On this week's episode of the Uncharted Podcast, Dr. Andy Roark and practice management super nerd, Stephanie Goss take on a new kind of mailbag. This time, our listener struggles with writing a recommendation letter but not for the reason you might think. This person cannot stop gushing over their rockstar vet tech and is wondering what even makes for a good recommendation letter in the first place. Together, Andy and Stephanie give their tips for effective recommendation letters and how to politely decline if you may not be the right person to write it. Let's get into this episode….
Do you have something that you would love Andy and Stephanie to roleplay on the podcast – a situation where you would love some examples of what someone else would say and how they would say it? If so, send us a message through the mailbag! We want to hear your challenges and would love to feature your scenario on the podcast.
Submit your questions here: unchartedvet.com/mailbag
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Stephanie Goss: Hey, everybody! I am Stephanie Goss, and this is another episode of The Uncharted Podcast. And this week on the podcast, Andy and I are tackling a question in the mailbag that at first blush seemed really simple. In fact, Andy and I thought this might be our shortest episode yet. Is this gonna be long enough for an episode?
Because we got a great but simple question from a doctor who was asking, “Hey, I've got a technician who is a superstar and they are applying to vet school and asked me to write them a letter of recommendation.” And their question was about not “what do I write” or “how do I write it,” but about this person is a rock star.
How do I keep myself from gushing about them? And I answered this question and a little bit more as we got into the conversation. This was a really fun one. So if you are in a position to ask for a letter of recommendation, if you are in a position to write a letter of recommendation for someone or you just want to hear some good advice about praising and talking positively about members of your team, this one's for you. Let's get into it.
Announcer: And now, the Uncharted Podcast.
Dr. Andy Roark: And we are back. It's me, Dr. Andy Roark, and the one and only Write-This-Down-Stephanie Goss. Write this down. That's right, I switched it up this time.
It wasn't Stephanie, Write This Down Goss. It was Write This Down Stephanie Goss. Which casts you much more in an administrative light, I think, than our usual intros.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah, the ever attentive, like, trying to capture your every word, secretary, is absolutely not who I am.
Dr. Andy Roark: It's not, no, that's not who you are, but you are my devil wears Prada assistant. When people come up to me, you're like, that's Michael Slight. You met him three years ago at a conference and he told you he likes cats, but only if they have three legs. Hi, Michael, how's your three legged cats?
I'm, you are that person. You like, you have that memory. I don't remember, I'm bad with faces, I, and I meet a lot of people, you are the whisper in ear, Devil Wears Prada assistant.
Stephanie Goss: I've always been that way. It comes from years of when I was in high school, and then in, eventually in college, I was a camp counselor, and then I ran a summer camp, and when you have a hundred new kids every two weeks, and you have to learn faces and names so that you can yell at, kids to be safe you, learn faces and names real fast.
Dr. Andy Roark: Well that also, that background also explains why you remember the specific things you remember, cause it's really weird what you remember. You'll be like, that's Donna Watkins, she's allergic to shrimp.
Stephanie Goss: It is. It is true.
Dr. Andy Roark: I'll be careful about bringing it up.
Stephanie Goss: Totally true. It's funny because for years I told you that I wanted a crown and then you guys made my dreams come true when I got uncharted speaker of the year last year and my award was the crown. But I have my new goal in life is to be like the FBI or you know, and like, or a secret agent, and have the little invisible earbud in my ear and be able to just tell Andy, this is who's, this is who's coming, and just like whisper, to you when we're out, out places.
Anyways we're off the rails already. This is good. This is going to be a fiery episode. How's it going, Andy Roark?
Dr. Andy Roark: It's– my world got devastated today. I–my daughter, no, it was him. First of all, okay, let me tell you a Skipper Roark story from yesterday. I was doing a podcast with a very respected board certified medical genius. And there were other people on the podcast watching the recording. Like, they were like, oh, we're gonna sit in on this.
And so I'm recording, there's an audience, there's this. And he comes in, as he just did right now, And I'm in my basement recording and I hear this rustling and I look and he is standing up on his back legs and he has discovered where I keep his, like he has some rawhides, but you know, he gets an occasional little rawhide treat and I look over there at one point and he's leaving the room with a rawhide and I'm like, I guess there was one that was out.
