I have periodically seen people posting on Facebook about giving a gift to someone for writing a letter of recommendation. Mostly they are looking for suggestions about what to buy the letter writer. I do believe you should send a thank you note, but I feel more conflicted about giving gifts. So here is my advice on gift giving to mentors.
A gift is absolutely not necessary or expected by any mentor for any task they undertake on your behalf, from teaching you to giving you advice to writing a letter of recommendation. Most mentors enjoy being mentors and helping out students and mentees and that is all the reward they are looking for. Particularly for a simple task like writing a letter of recommendation, a gift may be perceived as “too much”. I personally would feel a little embarrassed if I received a gift for something simple like writing a letter of recommendation. But I think I may feel a little embarrassed getting any gift from a mentee. *I*’m the one who has a career and a decent salary.
If you decide you want to give a gift, follow Miss Manner’s rules. If you know the mentor well enough to get them something they would truly enjoy, then you may get them a gift. If you do not know them personally well enough, give them a card (not a gift card). Gifts should be personalized. For example, a Masters student of mine gave me a replica Glamdring at the end of her program and that was legitimately cool. It’s on our wall along with a massive map of Middle Earth and an autograph from Sir Ian McKellan.
If you are struggling thinking about what to get someone, Miss Manners and I suggest you not get them anything but instead give a card with a nice personal note. But, again, no gift is necessary from mentee to mentor.