References and Recommendation Letters
You've completed your internship or training program, and you are returning home to further benefit from the experience, hopefully by getting a job in your home country. As you say goodbye to your U.S. colleagues, make sure to maintain their contact details or connect with them via LinkedIn. Keeping a friendly relationship with former employers and coworkers is important if you ever need a professional reference, and chances are, your employer would be more than happy to act as a reference or write a recommendation letter for you.
Asking Your Employer to Be a Reference
Most jobs require you to provide 2-3 references who can speak to your past performance as an employee. Your internship or training program host employer is an obvious, smart choice to have as your reference. Having international references will give you an advantage over other job seekers in your home country. When you decide who you would like to act as a reference (usually your supervisor), you should first ask if they would be willing. You should never list someone as a reference unless they have agreed to act as one. Once you receive their consent, make sure you also request:
- An updated email address
- A phone number where the person can be reached
- The person's current job title
You will also want to give the reference person an idea of the kinds of jobs you are seeking and your career goals. This way, they will be more prepared to answer any questions they may be asked about your career path. If you have interviewed for a job and know that they will be contacting your references, it is also extremely helpful to provide your references with a copy of the job description. This will enable them to make comparisons between the tasks you did at your internship or training program and the work indicated in the job description.
Most importantly, ensure that the individual providing you with a reference will speak about you in a positive way. A bad reference could ruin your chances at getting the job you want. Ensure that anyone you ask to be a reference had a positive working relationship with you and is willing to help your job search by highlighting your best qualities.
Asking Your Employer to Write a Recommendation Letter
Always ask several weeks to a month in advance for a recommendation letter. Make sure you ask politely and give your employer enough time to write it. In most cases, your immediate supervisor should provide a recommendation letter since he or she will have been responsible for overseeing and tracking your progress during your internship or training program. If you need the letter to say anything specific such as the dates of your employment or the names of any projects you may have worked on, make sure to let the recommendation writer know.
Typically, a recommendation letter will highlight your experience at the company. The person writing the letter should identify him or herself, which serves to show that they are qualified to comment on your experience. In your case, it would be best to request a very general letter that you could utilize for any number of reasons or for job applications in various industries.
If some time has passed since you first asked for a letter, a gentle reminder can help. Remember, your employer is likely busy with their normal work responsibilities. It may take time to sit down and actually write the recommendation. In fact, the best recommendation letters usually take longer to write. Your employer will need time to list all of your amazing accomplishments! Once your employer provides a letter or acts as a reference, do not forget to call or send a note of appreciation for the support in your job search.
In the unlikely event that your company does not offer a reference, you should still make sure to thank your employer for the opportunity to intern or train with their organization. They will be glad to know that they made a positive impact on your professional and personal growth.
InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.
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