Getting Recommendation Before Your First Internship

It seems that it’s a common myth that you can only ask for recommendation after leaving a position. It’s not true and following this mindset will not bring you any success at the very beginning of your career.

As the mindset is common, acting against it will make the positive difference you might need in the recruitment process for your first internship. Having a couple of letters of recommendation will be a big advantage over your competitors who also apply for the internship . As you’re starting your professional career, any recommendation will do the job, to be honest. As long as it’s genuine.

Basically, when you apply for a first internship, you have already done a bit in your life. This means at least attending primary and secondary school, and in most cases, also college. Sometimes also a university. In a way you had superiors when going to school. This means teachers. That’s a first group to approach with a request for a recommendation.

If you’re engaged with any extracurricular activity at your college or university, you can ask for a recommendation somebody who is in charge of it. Often it will be a fellow student who is much easier to approach with a request than a professor. A good idea is to ask for a recommendation somebody who is a community leader. This means also a religious leader, e.g. a reverend, a priest or a rabbi.

All those people are in most cases very helpful, but also it’s your duty to help them be helpful to you. It’s very likely that they will need some background to write the letter of recommendation or act as a reference. You can make a brief resume of what should the letter consist of, using an adequate reference checklist, which can be found online and should look like this (http://jobsearch.about.com/od/referencesrecommendations/a/refercheck.htm)

Don’t be surprised if they ask you to write a draft of the letter to be signed by them. It happens quite often. But beware of taking too much advantage of it, as putting in the letter more praise than you deserve will definitely end your relationship with the person. Be very specific about what you want to convey in the letter and avoid generic term which HR professionals often call the “white noise”. A good example of what a letter of recommendation shouldn’t look like can be found here (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-06-07/the-recommendation-letter-employers-dont-want).

We also suggest a proper approach to requesting recommendation. It’s good to arrange a meeting or at least a phone call with the potential recommendation writer to make it look as you sincerely care about the recommendation from the person. Our best advice is not to request for it with an email.

The only exception is LinkedIn recommendation. The process of request is pretty much automated which makes it a bit less formal, but you shouldn’t leave it as it is. An email prior to sending a request via LinkedIn is a nice thing to do. A follow up call should also do the work.