And he's, looking at me as he walks out of the room like, what you gonna do? And, then he comes back and he gets another one and I'm on this recording and I don't want to be like, I'm sorry, let me pause this so I can go and deal with my bad dog. Only when I got done did I find the whole bag got smuggled out and torn apart.
He must have eaten a dozen rawhide, he's gonna poop for three days.
Stephanie Goss: I was gonna say.
Dr. Andy Roark: He's just, he's a ticking time bomb. He hasn't gone off yet, but I'm like, he's going to
Stephanie Goss: You’re weekend is gonna be spent walking Skipper for endless poops.
Dr. Andy Roark: The eye contact he maintained with me as he walked out of the room with the treat he wasn't supposed to have was just like, it was, like, bullying.
He just looked at me like, “Yeah, nerd. I'm taking this. And you're not going to say anything,” and I didn't because I was trying to be professional. And so that was Skipper Roark yesterday.
Stephanie Goss: It's, like when you, I remember when everybody tells you, like, when you have your second kid, it gets exponentially harder and you have no idea until you have more than one, like, what that actually means, and I vividly remember mine, my kids are fairly close together in, in age, and I remember, like, they were really, good kids when I first had Jackson, Riley went through a very mischievous stage and it wasn't anything bad like drawing on the walls or you know I have some friends that have horror stories of their toddlers, but she always had this knack like right when I would have Jackson in the bathtub or I was, you know, had just sat down for him to, nurse or whatever.
And she would just look at you in the eye and then like, maintain the eye contact and skulk off. And you just knew that she was going to go do something.
Dr. Andy Roark: I,
Stephanie Goss: just like, Oh, I just kid,
Dr. Andy Roark: Oh yeah. I, oh that,
Stephanie Goss: That's Skipper.
Dr. Andy Roark: Yes. Oh yeah, that I can 100% imagine. He's just like, yeah, I'm doing it.
Stephanie Goss: uh huh.
Dr. Andy Roark: I walked into the exam room yesterday and I had this kitten appointment, right? So brand new kitten, of course, they just came home in the car line, which is if you're a kitten, that's genius.
Go to the elementary school car line, somebody's going to pick you up, and then they're going to get in the car with you, and you are 75 percent of the way to a new home. You know? And sure enough, this little, probably six week old, you know, tabby cat has just walked up to the car line the kids pick up the cat and get in the car with it and mom's like great now we got a cat and so I walk in because the cat's there and scratching her head She's some ear mites and stuff and I walk in and there's the lady and she's got two kids with her, right?
And one of them is a baby. It's not a kid. It's a baby. She's got like the little headband with a big sunflower on it. You know I'm talking about just Absolutely, and she's smiling at me, like, just Gerber baby beautiful, you know? And, then the other kid's probably five years old, and he's on the phone, like, doing his thing.
And so I walk in, and I was like, oh wow, you decided to add a little chaos to your life. You know, holding this kitten, and she's like, oh, well. This is only part of the chaos. And I said, Oh yeah. And she said, yeah, my oldest is 15 and my second oldest is 12. And she said, and he's seven and she's just born and I'm 45. And I said, really? And she said, yep. Got a big surprise about a year ago. And I, it was funny. I was like, and so the kitten was an obvious choice. So, I don't know,
Stephanie Goss: I, I did that. I did that as well. I vividly remember the day because mine are like 18 months apart. And so I vividly remember the day Jackson was. It's a couple months old. He was born in July and it was November. I walked into the clinic with a toddler, a newborn and a puppy in tow that Santa brought for Christmas early in November.
He showed up in my house in a stocking and boy, let me tell you, that was one of the not so great decisions. And my team just looked at me and they were like, What in the hell were you actually thinking?
Dr. Andy Roark: It's like a moment of weakness and I’m like
Stephanie Goss: I was potty training a toddler, have a newborn, let's get a puppy! And let's get, and let's get a terrier puppy, who's gonna be bad and naughty.
Dr. Andy Roark: Yeah.
Stephanie Goss: You know, we don't always make the best life choices
Dr. Andy Roark: No! Yeah. No. Not at all. So, anyway.
