Nearly every job seeker has been faced with the conundrum of not having enough career references. This can happen for a number of reasons. A job seeker may not have many previous jobs, thus the number of references are limited. Or the job seeker may have limited references because former companies have either shut down or former bosses are no longer working there. Very often, references may seem good, but when the time comes to get a response from one — they are MIA. The worst case scenario is when a candidate leaves a job with no reference at all because of a negative experience. How can you get around the need for better or more references?
Here are some tips for getting better job references.
Contact a former co-worker (or two).
Chances are, you had a few good relationships in your previous position. Take the time to reconnect with a few of your co-workers who you believe had a positive experience with you. You can use social network if it seem less awkward. Reach out by phone and/or email to request a professional reference. Return the favor by writing a reference for them.
Ask your staffing agency for support.
When you have worked through a staffing agency in the past, this can be in your favor. Take the time to contact the recruitment agency that you worked with recently and ask them for a professional reference. This can include the type of position(s) that you held, the length of service, and your general performance. Make sure the staffing agency includes the contact person’s name and extension in case the potential employer has a question.
Inquire with a career mentor.
It is a smart practice to line up a professional mentor early in your career. This is someone that is at a higher level than you and whom is well connected. Reach out to your mentor and ask for a reference. If you do not have a career mentor, consider another type of mentor such as a religious leader, college professor, or another professional in your industry. Get this reference in written form.
Use your professional memberships.
Most professionals belong to at least one industry association or business networking group. This is the time to tap into the power of association. Ask several of your colleagues at the professional group to write you a letter of reference. To make things smoother, offer to write the letter of yourself and have them sign off on it. This can be a great way to boost your career and to obtain a better reference.