Your inferior counterpart at the New York Times recently told a reader that it was perfectly ok for her to write his or her own letter of recommendation for law school and then have a former professor sign it. I'm thinking of doing this myself, but still, I'm not sure what I think of her advice. Does it sound fishy to you?
By the way, I'm disappointed Ariel Kaminer was chosen for that job; it should have been you.
Need a Second Opinion
Dear Second Opinion,
Whoa! Not so fast there. I have no beef with Ariel Kaminer; we're both professionals, both trying to make the world a better place. Unlike other ethicists you might know, I do not get my kicks running down my colleagues in the profession (or stealing their ideas, or exploiting their labor, for example).
And besides, she is right. If you think about it, this is all about building your brand with your target audience. And who is better positioned to do this than you? Face it, your supervisor is dead weight; most academics wouldn't know a good sales pitch if it bit them on the ass. Write that recommendation yourself, and you'll know you've struck the right tone. And remember: it's not lying if you really believe it. If you can honestly say you are on your way to a Nobel Prize, feel free to point that out.
Job recommendations are just one of several kinds of notes you're better off writing yourself, and letting someone else sign. Some other examples I'd recommend include:
- Award nominations
- Promotion letters
- Book reviews
- Medical prescriptions
Uncomfortable? Sure. But unethical? No way. Now go get 'em. You're welcome.
Send your questions to the Ethicator: firstname.lastname@example.org