Stephanie Goss: Well, this episode today is about good life choices. I'm actually kind of excited about this one. This one might be a little bit shorter than our normal episode, but maybe not. Maybe we'll go off on a tangent. We got it. We got an email that is so fun for a change. It's not someone who's like, I have this massive problem.
They have a problem, but it's a positive problem. And so, we had a doctor write into us and ask like, Hey, could you guys do an episode and talk about letters of recommendation? And the reason was because they have a superstar licensed technician who is applying to vet school. And they were like, I'm struggling with writing this letter because all I want to do is gush about this person because they are wonderful.
And I'm worried that it might not be effective if all I'm doing is stating the positives. Like what should be in a great letter of recommendation? And I thought this one was fun both from a, like from the HR perspective, but also from your perspective, having gone to vet school and gone through that whole application process.
Like what makes up a good letter of recommendation?
Dr. Andy Roark: Oh man. I love this. It's a super great. I love it when someone's like, I want to celebrate this
Stephanie Goss: Uh huh.
Dr. Andy Roark: so hard
Stephanie Goss: can't stop talking about them.
Dr. Andy Roark: That, yeah, that other people are like, all right, she sounds pretty great. I, it's a great problem to have. And I think this person is really smart in the realization that everybody has someone gushing about them.
Everybody does. It might be your, it might be your mother. Might be, only be your mother, but you're gonna get a letter recommendation from my mom. And it's gonna say great things. So I think that's really smart. I always think it's interesting when people ask like, you know, what gets you into vet school.
And I do, I would say right here, I don't keep really close tabs on vet school admissions. Although I am always interested. I talked to, the dean of students at a vet school like last, it was in the spring–
Stephanie Goss: Uh huh. Uh
Dr. Andy Roark: it was in the spring. And one of the things I always like to ask the dean, especially the um, a dean of students And I said to her, Hey so people always ask me how to get into vet school and so what advice should I make sure that I have ready when people ask me that? And she said, don't quote me on this. That's why I haven't told you what to do with this. goes, don't quote me on this but tell them not to write a euthanasia story. And I was like, really? And she was like, I have read so many euthanasia stories in my life and like bonus points if you don't write a euthanasia story. And so again, if that's your thing and that's like what motivates you and you're like, yeah, this is, I have to be honest, then you should be honest. But also know that the I'm going to write about a euthanasia story that inspired me to go down this path, just know that it's going to be challenging to stand out because a lot of people are making that play.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. That makes sense.
Dr. Andy Roark: I think that sort of, that kind of stuff is interesting. I, so I've got a little bit of sort of headspace in, in, in letters of recommendation. So I pride myself on letters of recommendation.
I think I write a pretty darn good letter of recommendation. I've gotten good feedback on that. And I'll tell you kind of what, the way I size it up and try to get some, pointers here. I think one of the things that, that we do when we're going to write a letter of recommendation, whether it's the vet school or anything else, we need to get intentional.
A lot of times what we hear is, rec letter is just write, just gush, about them. And I was like, okay, what are you trying to do here? Like what are you trying to communicate about this person? And you were like, they're awesome. And I go, that's useless. Right like awesome is too vague. It's too flowery like from this letter, which I totally appreciate. I don't need this information, but They used the word superstar and they used the word gushing.
They used the word fabulous and I'm like, I know Absolutely nothing about this person. You know what I mean? And I'm not sure that you know anything about this person. I will also say anybody who's out there talking about using chat GPT to write your rec letters real fast. One, love your focus on efficiency and time management to not.
It's not going to be the place. Maybe you could do a first draft and then get in there, but it's not the place because one of the things that chat GPT is not good at is specifics. It pulls and writes generic wording and generic wording is not going to get the job done here because you're going to make your person sound like a generic candidate and so start out.
What are you trying to communicate? Why like genuinely why would this person be good for vet school or for whatever you're recommending them for like what skills do they have? What attributes do they have? Tell me why, and you need to sit, and a lot of times, it's hard for me to write rec letters.
I don't just bang them out. I literally walk around for three days. And think about them and jot things on a, post it note in my pocket because I'm like, what, does this person do?
