Whether you are applying to college, an internship, or even a job, recommendations are most likely going to be a part of the process. While this may sound like the easy part, it can often be a challenge to find the right people. Think about it—you’re relying on them for their experiences with you in order to describe why you should be accepted or receive a job. You’re handing over a lot of responsibility to these candidates, so it’s important to choose the best.
Once you have found them, be sure to give them plenty of notice before it needs to be completed. A rushed or late recommendation could be a worthless and damaging recommendation. Here’s a quick who-and-who-not-to-ask list for your academic reference needs.
#1. A professor from your best course within your major
Why: Professors are great sources of recommendations if you’re just starting to look for internships or first jobs. Just make sure you pick a professor from a course within your major. While you may have made best friends with your art history professor, it will do you no good if you’re trying to get a job in the financial industry, and vice versa. Prospective employers want to hear how you handled the educational challenges in the field you’re entering, and it will lend you more credibility.
Caution: Eventually, you will have to stop using your professors for recommendations (unless it’s a grad school app, of course). As time increases between your class with them and your job, they will serve less relevance, and it could even be damaging. Think of how it might look to an employer, five years after you graduated from college, to still depend on a professor’s good remarks. They will expect that you’ve grown since then, and likewise met and worked with new people.
#2. A boss or supervisor from your most recent employer
Why: If you’re already working or holding down a job during school, then kudos to you! These skills are invaluable, and no one knows that better than your boss. Assuming you kept a good relationship with them (see the caution below if you haven’t), then this is one of your strongest recommendations. Even if it was just a part-time job for extra cash during school, it is just as valuable. Showing your ability to hold a job and concurrently maintain your academics is impressive.
Caution: If your separation from the last job was less than pleasant or you simply did not get along with your boss, then don’t fret—there are still ways to get a recommendation from that workplace. Choose an assistant manager or just simply talk to your manager. While you may have had personal differences, a professional conversation can always mend a beneficial relationship.
#3. Club, volunteer, or group leader
Why: During your time at a university, chances are you’ll be involved with some sort of organization, club, or even volunteer group. These are all opportunities to gain new skills and create some professional contacts. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to introduce yourself to the manager or main contact. They will make great recommendations and prove your ability to handle tasks outside of your normal studies.
Caution: There isn’t too much to risk here unless you never showed up for a single meeting or volunteer shift! If you have been slacking a little, then it’s time to put it in high gear now.