Adulting Lessons

Write a Recommendation Letter for Yourself with these 4 Steps

Here are four keys to writing a self- recommendation letter.

Today, to stand on the shoulder of giants may mean simply requesting a recommendation letter.

Sir Isaac Newton owed his success to a known secret.

He looked through the discoveries and lessons of other successful people.

Particularly in academic careers, recommendation letters are necessary requirements. These letters give a candidate a lift off the rest of the pack.

Sometimes, though, the giants in our lives are preoccupied with activities and commitments that keep them busy.

So, should you then just stand aboard other shoulders?

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Why write a self-recommendation letter

When I decided to apply for a faculty position in a premier university, I needed to submit three recommendation letters.

I already have a list of people to send requests for recommendation letters:

  • two previous company supervisors
  • two previous professors in graduate school
  • one member of my thesis committee

I sent the requests and expected either a commitment to write the letter or a rejection because of busy schedules.

Two replies were neither.

Instead, I received instructions to draft respective recommendation letters. I assumed this was because of their busy schedules as both held high positions in their respective organizations.

If you were in my place, your response may have been similar. I was confused. I did not know how to sell myself without sounding too proud or too modest.

However, as I collected myself, I realized this is a great opportunity. 

My two references really want to help me! They are busy, but they still want to support me in this application!

But, how can one tread the line between stating accomplishments and just tooting horns?

It is important to realize that through writing a self-recommendation letter, you accomplish three things.

  • First, you reflect on your milestones. You try to determine which milestones are relevant to your references.
  • Second, you show your objectivity in self-evaluation. You are not too high on a horse yet you know you are not a weakling.
  • Third, you have the advantage of picking among apples. You can communicating the accomplishments you deem more important. 

In short, you know you qualify you for the position so  you promote your professional brand.

How to write a self-recommendation letter

After sending my self-recommendation letters for review, I received two different responses.

One of my references edited the letter. He added some personal anecdotes about our working relationship.

Some additions had previously skipped my mind. He added details that I left out but meant greatly to him.

The other one, meanwhile, returned an undersigned copy of the exact letter. I treated it as a seal of satisfaction for the letter I wrote.

Here are four keys to writing a self- recommendation letter.

  • Write distinct self-recommendation letters.
  • Keep your curriculum vitae close.  
  • Do not worry about perfection.
  • Express sincere gratitude.

Write distinct self-recommendation letters. 

Tell stories that are unique to you and your reference. These narratives will make your application stand-out and focus the theme of the letter.

Keep your curriculum vitae close. 

Your mind will benefit from having a ready source of ideas. Your application is a package, so all elements must be coherent and representative of one brand: you!

Do not worry about perfection.

Your letter will surely be read at least once before being undersigned. Just make sure the letter is free from clumsy grammar and spelling errors, as a sign of respect towards your references.

Express sincere gratitude. 

Upon submitting your application, send a thank you email. Your references are putting their reputations at stake to support your application, so the least you can say is “Thanks!”

Recommend yourself with confidence!

Writing a self-recommendation letter is a great opportunity to help your references help you! They have the willingness to help you. They know you are fit for the position.

But they may also be swamped in busy schedules.

Help them help you!

Have other suggestions in writing recommendation letters? Leave a comment!

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