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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Art & Etiquette of a Reference Letter

By MaryAnn X. Meddish, 2009 INA Nanny of the Year

A lot of people find writing letters of reference to be difficult and I have had a number of people over the years say just write one and I will sign it but I want the letters to be in their words so they never sound like me. I have also had employers say they would rather talk to someone than write a letter to which I responded that sometimes people loose contact over the years and while I am thrilled they want to be a phone reference I would really like something in writing to put in my portfolio so I still have it in 20 years. I have learned that sometimes a little help in writing it can get the ball rolling. I have emailed people outlines to try to help them get started such as the one below:

Hello ________________,
This is a little reminder that you had said you would write me a letter of reference. I thought an outline might help get you started so I am attaching a few ideas.

To whom it may concern:

Paragraph 1: Who you are and how you know me, My name, how long I was your nanny / how long you have know me, comment about the impact I had on your family/workplace/group we were involved in, something great you want the person reading to know about me, etc.

Paragraph 2: List some good traits - am I fun, timely, creative, organized, a good cook, an excellent driver, willing to go above and beyond, etc. Tell about a specific incident where my professionalism was noticed - how I handled an emergency or unusual situation, a way I showed my knowledge, how you received unsolicited comments from your family, friends, or children's' teachers, etc. Comment on a activities or a specific activity I did with your children to fit their multi-aged interests.

Paragraph 3: comment on my leaving (we were sorry to see her go, we loved having her as our nanny, she is sorely missed) and a recommendation of what I can bring to another family.

Signed: The ________________ family or your name

E-Mail and Phone # (if willing to be contacted)

Please print three copies, sign them, and mail to me at _________________________________
Thank you again for doing this for me I really appreciate it.

You can be more specific and add comments mentioning a particular event, comment, or skill you want highlighted. I had one mom who had put off a letter for over two years who emailed me the day I sent her an outline and thanked me for basically writing it for her and saying it was in the mail. I have also received emails of people asking me to read over what they wrote and let them know if I wanted anything else included before they mailed it.


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