VALENTINE Cunningham (THES, January 30) may not be able to get his students to pay him for their references but he could get them to help with the work involved. He does not know, he says, "what it takes to be an effective solicitor", but if they are serious about it they should. Hundreds of directories and brochures in their careers service lay it out in bite-sized lists that they can pass on to him.
I am constantly asked "what about referees?" by job-hunting students. My advice is: give your referee your application material and the job description with salient points highlighted. Professor Cunningham should demand the same from his students. Dons who made his (familiar) lament to me have, by their own account, had the chore of reference writing transformed by this simple expedient.
Professor Cunningham would like some feedback on his efforts. University careers services have the chore of finding out what each student goes on to do after the end of the course, and for new graduates his own institution (56 Banbury Road) could probably give him some of the results of his labours.
Ruth Smith, Careers adviser. Cambridge University Careers Service
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