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How to Write to My Boss Asking for a Reference or a Letter of Recommendation

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If you are considering leaving your current job for a new job, it is often tricky asking your boss for a reference or a letter of recommendation. Sometimes it is a better idea to ask for a reference before you make this decision to avoid being placed in an awkward position. If you do this before looking for a new job, you can be completely honest with your boss and state it is just for future needs in the event you must find a new job.

Determine how you think your boss will respond. Many employees are frightened to ask for a reference in fear that their boss will refuse or that the letter will not be what is expected. Sometimes employees are afraid to ask because they think their bosses will treat them differently after the request.

Choose your timing. Determine if you will ask before before searching the job market or if you will wait until you need it. This will determine what to say.

Address the letter respectfully, writing “Dear” followed by your boss’s professional name.

State the purpose of the letter. At the beginning of the letter, tell your boss that you are writing to ask him to write you a reference or letter of recommendation.

Describe your purpose. If you are writing it before your job search, explain that you are not looking for a new job, but that you would like to have this reference in case you need it in the future. If you have located a job you are very interested in applying for, be honest by explaining that you need it because you are considering switching jobs.

Explain your reasons. Give a description of why you are looking for employment elsewhere. If it will be for a promotion or a step up in your career, include those details in the letter. By being honest, if your boss respects you, he will maybe offer you a promotion within the company to avoid losing you as an employee.

Thank him in advance for writing the letter. Close the letter by thanking him for the opportunity to work for this company and that you are grateful to him for considering writing this letter. End the letter by writing “Sincerely” followed by your name.

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About the Author

Jennifer VanBaren started her professional online writing career in 2010. She taught college-level accounting, math and business classes for five years. Her writing highlights include publishing articles about music, business, gardening and home organization. She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting and finance from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.

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