I urge every working professional to take time on a regular basis to seek written recommendations from individuals who’ve had the opportunity to evaluate their work in diverse contexts. These may be as brief as two-three sentences (50 words) or as long as one page (250 words) depending on the relationship between writer and the individual, as well as the nature of the assignment.
Here are five reasons why written recommendations are important.
1. They’re typically more powerful than oral recommendations. Writing a recommendation challenges the author to think more deeply and express thoughts more clearly than he or she would do when providing an oral recommendation.
2. They’re indispensable for accurately documenting specific achievements over time. We tend to forget the details of past achievements. Likewise, collaborators forget what it was like to work with you on a specific project and/or they move on to other jobs, so you can’t rely on the availability, much less the accuracy, of recommendations requested orally—especially after some period of time has elapsed.
3. Written recommendations can provide rationale for career transitions. As your career evolves, you may seek opportunities that call on any one or more of past experiences that at the time were unrelated or peripheral to your job. Written recommendations can highlight these successes relevant to a new potential opportunity.
4. Written recommendations can be used in personal promotion. Each recommendation can be considered a resource, the raw material upon which you draw to craft your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, social media content, myriad other career/job search-related communications, and perhaps even your memoires.
5. For inspiration. Finally, there will be times during your career when you need reminders of excellent work you’ve done. You can drink from this deep pool of recommendations for inspiration, and your spirits will be uplifted.