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Letter of Recommendation from former employer?


Jeffry

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I am finishing my first year as an MPH student at Columbia, and am looking to submit applications for PhD programs this Fall for Fall 2014 admission. However, because I will have only been at Columbia for a year by the time I need to put my applications together, I am finding it difficult to find potential letter writers. As such, I was considering soliciting a recommendation from my former employer (from whom I got a recommendation applying to this MPH program). However, I have not worked for this employer since 8/12 (and the job was not relevant, it is from a restaurant manager). Would it be inappropriate (from the PhD school's perspective) to use this person as a recommender after a nearly year of not working for him? (By the way, I am positive the person would write one for me again). Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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The letter will be of no help and possibly do more harm than good. The LOR requirement has two benefits to Ad Comms. 1) The content of the letters informs their decision, but 2) the ability to get the letters elf selects students who have done considerable work above straight coursework (e.g. research)

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I don't think the time is an issue, but rather the total lack of relevance. What can a restaurant manager say about your potential as a PhD student? If you're just down one letter, I would make an extra effort to establish a relationship with a professor  or a practitioner in your field sometime in the next 10 months (I assume you'll be applying in fall 2013). Can you look for a research assistantship at Columbia? What about a summer internship in the field? Maybe do some schmoozing at office hours?

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Hi guys,

 

Thanks for the replies. To give you a better idea of my situation, I will be doing basic epidemiologic research for a professor  (and a PhD candidate of hers) over the summer as part of my practicum required for my MPH. So I figured all things going smoothly that that professor should be a lock for a letter. However, I have just started communicating with my faculty advisor, who might help me with my thesis this Fall, so until then, my relationship with him might be limited.

 

With that being said, could my faculty advisor potentially be a second letter writer, or is that not a good idea? Also, because my professor's PhD candidate will likley have been awarded her PhD by this Spring, could she act as a letter writer (keeping in mind she would not be holding a formal academic position perhaps beyond a post-doc), or would that be innapproptiate?

 

Any other suggestions for finding a potential third writer in a hurry would be greatly appreicated! Thanks! 

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I would definitely go with the faculty advisor. The newly-minted PhD is a distant second choice, but still preferable to the restaurant manager. If your applications are due in December-ish of 2013, you should be able to build a stronger relationship with the faculty advisor by then, especially now that you have it in mind. I assume that he has a PhD in public health or a closely-related field? If so, his credentials are the best of your options, hands down, and I've heard referees' letters are given more weight when they are in supervisory roles.

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Thanks again for the replies. Yes, the advisor's credentials are top notch, Harvard educated MD/MPH, with professorship appointments in Biomedical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology. The professor I'm doing research for, in addition to being an associate professor of epidemiology, is the associate dean for research at the school of nursing.

 

However, this still only provides me with 2 letters (there are only 3 programs I'm looking at that will accept 2 letters). The good news is, many of the other '3 letter' schools simply ask for 2 academic, and the third could be professional if need be.

 

So 2 questions: 1) What literally should I do to build a rapport with the advisor? and 2) Do you have any other suggestions on a thrid letter (aside from my original old employer if I need it)? 

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usually in these situations you should go see professors who are familiar with your work ask if they would support your application for a phd. get ready for rejection and exhaust your options. if your performance was good in general then you shouldn't have a problem getting a third letter. at this point there is no way to build your rapport so just be upfront. just in case, bring along a copy of your CV, transcript and statement of purpose.

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