Stephanie Goss: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Andy Roark: And start from there. And so the first thing to remember is what the heck are you trying to do? The second thing is, and I teach this in the exam room communication class.
And so, if you're like, oh, I'd like to hear more exam room communication from Andy, at DrAndyRoark.com, I have my exam room communication toolkit. And One of the 17 tools in there that we talk about is being authentic. And there's some, there's old, there's like seminal research. It's old.
It's like the 1980s. But it came out of Cleveland State University's business program. And. Basically, what they did in this program was they created two fictional job applicants, John and Steve, and they made identical resumes and identical letters of recommendation for the two candidates, with the exception of one line.
So both resumes were really good. Both of the cover letters or recommendation letters were glowing. Except for John, had one extra line in the middle of all the awesome stuff. It's like, he does this, and he rocks that, and he's amazing at this. Sometimes John can be difficult to get along with, but he delivers results, and bam, and more positive stuff.
And that was the only difference in the two in the two applications. And so then they sent the applications out to headhunting groups, like people who find jobs, and they said, please evaluate these candidates. And who scores better in the eyes of the headhunters? It's John, who sometimes can be difficult to get along with. Because that one wart made everything else real.
Stephanie Goss: Right. Sure.
Hey there, podcast listeners. I wanna take a second and talk to you about our Leadership Essentials Certificate. Now, some of you have heard, Andy and I talk about it on the podcast, but if you're new or if you haven't heard this before, I think it's really important, which is why I'm gonna share it with you now,
When our team sat down in the very beginning. We said, Hey, look, we really believe that there is a foundational truth here to build off of. And that is everybody that's a part of the Uncharted team, everybody that is a part of the uncharted community and finds us tends to believe that every single member of the practice has value and worth and deserves investment in.
That's number one. And number two is that everybody on the team is needed and needs to have some basic leadership, professional, personal development skills, and business development skills in order to help the practice and the team run as efficient, effective, and rockstar ish as they can. And so, um, our team sat down and said, what would that look like?
What would be some of those things that we would want every member of the team to have access to in terms of learnings? And after the last years of doing content for Uncharted, Andy and I pulled together the best of hits in terms of those foundational level content and workshop questions and discussion questions, and we put it together in one awesome, if I do say so myself, awesome, awesome package.
And that is our Leadership Essentials Certificate. And so if you were like, hey, this I would like my team to be maximally efficient. I would like them to be maximally effective. I would love them to learn how to be better communicators and how to work together as a team. We've got you. And if you're someone on a team listening to this right now, and you're like, Hey, I would like to do that.
We've got you to, there's the ability to take one module at a time. You can buy the whole certificate. You can take it online. You can take it in a hybrid version where you do some workshop in virtual cohorts, but you also asynchronously watch videos. You can even come and do the whole thing in two days live with our team.
And you can find out information about all of it at unchartedvet.com/certificates, that certificate with an S at the end, because there's more where that came from. And now back to the podcast. Oh, but don't forget to go sign up.
Dr. Andy Roark: And who scores better in the eyes of the, uh, of the headhunters? It's John, who sometimes can be difficult to get along with. Because that one wart made everything else real.
Stephanie Goss: Right. Sure.
Dr. Andy Roark: It made John real and you're like, when someone says this is the area I would like to see him develop in, suddenly you're like, Oh, this person's not just blowing smoke. They are genuinely telling me what they think, which means all of the other things they said, I believe are genuine.
And so I always remember that and talk about that and the takeaway of it is you should be yourself warts and all like you should be authentic about who you are. You should be authentic about who the person you're recommending is. Nobody believes in perfection. They believe in real people.
And so the first challenge in writing a letter of recommendation is capturing the person in an authentic way. And that will generally send them catapulting back the past the people who have just covered in fluff and, are not really believable as people. And so don't be afraid to say the, this is who this person is.
These are some of the memories that I have, these are challenges I have seen them overcome. This is some of the personal development that I have seen in this person. And that is powerful stuff that does not get talked much about but it–phrases like that articulate that this person is a learner and a grower and someone who develops and betters themselves and who you can probably assume is going to continue to improve and grow. And I feel like those are really important points that a lot of people miss in their letters of recommendation.
