Author: Frederick Ezekiel Pasco
If there is one thing that job seekers consistently tend to overlook, it's the professional reference. Be wary, references can make or break your candidacy. While references are not always needed, having someone vouch for you both personally and professionally can go a long way during your application process. You should consider who to ask for references before starting your job hunting process, and ensure that your references have positive things to say about you. Looking for references is a great way to boost your candidacy and at the same time evaluate your relationships with people.
Your former or soon to be former co-workers are your best bet to give your prospective employers a positive impression of who you are professionally and your work ethic. They can speak to your efficiency, dedication, and teamwork skills, all of which are extremely important when it comes to impressing a prospective employer.
Always make sure to speak with your coworkers first, before using them as a reference. If you, for whatever reason, do not feel comfortable with current coworkers being aware that you are seeking other work, you may have to look elsewhere for your references.
Be aware that telling a current boss that you are looking for other work may not be an option for many people, and that some bosses may react negatively to the news. If, however, you feel you have a positive relationship with your boss or you have maintained one with a former manager, they may be an even better resource than your coworkers. This person can provide insight into all of the skills that you’ve displayed and developed while working at their company. Depending on your relationship, a former manager likely has a well-rounded and non-biased perspective of you professionally. If you’ve worked hard under them, you should be able to expect an excellent reference from this person.
If you’re just beginning your career and have no professional references yet, former college professors or mentors who taught you the skills of your trade can prove to be excellent substitutes. While they won’t be able to speak about your professional experience, they can provide quality insight into your natural ability, work ethic, and desire to learn. For many employers, how quickly you can pick up new skills and knowledge is just as important as the skills and knowledge you already possess, if not more so.
Volunteering will impress many hiring managers when they see it on your resume. It indicates to them that you are driven, dedicated, and passionate. A willingness to engage in a cause or ideal without expecting monetary compensation is a powerful example of your values as an employee. Companies like experience and competence, but they also appreciate a hard worker, and few people work harder than a passionate employee.
References are a vital part of the job application process, and help reassure your prospective employer they're hiring the right employee for the job. While in any job, always work to build and nurture long term relationships. You don’t have to grab a beer with your coworkers every Friday night but having good working relationships with them makes for an ideal and productive place of work, and ensures you will always have great references available.