Once again on a sad, cold Thursday night here I am reviewing my cover letters, resumes and even writing samples that serve different fields, as I am sitting at my messy desk. For the right reasons, I am concerned and kind of wondering what I am going to do with my life. So this is how I look like at the moment:
Don’t get me wrong, I settled my Summer internship in late November-early December with an awesome company to do marketing; however, ever since I started writing for the school newspaper, my passion for politics and writing surfaced again. While my plan was to do corporate marketing, settle down in some east coast state and have 2.5 kids, I found myself looking at internships at CNN, Al Jazeera and various NGO’s in DC. In short, my mind started to shift my safe daydreams from driving kids to the soccer practice (yuck) to driving myself down to DC to get to the bottom of a story, like how on the earth the intelligence identified who Jihadi John is.
It is obvious that there is a giant gap between these two “working women” profiles. They will lead two different lives, possibly not worry about the same stuff… While corporate one will probably have some Trader Joe’s salad and a Bon appetit recipe meal, the other one will pick up Americanized- Chinese to-go, along with some cookie dough… Because probably she is going to need some comfort in her overpriced 55 sq ft apartment in DC Metro Area while wondering why she is still at the bottom of the ladder. Hint: Because no one has become a columnist at Politico, right after graduating from college.
This separation of life styles start in college. Even now, as I am looking at my cover letters, I can see how they reflect on my different sides. In all reality, I don’t think any marketing firm would find it all that attractive that I am polishing my Kurdish, on the other hand Kurdistan Regional Government Representation to the US might like it. I mean, I hope they do.
This goes for class selection, choice of major, extracurriculars etc… But most importantly, the most important part is about recommendation letters because they are the ones that will get you in somewhere. Yes, your GPA is somewhat relevant and yes, your CV matters but then again, they are not going to hire a robot with specific settings; a candidate is a human and there is much more to someone than just bullet points on a paper, like how you function under pressure. No one, but your reference, can actually reflect on that side of you. That is why the recommendation is maybe the most important part of an application, which makes the references your assets, aka your profs.
You might have pretty great relationships with your profs but that doesn’t mean they know you and what you are trying to do, all that well. That is why you need to make sure that they are on the same page with you. Here is 10 steps about how you can achieve that:
- Go talk to them during their office hours. Tell them what you want to do, even if you don’t have a very solid idea.
- Stay after class for a minute or two to ask how they are doing. They will probably tell you about their son’s soccer game and will ask you how things are in your life. This is your chance to say “Oh you know, applying to this and that… Just declared my X major.” Keep them posted about your life.
- Impress them, show them you are committed (if you actually are). I take my politics classes very (borderline “too”) seriously. One day I was hospitalized on a day I had to present for 1.5 hours. I emailed the prof to let her know that I might me 5 minutes late, right after after the school system informed her that I was at the hospital. That afternoon my friend picked me up and I went directly to the class to present. Got a 90 from it, pretty sure because of the effort I put in.
- Ask smart questions during class. Make them think that you are challenging these ideas in your mind and there are times that you are a little puzzled. That’s fine, it only means that you are paying attention.
- If the prof is in your field of internship, ask them if they know anyone in that X field. They will start to see that you are working towards your goal.
- Go to them with solutions, not problems. Whatever problem you run into, could be a test date conflicting with your away game; just come up with a few options and show them that you are a problem “solver” rather than the problem “maker”.
- Never, ever, ever lie about anything. Believe it or not, your honesty (not bluntness) is your biggest weapon. Don’t even fake anything, they will immediately realize that you are not genuine and no recommendation letter is worth losing someone’s respect
- If the prof emails the class articles, actually read them and respond with questions. While they are handing something out, say “thank you” and “please”. It is the little things.
- You finally feel comfortable enough to ask for a recommendation letter, ask for it ahead of time. Where ever the letter has to be sent, ask for confirmation so that you know that it is done. Don’t forget to ask for it way ahead of the deadline; profs are very busy people.
- Send a thank you note and inform them about the result. If you are close enough with the prof and you get into the program or internship, tell them that you will mention their name during your Pulitzer award speech. They will probably say “yeah right” but will email you an encouraging note.
So these are the tips for getting a good recommendation letter from a prof. Hope they do the trick for you.
*Editorial note: Sorry for the misleading title. I figured you would be more interested in love confessions than how to get your prof to write you a recommendation letter.