Stephanie Goss: Well, and from an HR perspective and from, you know, from my personal experience perspective. So prior to being in, in the vet field, I worked for the university and, I've read a lot of recommendation letters for the programs that I was involved in over the years. And I will also say that one of the things, as someone who has looked for candidates and looked through hundreds of candidates, like you mentioned, the Dean, and I don't envy that.
I don't envy that job because it's a really hard job. Because there is a lot of generic. And there's a reason why. Because I think a lot of people, whether they're applying for a job or they're applying for vet school, they think about who is the person who can give me the most glowing recommendation.
I think that's how a lot of people look at it. And there's nothing wrong with that. And I think a lot of people also look at it as. Who is the most well connected person that I know to write this letter? And I've had candidates ask me to write letters because they're like, Well, you are involved in this thing, and so you know people here, and so that will look good.
And It's not, they're not being shady about it, right? It's not with mal intent that they're looking at it that way, but they are, if you are trying to succeed, you're probably looking at all of your options. And at the same time, I think what I often. Do and we're, I'm going to get into this when I do action steps, but for me, I want to know why is it that they want me to write the letter?
Because I think that really, I think that really matters. And to your point, I love that this student asked their doctor that they work with to write the letter, because here's an opportunity for someone who, to your point, not only has had the opportunity to see them. Excel and flourish and can speak to that, but there's also the ability to speak to the depth of the relationship and why you're asking this person to write your letter.
And I have read hundreds of letters that it's very clear to me that this is someone that. The candidate respects, but there's no depth to the relationship. And I'm going to weigh that dramatically differently than a letter where it's clear that this person got a letter from their academic advisor that they've been working with for four years and they're speaking about the growth that this person has had.
That speaks to a depth of relationship and involvement in their life that is different. Right. it's the difference between you know, I, it's funny that the Dean said the euthanasia story, because for me, letters of rec, I would think, especially for vet school, there are hundreds of thousands of candidates who have known since they were five years old, that they wanted to be a veterinarian as a manager.
I can't tell you how many times I get cover letters from people who are like, I just think that working with animals would be the best job in the world. That's great. But why does that set you apart from the hundreds of thousands of other people who say that they've also wanted to be a vet since they're, since they were five years old?
Right? So, I think part of it, I love that you said what, you know, as the writer, what are you trying to communicate about the person? But I think that also goes both ways. If you are a candidate and you are asking someone to write a. a letter for you. I think part of it, the headspace for you should be, why are you asking this person?
Because I will tell you, as someone who has written letters for people, the best letters I have written have been able to be the letters where someone has come to me and said, I would like you to write this for me because I think that you can speak to my growth and development and overcoming challenges because of this, right?
Dr. Andy Roark: My communication skills, my ability to learn. I really love how you're taking this because you're putting power back into the student, or into the applicant's hands. And so I just, boy, I can't agree with you more strongly. I, the applicants, and it's funny, when you're asked for a letter of recommendation, the people who really have their stuff together, Like, you know it.
There's people who ask me for a letter of recommendation and just the way they talk to me, I'm like, you don't need, you do not need me. Like, you are gonna, you are gonna write your own ticket. And the person who can write their own ticket comes to you basically with a plan. And they're like, okay, I was hoping you could write me a letter of recommendation.
I thought because we spent this time together and we had these experiences, I was really hoping you could speak to this specific. you know, area of development for me. And what's happened is this person has looked at themselves and thought about the points that they want to try to make. And they have looked at people that they know and say, well, I think you know, I had a period, I really learned a lot about communication and motivating people when I worked at this job and this person was my manager there and they could provide that sort of insight.
And this person has actually seen me work with patients and animals. And maybe they could speak to my compassion and my thoughtfulness and my, you know, bedside manner, if you will. And, you know, but you, but when you go and you give, like, set the letter writers up for success. It's really hard. This is something that we do with training and Uncharted that blows people's minds.
And so it's funny if I say to you if I come to you and I say, I want you to think about a conversation you had with a client that's much harder. than me coming in and saying, I want you to think about a conversation you had with a client about dental care where the client had very limited resources.
