Testimonials and letters of recommendation from patients, employers, and co-workers don’t always just fall in your lap. Often you have to go get them. Here’s some tips on doing that.
First of all, if they do fall into your lap, grab them and don’t let go. They are absolute gold and you need to document and preserve them throughout your career. It’s not an ego thing – they are a tool to help you in three ways.
First, they help build your confidence and on a crappy day or period where you feel less than who you really are they can boost you up – that’s especially helpful the day of a job interview (you need confidence that day). Second, they validate the great things you say about yourself in your resume and cover letter – it’s one thing for you to talk about how great you are, quite another for someone else to say it about you (very influential with employers). And, third, if you need to negotiate a raise I would include them as part of a letter formally requesting it.
Now, let’s talk about how to get them.
Impromptu Verbal Testimonials
As a general practice, I would never publish a testimonial or review of your work without the permission of the person giving it. If a patient just raves about their experience with you verbally, of course thank them, but ask if you can use what they said as a review or testimonial of your work and then as you type it up show it to them and just give a first name attribution and their title (i.e., patient, co-worker, employer).
Same holds true for an employer or co-worker. They deserve to know what they are saying is going to be in writing. I haven’t met a person yet who was raving about my work in feedback to me that was unwilling to have me publish it. When people feel well served they want to serve back and are happy to agree. Nevertheless, always get permission.
Lots of offices have reviews of their work on Yelp, Google Reviews, and many other places. Sometimes you will see a patient post something that specifically mentions you. To me, this is fair game for capturing and using these quotes without the need for permission. When someone publishes something on the Internet for the entire world to read they know it becomes public domain.
I would probably still only use their first name, but I would also include where the quote came from in parenthesis so the reader could theoretically look it up for themselves.
Asking for Them
Of course if they don’t fall into your lap as the previous two, you can ask for them. And ask you should whether it’s a co-worker praising you for the way you handled a challenging patient, or a boss that compliments you on your work ethic, or a patient who confides they only ever ask for you to be their hygienist. That’s the best time to ask.
But it’s not the only time. You may simply have a good, unspoken relationship with someone and just have a really good sense they like you or your work. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a quick review. Just tell them it would mean a lot to you to receive a couple sentences of feedback on your work to share with people in the future.
Be Strategic On Who You Ask
Review your network and only ask the people you know are your absolute advocates, possess excellent reputations, and can specifically speak from first-hand experience in working with you.
I believe a good mix of employers, co-workers, and patients is really powerful on a testimonial sheet because each has worked with you from different angles. So, when you offer up 360 degrees of your work, future potential employers will have a better sense of the entire package of your brand.
Identify Key Areas
Personally I prefer it when someone gives me feedback about my work that is raw and un-filtered (poor grammar and all) because I believe it comes across more authentic and genuine – which is important for testimonials.
Some people are stumped for what to say and they may express that to you, so think about what you need from a testimonial before you ask for one. Do you want a boss to talk about how punctual you are, or a co-worker to address your skill with putting anxious children at ease, or a patient to rave about how you take time to understand their needs?
Whatever it is you feel your collection of testimonials is lacking, it’s not a bad idea to coach those who don’t know what to write or say to help you create a more well-rounded offering of reviews. This will give employers more depth and insight about you.
Write it for them
I know I just told you it’s better that they write it. And it is. However, some will ask you to write it for them and if that’s the only way to get it then take them up on it. But try and put yourself in their shoes, and grade yourself from their perspective and always ask them to review and sign it.
This is a career-long activity to collect as many testimonials and reviews as you can. If you go a whole year and only get two or three that’s fine because it’s the long-game strategy we are talking about it. You don’t change jobs every year (hopefully) so even just a few per year will add up over time.
Third-party validation of how great you are is important to your psyche, your job search, and your negotiation power. Don’t neglect it – it’s an important part of your career that will help you advance.
I do sell testimonial sheet templates ($4.99) for those that are interested and want something simple that is coordinate to the look of your resume to jump start the process. It’s just a template, you will still have to collect and add them, but it will get you going in the right direction and on the path to landing a great dental hygiene job.