Opportunities to be of service are everywhere

Yesterday I wrote a letter of recommendation for a student applying to graduate school. I don’t think anyone loves writing these, but a well-written letter means the world to a student. And really, isn’t that what we’re here for?

It takes me about an hour to write a quality letter. The rest of the time is spent trying to navigate the online systems that graduate schools use to submit them. In this case, there were five schools in all.

Three schools did it the exact same way. They required I create an account, which took several minutes each time. Then they asked me to rate the applicant on a bunch of subjective measures: interpersonal skills, oral communication, etc. I always rate the applicant highly — doesn’t everyone? Finally, I uploaded my recommendations in a Word document, but one school wouldn’t accept the basic Word format. I had to convert it to a PDF on my own first.

The fourth school didn’t make me register an account. I just entered some basic information, and copy and pasted the recommendation into the browser. No ratings necessary.

The fifth school only asked that I copy and paste the recommendation into the browser. Done.

Only two schools out of five showed any concern for user experience of submitting a recommendation letter. Only one chose to focus on it relentlessly.

Small opportunities to be of service like this are everywhere. Small adds up to big.

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