A long time ago I was looking for a job. I was making a career change and didn’t know who to use for references. I thought I had put down not to call my current boss. Two days later I was in the office and I answered the phone they were calling to check references. I panicked and said I was my boss. I regretted doing that and never took a job with them. It made me realize how important it is to find good references.
Finding the right type
As I moved into the technology career I am currently in I used some references from my previous sales career. As you can imagine these were not the best references. As my technology career grew I made changes to my references and I really saw my career benefit from it.
Who to ask
Before you think about who to ask, you need to think of what story you want to share. Make sure the people you are going ask have a professional relationship with you and will share good experiences. A person I used to work with was a little careless and did not think about how one person whom he did not have the best relationship with was a reference. She had a problem finding a job after she aced the interview but once they checked references.
Think about people you have worked with and could speak to your professional experience. For instance, if you are a great Database Administrator if you have the President of the company who doesn’t have direct experience with you this might be a weak reference. Find some teammates that you worked with day in and day and they might be able to share how competent you are and the problems you solved.
In our activities, we are involved in outside of work you should have someone that can speak to your character and integrity. A former co-worker I know is a soccer referee and has many good connections there. He could call on many people that could speak to how dependable he is and how he can be called on to help out. They won’t vouch for his professional experience but, can share other good qualities.
It is important to approach your potential references in the proper way. Remember you are asking them a favor to speak on your behalf. Don’t feel bad if they resist or turn you down. If they do they might be sending you a signal they don’t have a lot of positive things to say. People who are quite busy don’t want to be bothered with another commitment unless they know you well. A few people I have met have a policy about not being references as they have had too many requests. Make sure you have given a lot of thought to who you are asking and what you want from them.
Stay in Touch
Keep in touch with these people. A former co-worker of mine would only call or email when he wanted me to be his reference. Don’t be that person, stay in touch. Reach out periodically and share how things are going. Catching up over coffee or lunch is a great way to stay in touch and keep those bounds strong.