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How can I ask for a recommendation?


Pinkman

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Alright, the title may be a bit bizarre but hear me out.

I have been working full-time (for which I have a recommendation & two additional ones from professors) but I have been working in a very relevant internship on the side to do with microfnance (I'm applying for IR programs & Int Dev).

Everything had been going well however recently the CEO of the firm decided to terminate my internship. The reasons were ridiculous and highly unrealistic to achieve considering I worked full-time and he knew that. I managed my workload well and completed all tasks on deadlines. I asked him to reconsider and he did, however, after several weeks, he came back to me with a highly critical email about my work. Again, it was absolutely ridiculous but I chose not to challenge him or be an ass about it, as the intention behind the internship was to gain more experience in microfinance and get a recommendation for grad school.

The project manager I worked with was always a delight and very helpful. She shared some of my concerns about the CEO but chose wisely to keep quiet about them. Most of our meetings have been over Skype or telephone, so I have never met her but I wanted to know how I can ask her for a recommendation? As I said, I have never met her. Would that be an issue? I suppose I can arrange to meet but I'm not sure how receptive she would be to that.

Although, my work was solid, the fact that I got terminated worries me. She seemed nice and helpful but perhaps now as an ex-colleague she may not be. Anyone had similar situations that can offer some guidance or anything in general. Would really appreciate it. I plan to ask her tomorrow so could really use some insight as to how to approach it.

Thanks!

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I think email would be a good way since it doesn't require the person to answer on the spot -- maybe they'd like some time to think about it.. You can just say that you are planning to apply to grad school and that your experience with the firm would really help your application (and that you learned a lot etc. etc.) and then ask them if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.

If you think the project manager will write a good letter then it won't matter the reason for termination. She doesn't have to bring that up even, and you don't have to mention your termination in your application either -- just list the dates you worked at the firm. If you get interviewed then you can't lie of course, but since most internships are short/temporary, I don't think anyone will assume you got terminated unless you say so (unless you were terminated for a very short time).

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Thanks. The problem with email is that 1) it may seem a little impersonal and 2) most of my contact with her has been via Skype so I figured it would be best to continue in that vain.

I dont think she would mention that I was terminated but her opinion may be clouded by the fact that the reason for termination was that the CEO thought I wasnt performing well when in reality his demands for work were highly unrealistic.

Just not sure how to approach it. I think I have 3 recommendations for most schools, but I think this is the most relevant work I've done besides from another job, from which I cant get a recommendation because my line and project manager have both left. Frustrating!

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Thanks. The problem with email is that 1) it may seem a little impersonal and 2) most of my contact with her has been via Skype so I figured it would be best to continue in that vain.

I dont think she would mention that I was terminated but her opinion may be clouded by the fact that the reason for termination was that the CEO thought I wasnt performing well when in reality his demands for work were highly unrealistic.

Just not sure how to approach it. I think I have 3 recommendations for most schools, but I think this is the most relevant work I've done besides from another job, from which I cant get a recommendation because my line and project manager have both left. Frustrating!

I normally would recommend that people contact their supervisor in the way they normally communicate but Skype / phone calls are pretty intrusive. In addition, you probably Skyped during working hours about work related things so if you Skyped now, it might be disruptive to their workday. Maybe the best idea is to set up a Skype appointment via email (let her know why in the email though). That way you can discuss your performance and let her know more details etc. about the letters.

I think it is also important to talk (phone/Skype/in person) with your project manager and have an honest discussion about your performance. You might have thought the work demands were unrealistic but your project manager might not agree with you. At this point, it doesn't really matter who was right -- the only important thing is whether or not your project manager will write you a strong letter and I think an honest conversation will help.

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I agree with TakeruK - if you prefer to communicate via Skype, email your project manager to set up a Skype meeting. Let her know in the email what the conversation will be about, so she's not surprised by your request. Then try and have an honest conversation with her about your performance and what a letter from her might include. Hopefully that way you can decide whether or not it's a good idea to have this letter as part of your application.

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I normally would recommend that people contact their supervisor in the way they normally communicate but Skype / phone calls are pretty intrusive. In addition, you probably Skyped during working hours about work related things so if you Skyped now, it might be disruptive to their workday. Maybe the best idea is to set up a Skype appointment via email (let her know why in the email though). That way you can discuss your performance and let her know more details etc. about the letters.

I think it is also important to talk (phone/Skype/in person) with your project manager and have an honest discussion about your performance. You might have thought the work demands were unrealistic but your project manager might not agree with you. At this point, it doesn't really matter who was right -- the only important thing is whether or not your project manager will write you a strong letter and I think an honest conversation will help.

Thanks again. Agreed about Skype being disruptive but the project manager has a habit of not answering my emails for days on end, even when I worked there, so I would rather use this method. I got in touch with her today but she mentioned how she had a full shift of work to do today and to get online tomorrow to talk. Although, I didnt mention in our initial IMs that I need a recommendation.

Onto your second point, I agree. I've refrained from giving the CEO a piece of my mind for this precise reason. Perhaps she doesnt agree but I made her abundantly aware that I am making sacrifices (I even offered to reduce my hours in my paid job to make this work). I think the best course of action is an honest conversation. I felt we've had those before about the CEO in particular, as he's peculiar in his demands. I think she is aware that I was given a difficult task, expected to be completed in a unrealistic amount of time.

