someone else in the company at a similar level of management that you have worked with closely or clients that you have worked with closely for at least 6 months.
2. A professor who knows you well can be a good option.
If you have been out of college for 3 years or less, a professor can be a great option to serve as a recommender. Choose someone in whose class you were one of the top students and with whom you had a positive relationship outside of class. If you partnered with the professor to work on a special project, this is even better because it mimics the work world a little more closely and is similar to the types of opportunities you will have to work with professors in graduate school. Professors also have the added benefit of being able to weigh in on your strengths as a student.
3. A leader from the community can often write you a great letter.
Leadership and achieving results doesn’t just happen at work. Whether you’re applying to policy or business school, a leader or supervisor from an organization for which you volunteered and with whom you worked with closely, can write you a strong letter of recommendation. I always advise my applicants to participate in some kind of community service—whether it’s a few one-time opportunities or an ongoing commitment—and the people supervising their work are often able to write strong letters for graduate school applications.
4. Only get a letter from an alum or executive if they know you really well and can write a great letter.
I’ve had clients come to me as reapplicants to graduate school who had letters of recommendation from high-profile politicians and Ivy League alumni—and despite all that, they got flat-out rejected. While getting a letter of recommendation from a CEO who is also an alum of the school would be an amazing asset to your application, it is only worth submitting a letter of recommendation from someone like this if they know you very well, have worked closely with you, and can write you a great letter of recommendation. It’s much better to have a strong letter of recommendation from someone who has worked closely with you than a vague letter of recommendation from someone senior who doesn’t actually know you that well. Share your experiences and questions about choosing recommenders for your graduate school applications below!