your university, your job, or whatever you’re doing? (Also consider some back-ups in case a particular person doesn’t come through).
Then go to that person, whether it’s a current prof, advisor, club leader, administrator, etc., face-to-face if possible, and say, “I am planning to apply for ______________ in a few weeks. I feel that you would be a valuable person to speak for my work and my abilities (and, if applicable, about you, personally). I wanted to check with you early enough to see if you are even available to help. If so, I’m hoping we can work out a timeline that works with your schedule and the deadline for the paperwork.”
There… it’s the conversation before the nuts and bolts of the actual what-you-need/what’s-required conversation (I’ll give a link for that in a second).
I wrote some more tips about asking for recommendation letters for My College Guide, so check out this post.
My journalism prof buddy Kenna Griffin, who writes an awesome blog, Prof KRG, also had a few things to say recently about student recommendation letter requests. Check out her post, “What Do You Want Me to Say?”.
Are you ready to find your people and get them signed on to support you?
Say it forward!