Writing letters of recommendation

Three young women are counting on me right now. They have various new directions looming in their lives. People out there who don’t know them, who are just looking at pieces of paper describing them, will soon be making important decisions about them.

I do know these young women, and I feel a heavy responsibility to help those other people make informed decisions about them. As they sort through dozens, or even hundreds, of applications, I want the documents these three young provide to stand out. I want whoever is reviewing the files to stop and say, “Wow. We’ve gotta have this one.”

These young women all have done their part. Their resumes and applications reflect their many accomplishments. All they need now is letters of recommendation. Each has asked me to write one.

So I am reflecting on the stand-out characteristics of these three women, each of whom has interned at Raising Arizona Kids at one point or another. One came to us as a college graduate. One came as a high school junior. The third I have known since she was a small child who would come to the office with her mom sometimes when she was not in school. As she grew in maturity and attention span, we put her to work.

Writing letters of recommendation is an honor because it means these young women value my opinion of them and trust me to help convey their strengths. But it’s a burden, too, because I want so badly to do them justice that I find myself facing the worst kind of writer’s block.

I’m not comfortable writing about generalities, though everyone admires qualities like responsibility and integrity. To feel good about my letters, I need to include specific examples that demonstrate the characteristics I want people to understand about the young people I am recommending. So this is where I start: racking my brain for the specific moments that made me take note, that made me think how lucky I was to have them here with us.

When my mind is weary from managing the minutia of a long, busy day, that’s not so easily accomplished. But I have to try. Because if what I write makes even the smallest amount of difference in making new and exciting opportunities available to these talented young women, it will be worth it.


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