Over the years of my very working career, I have asked several people to write me letters of recommendation. And although everyone I asked said yes, I only actually received a few. Why? Writing a glowing letter of recommendation takes time — time out of someone else’s day — to talk highly of you and your skills and how you can be a benefit at any other company except where you’re working now (ironically). And although a standard letter of recommendation is only on one page, that person has to sit down think about nice things about you. I can think of dozens of nice things about me, but I like me. I like me more than I like anyone else. But for someone else to come with the same things I think about myself, they have to think about it. If they have a ton of things on their plate, how awesome I am doesn’t run across their mind as often as it does mind. I can forgive them for that. It happens. However, I still want that letter of recommendation whether they have time or not. Remember, I’m awesome, so I matter a great deal.
Write your own. I’m not a fan of this, but sometimes it saves you grief and the other person time. Now, this only works with friends for a ‘character letter’ and co-workers who you don’t report to. Otherwise, your managers and supervisors will want to write their own if they’re going to write one for you at all. But in all seriousness, write your own. If your co-worker says yes, they’re willing to write a letter of recommendation but don’t have the time or feel they don’t well enough, write it for them. Let them read it and give you their honest feedback or something else to add, and then have them sign it. Easy, right?
But here’s the thing — it can be tempting to toot your own horn from the highest mountain top. Be generous, yes, but be convincing and more importantly, honest. Talk about only the good you’ve ever done for your company in your role. Talk about the value you’ve added to the company, your ability to get along and work collaboratively. Talk about any and all contributions you’ve ever made. But keep it honest. You don’t want to make the person who’s going to sign their name to it feel like they’re signing a lie. Remember, the objective of any letter of recommendation is to make you look great without sounding cheesy or stretching the truth.