Recommendations are awesome for many reasons. You feel good when you get them. You feel good when you give them. Recommendations make you look valuable and competent to potential employers and new colleagues.
Over the course of my career, I've been diligent about giving and asking for recommendations. I'd go back and read them to reaffirm my value. I also liked collecting them. They were like a currency I was accumulating as I developed my skills and grew into more senior roles over time.
After 7 years of giving and receiving recommendations, here's what I'd... Recommend :)
1. Don't be afraid to ask. Asking for recommendations can feel awkward and self indulgent. The truth is, they're really important to growing your career-especially for women (Allyson Downey, the founder of WeeSpring, argued that women are seen as more valuable if others vouch for them-vs. women vouching for themselves). Focus on the benefit of having that recommendation in your pocket as you move forward in your career and try to look past the strange feeling of asking for compliments.
2. Ask folks in a variety of roles. When people look at your history and recommendations, they want to see growth and an ability to interact with others in various situations. Are you easy to manage? Do your direct reports like you? How far is your influence? Do folks in other departments feel your impact?
3. Ask all the time. For a while I found myself scrambling to get recommendations once I was leaving a company. While this works sometimes, you often have better luck when you ask for recommendations when you're not looking. Recommenders won't feel as rushed and their recommendations may be more substantial because they're truly invested in their relationship with you (you're not going anywhere). Receive positive feedback at your job? Take that opportunity to convert the feedback into a recommendation. It's a great way to get a recommendation because it's pretty effortless for the recommender.
4. If you think someone is awesome, recommend them. Love working with someone? Admire their leadership? Did someone totally save your butt because they went the extra mile? It's cliche but it's true-what goes around, comes around. If you recommend others, they'll be more likely to recommend you.
5. If you think someone is not awesome, don't recommend them. Is it awkward? Heck yeah it is. However-it's really important to only recommend people you know and admire. Your recommendations are an extension of your network and your reputation. If you don't have enough experience with someone or if you don't feel comfortable recommending them, follow your gut. Don't do it.
6. When you recommend, give it substance. What was the context in which you worked with them? What did they do that impressed you? Similar to writing a good resume, recommendations are stronger when they have context, an action (what that person did), and how it impacted you and/or the company. Avoid sweeping statements or recommendations that only applaud someone's character. The more you can ground that person's value in something tangible, the more outsiders will trust in and see their value.