Edited by Pinkman
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I agree with TakeruK - if you prefer to communicate via Skype, email your project manager to set up a Skype meeting. Let her know in the email what the conversation will be about, so she's not surprised by your request. Then try and have an honest conversation with her about your performance and what a letter from her might include. Hopefully that way you can decide whether or not it's a good idea to have this letter as part of your application.

Great advice thanks. I havent made my intentions clear as of yet. Would you suggest for me to email her and explain and then Skype? I thought the opportunity to Skype immediately gives the advantage that it will be difficult for her to say no. Really worried that the CEO may get involved and put a stop to it.

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I don't think you want to put them in a situation where it's difficult for them to say no -- then you will think you're getting a good letter but it could really say anything. I think you should mention that you would like to ask your project manager for a LOR in the email and suggest a Skype appointment time to discuss the matter. This gives them enough time to think about writing you a letter and what they would say etc. so you will know what to expect!

I think it would be a very bad idea to "pressure" someone into saying they will write you a letter. If they feel like they have to write a letter but don't actually have anything good to say, then it's going to be a very bad thing!

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Thanks for the posts guys. I emailed her this morning to explain the basis of our Skype chat, following from the advice I got. She responds by saying that its the company rules that someone who had a tenure of less then a year to not get recommendations.

Now, I know a person who worked for the company and left within 10 months. She got a recommendation. Thsi absolutely sucks. I think the CEO probably put a kibosh on it. Shall I just cut my losses or appeal to my project manager to perhaps write a personal one, simply discussing my suitability for grad school on the basis of our brief interaction? Again, I have never met her in person. Is there anything I can do? I feel the past 6 months have been a waste.

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You essentially got a polite 'no.' It's a real shame, but it's better to cut your losses and invest your time in finding a different letter writer than to get a less-than-enthusiastic letter from your project manager. I don't think you want a letter from someone who doesn't want to write it - that could do much more harm than good.

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Sorry to hear that :(

I don't think you should automatically assume that the CEO asked your project manager to not write a LOR for you. If the project manager really wanted to write you a LOR, they would have offered to write a personal one before you could ask. In addition, a personal LOR isn't very useful -- it would be much easier to find a prof that taught a class where you did well to write you a LOR and it might even be more beneficial. So I'd consider that response to be a diplomatic way to say "no".

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You essentially got a polite 'no.' It's a real shame, but it's better to cut your losses and invest your time in finding a different letter writer than to get a less-than-enthusiastic letter from your project manager. I don't think you want a letter from someone who doesn't want to write it - that could do much more harm than good.

Thanks. I'm thinking that too. However, it doesnt bring back the past 6 months, a period crucial because I could have used it to solidify my application with other areas. I have 3 recommendations already for most programs (FT manager will give me an amazing recommendation so happy about it).

Will make another post about the general problem being that I am a re-applicant (accepted at most schools but with poor aid) and how another job/internship will affect me considering I have no recommendation from them.

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Sorry to hear that :(

I don't think you should automatically assume that the CEO asked your project manager to not write a LOR for you. If the project manager really wanted to write you a LOR, they would have offered to write a personal one before you could ask. In addition, a personal LOR isn't very useful -- it would be much easier to find a prof that taught a class where you did well to write you a LOR and it might even be more beneficial. So I'd consider that response to be a diplomatic way to say "no".

Yeah. The reason I felt it was the CEO because I was always got on well with the project manager so disappointed. I suppose the only thing left to do is give a piece of my mind to the CEO.

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I don't want to be a nagger but since you mentioned that you want to "give a piece of [your] mind to the CEO", I would strongly recommend that you don't do this. It's not going to change anything. It's also really unprofessional. The right thing to do would be to move on and not worry about this experience any more. Getting further involved could potentially burn bridges for you in the future and connections are important in both academia and the professional world.

However, I might understand how frustrated you are feeling (for what it's worth, since I don't really know you) and personally, sometimes I find it beneficial for my own sanity to write a letter/email giving the person a "piece of my mind" but then delete it and not send it. Also, ranting to friends willing to listen is sometimes helpful too.

What I'm saying is that you already have your 3 letters so there's no point burning bridges. Venting/ranting might be a good way to release frustration but do it in a "safe" way that won't hurt you in the future!

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Yeah, I suppose. Its just so frustrating. I don't understand how someone could really be so difficult and resort to these levels that it could have repercussions in my future.

I might try the terse email and delete tactic. Hopefully it does the trick.

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So I did email the CEO in the end. Not a particularly terse email. I merely relayed my concerns and addressed what I feel he misunderstood. And explained what he should do with interns in the future.

Guy blew up on me in his response, stating why I hadnt done this, and that, being very condescending in relation to how employment works (hey jackass, I've had several jobs before), etc. Wow. Quite shocked. I dont think he appreciated my candor and certainly didnt appreciate how to help interns in the future. What an absolute tool he turned out to be. Interesting how while working for him, he hardly ever responded to emails but as soon as an email hits his inbox that challenges him a little, he responds immediately.

Hopefully there's no ramifications for me on the back of this.

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