Questions on my Career Journey (4) – Rec Letters

Okay, if the 2020 YPP process is anything like the one in the previous year, then you have passed the initial screening and now you are in the phase where you are being asked for recommendation (rec) letters, yay! You may also want rec letters for something else, I would still think these tips apply. In any case, these are the things I have done for my World Bank application and other applications such as my PhD and whilst on the job market (okay I only applied to one other place, but I had a pretty set goal and would advise you to cast your net much wider). As I shared in my previous post, always see each application document you submit with the understanding that it will provide some new information or perspective that your other documents such as your CV and your essay may not. This is where you want to show what others have to say about you that may complement or add to what you have already said about yourself.

Choose the Persons Carefully

You want to ask a recommendation from someone you have worked relatively closely with. You want someone who can speak to your character, your attitude, your outputs. So choose people that actually have something to say. People familiar with your technical skills, operational skills, analytical skills. Someone who will be able to refer to something specific, and say “I have known _ for _ number of years and worked with him/her as _.” For my YP application, I chose my former boss who had worked with me for nearly 5 years, my former MA adviser whom I worked with on a research project after completing my Masters degree (which was only 1 year) and of course my main PhD advisor. These are people who had worked with me in different capacities but I also know colleagues who got all three recommendations from their PhD committee and got in. Again, your relationship with each professor is usually different and ultimately you may decide what you believe is best for the opportunity at hand. I wouldn’t go too far back in your career, unless you have kept a professional relationship with those . Its important to build social capital in your career, and your life really. Of course some relationships may be strained and it may not be any fault of yours, but where possible always remember that the world is small and we will all need each other at some point, so be kind and try to leave a good legacy no matter how small the task.

Give them the most recent information about your work/education

One thing I did was to share an up-to-date CV to each of the people writing my rec letters. They may have worked with you a few years back and may not be entirely up to speed with what you have been working on, or they may be working with you presently but may not be in the loop on other projects you may be involved with. Although the letter will focus on the things they worked with you on, it will help them to see other projects and be reminded of your background and why they chose to work with you in the first place. So send an updated CV.

Have a clear request on what the employer seeks

In addition, I included in my email body what the World Bank was looking for. This would help them to speak to these qualities (or not) and the letter to be more focused on examples they may have had of you displaying these qualities during your work with them. Be brief though, these are usually very busy people. So I sent like just five bullet points from the official website on who is the ideal YP candidate

Give them enough time but specify a date..and say thank you

When you send the email, highlight the amount of time they have to turn this around. I would always include my preferred date of submission which is earlier than the official one, for contingency purposes. As you know, sometimes technology can fail us 🙂 In many cases they will send the letter without you but you will probably get some sort of notification it has been sent. So ensure that you decide on the people in advance and be ready to send out your request as soon as you are asked for the letters. Remember to say thank you once submitted and give them an update at the end of the process (hopefully a positive one!).

and then, we wait…..ring ring..its the interview! I will write about that a little later as at this point I believe the first, second, third and this post should help get you started. Don’t worry though, I shall definitely post about some challenges you may face along the way.

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