While you may be like many others, worrying about your recommenders’ titles, what is far more important is that you select an individual who knows what is demanded of a recommender. Recommenders need to write very personal and intimate letters, discussing your talents, accomplishments, personality and potential. If the President of your firm can only discuss your work in vague and general terms, he/she will not help your cause. Conversely, if an Associate who is senior to you and supervises your work can offer powerful examples of the impact you have had on your company, he/she will help your cause far more.
As you contemplate those you will select, try to gather some intelligence on your potential recommenders. Has he/she written letters for anyone else? Is he/she generous with his/her time when it comes to employee feedback and review sessions? Generally speaking, is your superior a good supervisor/boss? One of the best windows into your potential process will be previous colleagues, with whom you may want to speak to discover how your supervisor managed the process. By identifying those who will be helpful and generous, you will alleviate the potential stress of missed deadlines and unpredictable letters.
While you should spend time right now doing your homework on your recommenders, another important step that you can take is getting in touch with previous supervisors with whom you have fallen out of contact. You do not want to be in a position where you are calling a former supervisor for the first time in years and asking him/her for a massive favor on a tight timeline. If you can identify a former supervisor whose time you will need, then make contact now and keep the relationship warm for the next few months. You will be far better off when the letter-writing process begins.
You need to be careful in terms of whom you ask to write on your behalf, especially when you are contemplating someone from your past. Certain individuals, such as military commanders, can often provide very valuable feedback, even if their experience with you was from years ago. Again, in the case of a former commander, you may need to locate him/her or warm that relationship up, after years of it being dormant. Under very particular circumstances, certain coaches and professors may also offer unique insight into your candidacy, but again, you may need to spend some time locating them and reestablishing your connection. Now is the time to make your connections; come September, it might be too late.
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