Early Career

Asking for Letters of Recommendations in the Fall

Those applying Round 1 or 2 are likely starting to think about asking for recommendations from your current employer. This timeline puts you in a potentially uncomfortable position at work – you are giving 10 months notice instead of 2 weeks, and it could put you at a disadvantage for promotions, training, and even just desirable projects. Here are some options:

Don’t ask anyone from your current organization.

For many schools, you will have to write a brief explanation. However, most business schools state that it will not count against you and they understand why this timeline is difficult for many applicants.

Ask someone at your current company who doesn’t directly assign your work assignments, but knows your work well.

If possible, this option may be a good middle ground. Have you considered trusted colleagues who work in other divisions? Are there people senior to you who are not in your direct chain of command but with whom you’ve worked on a project?

Frame your application process and departure as likely but not definite.

Many people are not committed to leaving but instead want to see how the decision process and other factors play out. It is reasonable to tell your supervisor that you are applying to business school and intend to enroll in the fall, but that you first need to explore your options, which include deferring school if you decide to stay in your current position.

Just ask and hope for the best.

If you already have a good supervisor, he or she will handle this request with sophistication and keep your best interests at heart. If you have a difficult supervisor, then it is unlikely that asking for a recommendation will substantially change your situation.

I primarily followed this last method and was fortunate that my boss and colleagues handled my situation with generosity. I did not notice any repercussions and enjoyed the opportunity to share this process with my co-workers.

What strategies have people used? How did it work out for you? Did you face any consequences in the short or long term? What other ideas do you have?

Judy Herbstman, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Stern School of Business at NYU

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