Like you probably, I receive frequent requests from former colleagues (often very short-termed colleagues) who seek an endorsement for their employment opportunities.
I am not always sure how to respond.
I know the standard way of thinking about recommendations: say what you know about the work performance in relation to the job for which the applicant is applying
Only with the various new ways of seeking generic endorsements from kith, kin and acquaintances (often I fit this latter category), I consider how to write what doesn't feel so much like an endorsement as it does a word of encouragement. These words are often recruited for public forums that are the professional social media version of Facebook, often Linkedin.com Instead of writing, "Excellent work habits. Reliable. Professional. Customer-oriented. Logical. Innovative thinker" I have to say more truthfully, "Nice guy who showed up when he was supposed to. Didn't make much fuss about anything. Flew under the radar unless it was necessary to take a stand and he took one at what I considered the right time."
Truthfully I think these short declarations of what are my lasting impressions of people with whom I worked briefly tell the truth in ways that longer, more formal letters of recommendation do not. And in a way that is different from the well-behaved letters of recommendation that are only positive for who would write a bad one (why waste your time and the reader's?), they tell a fresh kind of energized truth about the person who is seeking endorsements that show up in your e-box with words like "Can you help me out?"
Sure. If I can.
Do these short blasts of encouragement built on fragments of memory and good will help others?
I don't know. No one who has ever asked me for this type of professional endorsement has ever sent a follow-up and said, "That did the trick."
In looking for a job, it's hard to know what the tipping point will be in the landing of a job.
One can deduce that every action of effort to get a job--and every act of good will that helps anyone along the way--has some part to play in the development of another person's professional life.
So, when someone asks me for some help that is partly an endorsement and maybe more encouragement, I try to write something good and true.
If I can't, I write nothing at all.
Daphne Simpkins' most recent book is Christmas in Fountain City