Like, that second one is a much easier mental pull than “think about a conversation with a client” where you're like, I don't know. And so, anyway, the way we ask those questions matters. And so, I love that you called that out. I want, the next part sort of for me with this is, if you're writing, back to writing the letter, if you're writing the letter, remember that talk is cheap.
And we talk about this a lot when we talk about mission statements, when we talk about defining core values in the team.
And one of the mistakes that people make is they pick flowery words and they say at our practice we're about compassion and integrity and the highest inpatient care and I'm like what the hell does any of that mean? They're like, I don't know exactly. It's just you know, just theoretically these are the words.
Stephanie Goss: Well it looks good on the wall, right? Like
Dr. Andy Roark: It looks good on the wall.
Stephanie Goss: And there should be part of that because you don't want it to look like a second grader wrote something, right? Like that's, and that's where people, they're coming at it from a place of good intention. Like we want this
Dr. Andy Roark: Oh, yea
Stephanie Goss: We want it to sound inspiring and we want it to, And it's so easy to get caught up in the language of that and trying to make it sound good.
I know as someone who has both written and asked someone to write a letter, I have gotten caught up in that as well as like, Oh, let me use a bigger word or let me
Dr. Andy Roark: Yeah, oh yeah. That's,
Stephanie Goss: the sound more flowery. It's because it's really easy to do.
Dr. Andy Roark: Well, and I'm not trying to dunk on people. I'm sorry if I come off as, as, mean here. Because I don't mean to be mean. it's all done the best of intention. But like, those, I see those flowery words, and I see them on the wall, and no one in the practice It, they're not motivating to anybody, but I'll tell you how to make a motivating really fast.
If you want to make a motivating and you've got them written on the wall, you need to gather the team around and you need to point at the words and you say, Hey guys, I want to think of times that you saw someone on our team living this value. Like I want you to think about a time that you saw someone demonstrating integrity.
I want you to think about a real time. That you saw someone, ideally in the last week, maybe in the last month, maybe in the last quarter, maybe in the last year if we have to go back that far. If we have to go back that far to find an
Stephanie Goss: It’s not one of your values.
Dr. Andy Roark: maybe, maybe other words that should go on the wall.
but you know what I mean? Like, but, say, integrity. Give me an example. Like, we have this on our wall. Tell me about a time. That you saw someone demonstrating integrity. And let the team tell you a story about one of their coworkers. And buddy, you will see the team start to come together. You will see them start to look at each other and go, you know what?
We do have integrity. And that's what it looks like. And you will see other people's behavior start to shift. Because they go, Oh, man. I'm surrounded by people who are doing this stuff. I could do this stuff. If they see real examples, if they hear real examples, especially, I mean, everybody loves to have their friends say, you know, I saw Andy do this thing.
And he didn't think anyone saw him, but this is what he did. And that demonstrates the highest standard of patient care. Boy, I feel like a million bucks and then also like, but that's, us convincing ourselves that these really are values that I tell this story and I talk about this because the same thing translates into the letter of recommendation talk is cheap and everybody writes these letters talking about fantastic leadership and initiative and work ethic and intelligence and knowledge and, you know, compassion and willingness to to go the extra mile.
Everyone says that. Speak in specifics. Talk is cheap. You don't have to write a ton, but tell me a story. Give me an example of the behaviors that you're talking about. And if you can't come up with any examples, I think you should think harder about the person. It doesn't have to, a lot of people are like, Oh, I need some amazing story.
You, it does not have to be an amazing story. It can be, I was working in the exam room, and this person was an assistant, or this person was a technician, and I remember we had this experience, and I remember the way that, that this person would advocate for the patient. And specifically, I remember one time that she did this and that was common for her and now I'm like, oh, I see what you mean.
I wrote a letter for a technician going to vet school that I'm so proud of, but it was someone that I knew fairly well. And she asked me to write the letter. I was kind of surprised. I was an associate veterinarian. It was, you know, it was not because I was well known at all. But she asked me for this and I really thought about it and I sat and I wrote about the way I had seen her teaching another technician just a couple of days earlier. And I just wrote that down. And I was like, you know, this is what I saw two days ago. And this is not abnormal, this is what she's like to work with. And I believe that being a veterinarian is about being an educator.
