When filling your reference list feels like the 60m hurdles, something might be wrong.
There are few things that can hold up a reference list as fast as a confidential job search. When you don’t want your current boss to know you are looking for a job, who do you list?
Put only former managers and colleagues on your list. If you trust a current colleague, client, or vendor to keep your job search a secret, they can be valuable assets, as well. Be sure to think through what you’re asking them to do before you actually pose the question.
Ask each person you contact to keep your job search confidential.
Employers are not bound to the reference list you give them. They can – and do – call anyone they think knows something about you. However, prospective employers generally do not contact current employers, understanding the problem that would create for you – and for them when you found out.
Don’t let fear of your employer’s discovering your job search keep you from moving forward. Do the best you can to maintain your own confidentiality.
Career change references
Almost everything about a job change is more difficult when you are also changing careers. References are no exception.
Most of the colleagues you have used as references know about you in your old context. You will need to coach each one carefully, mainly by explaining how the skills and experience you wish them to talk about apply to your new career.
For example, a print journalist who is applying for a public relations position will need to coach her references about how her skills apply to the public relations job. Rather than discussing her ability to hunt down and write a great news story, the reference can speak more about her knowledge of online and mobile media, ability to work with media contacts, photography skills, storytelling ability, editing chops, and empathy with her subjects.
A reference sheet is a necessary part of your career documentation. If a less than favorable leavetaking is in your past, or if you’re navigating a career change, and the references aren’t falling into graceful place, contact me for some help.
Photo credit: By Grzegorz Jereczek from Gdańsk, Poland (60m Hurdles Uploaded by russavia) CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons