Talk to the professor in person
If possible, go see the prof rather than send an email. Professors are bombarded with dozens of emails on a daily basis from current students and colleagues, and they may not get to yours right away, or at all.
Furthermore, they are more likely to recognize you by your face and not your name. It also shows you are serious about wanting the reference because you made the effort to come see them.
Go in with a purpose
The more information you give your professor about the opportunity you are seeking, the better and more detailed the letter will be. For job applications, provide the professor with the job description and a copy of your resumé.
Show your work
If you can, find and bring either an original marked-up and graded copy of an assignment you completed for the professor, or print a file that has been stored on your hard drive or USB key.
Professors meet hundreds of new students every year and may need a reminder of how amazing you were as a student.
Tell them why
If applying for a job, tell the professor why you are excited about the opportunity, which may help him or her to want to be part of the process.
If you don’t ask, you won’t know
Try not to be shy about asking, and remember that profs are there to help you. It is an unwritten rule that they write letters of reference for students. There is definitely no harm in asking. The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.
Say thank you and keep the prof updated on your progress. No matter what happens, whether you’re admitted or rejected, hired or not, call, email or write your professor to say thank you.
And, if they show any interest in continuing to know how you’re doing personally or professionally, take the opportunity to do so once in a while.
TalentEgg.ca is Canada’s online career resource for students and recent grads.