The Importance of a Strong Faculty Recommendation Letter
January 24, 2013
Making connections with professors and faculty members won't just help your academic goals; those connections will also help your career goals. But making a connection with a professor goes beyond just volunteering to answer questions in class - based on that alone, how will they be able to speak to your intellect, work ethic, personality, and how well-suited you are to a particular job? Have little active interaction with them makes it impossible for them to write an effective recommendation on your behalf.
So start making some strong connections today! Of course, you should choose professors and staff members whose work your are interested in and whose mind intrigues you.
How do I get to know a professor?
- Knock on the door and introduce yourself. Let Professor X know why you are interested in his/her scholarship. Be prepared to tell your story.
- Bring a resume to this first casual meeting so that Professor X can put your name, your face, and your story together.
- Say "hello" when you see Professor X in the hall. Make eye contact. Say your name if you have the slightest inkling that the Professor might have forgotten your name.
- If you are really interested in Professor X's scholarship, make sure that you read his/her recently published work. When you have formulated some intelligent questions, drop by during open hours or ask for a meeting to discuss it. Bring coffee.
- Once you have established some common ground and made yourself known, you might ask for a research assistant position or for a research project opportunity. Collateral benefit: your professor can speak directly about work that you have done for her. Gratitude is a great motivator.
How do I ask for a recommendation?
- The Job. Tell your proposed recommender about the job for which you are applying. Describe it fully and explain how you believe your experience could be relevant. If they agree, give them the contact information. If their secretary creates the letters, be sure to thank them too.
- The Letter. Be prepared for your recommender to ask you to draft the letter. This is not easy. Check with the CDO for guidance and review.
- Future Requests. Should you have additional requests, check with your recommender to be sure they are still available to help you. Update your situation, and provide them with the new contacts.