And that's why I believe this person would be an excellent veterinarian. One of the reasons. And it was a fairly short letter and she had applied like five times and this was a BAM and then this time, you know, she got in, but I just, I, to me, that's what a good letter of recommendation looks like.
And what that means though is it's not easy and, it's impossible to fake it, but that's why it works. If it was something where it was just like, use these big words and the person will get in. Well, that doesn't work. Pulling specific stories or examples is hard, but that's why it works. And so anyway, that's speak in specifics.
Remember that talk is cheap. I think that's my other really big part of putting together a good letter of recommendation.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. I think that's, I think that's good.
Dr. Andy Roark: If you do it, I mean, you know, try to be concise. Rambling on for three pages is, this is just one piece of an application. Length is not going to help. If anything, it's going to hurt. Like, you know, aim for a one pager. Which means you got to get in there and say what you're going to say and then get back out.
So, try to be concise, consider having somebody else read it, somebody that you trust to say, hey, what does this look like? Does this sound good to you? Because sometimes I'll write something that sounds to me like an obvious compliment and the other person will read it in a different way and says, oh, this person sounds like a micromanager.
I'm like, oh. She's definitely not.
Stephanie Goss: right.
Dr. Andy Roark: What made you say that? and they're just like, oh, well, it's just the way you, this turn of phrase that you used. Oh, I don't, I didn't think that. And I don't know if the person reading it would think that. But the fact that you thought that makes me think that there's a possibility someone else might think that.
And so I'm going to make that adjustment. And so just having somebody with fresh eyes read it is, always really valuable. The last thing I would say to sum all of this, or just bring this all back around, throw a little curveball here at the end is, I get the question sometimes, Andy, what if I don't want to write a letter of recommendation for this person?
Stephanie Goss: Okay.
Dr. Andy Roark: And I think that happens sometimes. And I try to coach people. Sometimes we say, I think this person is great. I just, I'm not a good person to write a letter of recommendation for them. My wife is a college professor and somebody who took introductory biology with her three years ago, and they were in a class of, you know, 80.
And it's like, Hey, can you write this letter of recommendation? And she's like, I'm not a good person to write this for you. And my take on that is, you know, as Phil Richmond says honesty without empathy is cruelty. It's like, I don't want to be cruel to this person. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying, I think you're great.
I don't know that I can speak in specifics. At a level that's going to help you. I'm afraid, like, I, my fear is I will write something that's pretty generic. I think there's probably other people that you should, ask. And that's a little bit of an awkward conversation, but writing a crappy rec letter for them, or, saying things that you don't believe in, like that's, probably not a good play.
And so hopefully that doesn't happen a whole lot, but often you can come back with questions and say, “What aspects would you be looking for me to write to? And then is there anybody else that could maybe give more specific examples than I could or has worked with you more regularly than I have in those areas?”
Stuff like that can help you gracefully bow out of these if you're not the right person for them.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. I think the other thing for me that this, and this goes to both sides, both to someone who's looking for a letter of recommendation and someone who's considering writing them is don't. Like I, I actually am a big believer in not ruling out not ruling out asking someone who has seen you go through challenge because I'll tell you one of my favorite letters of recommendation that I ever wrote, and I think it was one of the best letters that I ever wrote was actually for an employee that I had to fire.
And I had fired them already by the time I wrote the letter of recommendation. But I was happy to write the letter of recommendation because they were going through some challenges that made them at the time, not a great employee. Like it just wasn't the right fit for them. And I kept in touch with them and I watched them buckle down and find an environment that was better for them.
And I watched them flourish in the same role. And I watched them grow and develop and continue to face that challenge of, I mean, if you've been fired, like it's hard, it's embarrassing, you know, and then continue to go after the thing that they were passionate about and that they had, a dream about, you know, and I had I had an another candidate who was going through a lot of personal change and the, in their own life and really had a hard time at work.
They weren't getting along with their coworkers, but watching them. And I'm going to talk a little bit more about that in a second, but I'm going to talk have the challenges with work and having gone through coaching them and stuff to your point about getting specific. Talk about being able to provide examples like you're sometimes John can be hard to get along with, right?
