I now realize that part of the problem was inexperience. Only by writing recommendation letters do you get good at writing recommendation letters. Some grad students and new faculty find writing recommendation letters challenging because they must first work through their own baggage.
Baggage? Yes. Throughout years of undergraduate and graduate study and perhaps a postdoc, students are, obviously, in the role of student. Students look to faculty and others with experience to guide them. Rightfully so, but the constant looking to authority can prevent students and new professionals from finding their own voices. They question themselves. They second guess themselves. They might develop a case of the impostor syndrome and wonder if they are really prepared to be a professional or whether they are fooling everyone.
It's not uncommon to think the following self-defeating thoughts:
- Who am I to judge whether this student should to graduate school?
- What do I know?
- I'm just beginning, no one will care what I have to say.
- Do I know how to write a letter of recommendation?
- Am I good enough to make this decision?
- Will they know I'm good enough?
- Will they trust my judgment?
- They're going to laugh at my letter and wonder how I got this teaching position.