It's like, here's, an opportunity for me to give an example of where you've been a real human being. And you've recognized that you are a real human being and you've worked on changing it. And not only. Did you work on changing it? And as the reader, I'm just hoping that you figured it out. If you're able to say, here was a challenge that someone faced, here's how they, here's how they tackled it.
And here was the result. As a reader of that letter, that tells me that this person actually knows you and experienced growth and change and development in you. And that letter is going to stand out hands down. Against any of the other letters that are just the flowery, you know, this person is wonderful.
This person is great. You know, that, that is all, true. So I think on both sides, like I always tell people, think about what has shaped you and what has grown and developed you. And when I, when somebody asked me for a letter, I want to know, like, why are you doing, like, what are you applying for?
What are you doing? Right. Like, why, do you want this? And then also. What are you excited about? Because being able to speak to what, specifically what someone is excited about, like, why do they want to get into this field? For me to be able to talk to that point and then be able to say, I know that they want to become a veterinarian because, you know, growing up on their parents equine farm, you know, farm.
influence them from the age of two. And I've also seen the dedication that they have given to small animal medicine, because despite living on an equine farm, they worked in my small animal practice from the time that they were in high school. All the way through college, they came back on their breaks.
Like, I have the ability to share why the thing that is their dream or why the thing, what they're excited about for the opportunity, to share how that bridges to the specific experiences that I'm talking about. That's the kind of stuff that makes writing the letter so much more powerful. And so I, for me, the lesson that I have learned, to your point about you know, sometimes you're not the best person.
Like what if you don't want to write it? Even if I am a good person to write it for them, like I want to put it back on them and often do, which is I would be happy to consider writing this letter. I'd love to sit down and ask you some questions because You should never, if someone says, Oh yeah, I'd be happy to write a letter of recommendation for you.
And that's the end of the conversation, that letter is probably not going to be a great letter. It just isn't. And like, I mean, you and I have been, I've been working together for seven years now, but if I was going to go to vet school, or I was going to, you know, apply to get an MBA or something like that.
And I needed a letter of recommendation. I might ask you to write one, you're someone who's known, who knows me probably better than anybody else professionally, but I would also consider like, are you the right person to write this letter? Because what am I trying to achieve? And I would want to sit down and say, Hey, can you speak specifically to these things?
Because this matters. This is why our relationship makes you the best person to write this letter for me. And there should be some thought there, I think on both sides.
Dr. Andy Roark: Absolutely. I think it's great. Cool, man. That's all I got. I hope that's helpful. I hope that helps this person
Stephanie Goss: So I think they, yeah,
Dr. Andy Roark: rockstar technician into vet
Stephanie Goss: I think the answer is gush, but gush with intention and, also have some balance, right? Like even our rock stars are human beings and both speak to the things that make them human and make them you know, make them the rock star, but also don't forget to like talk in a positive way about the challenges and how they overcome them.
Dr. Andy Roark: I don't know, it's funny, this has made me think about how I feel about, gushing, in that I've noticed this thing recently where there's, I think it's because there's so much noise in the world, but there's so much gushing of rock star, superstar, amazing, yeah, exactly, this play innovator. You know, all these sorts of big, you know, buzzy words.
It's all the words you see on LinkedIn. Just go to LinkedIn and scroll along and see what names people are calling each other. And like, that's the fluffy hand waving stuff. And I really think that we are coming into a time when less is more.
Stephanie Goss: Right.
Dr. Andy Roark: and speaking in specifics matters, because everybody wants to tell you about this 10x opportunity they have.
It's like, no, what the heck are we talking about? And then, can you speak less, speak in specifics, and communicate your point? And I really think that is the key today to cutting through the noise and actually getting heard. Anyway, that's it. That's all I got.
Stephanie Goss: All right. Well, have fun with the rest of the week, everybody. This was a short one, but we'll be back. We'll be back next week. Same time, same bat channel.
Dr. Andy Roark: Take care, everybody. See you.
Stephanie Goss: And that's a wrap on another episode of the Uncharted Podcast. Thanks for joining us and spending your week with us. If you enjoyed this week's episode, head over to wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a review. It's the best way to let us know that you love listening. We'll see you next time.