If you’re coming into the job search unexpectedly, or after a few years, you probably haven’t even thought about your references or who you would use. Before you start applying, make sure you’re connected with any potential references on LinkedIn and shoot them a quick message. If you have their phone number try giving them a call to catch up on all things professional. If you haven’t spoken to a reference in a few positions you’ll want to give them some details on what you’ve been doing as well as what you’re looking for. You never know, not only could they be an excellent reference for you, but they could also end up connecting you with a job opportunity.
Reconnecting with references can seem a little intimidating, especially if it has been a while since you’ve worked with them or talked to them. But starting with a noncommital message or phone call asking to catch up can ease the tension if you don’t want to ask right up front. If you’re comfortable asking them up front, let them know you are looking for a new position and are pulling together a list of references, remind them when and in what capacity you worked for them or with them, and let them know that if they are not comfortable being a reference for you, it is okay.
Here is a sample message that I used while I was conducting my job search post-grad:
“Good Morning, Adam! Hope all is well at home with the new baby, congratulations by the way! I’m currently looking for a new job and trying to pull together some references and was wondering if I would be able to list you from the time I spent as your intern at Constant Advisor. I do understand it was a little while ago, so if you do not feel comfortable doing so I completely understand! Just let me know!”
The relationship that I had with Adam was very casual, and I knew him personally before I knew him professionally, so mentioning his newborn daughter was not out of the norm. Be wary of how professional or casual you are in your message, base it off your past relationship with this person. I then mentioned my time working with him. At the time of the message it had been almost 2 years since I had worked as an intern for Adam, and I wanted to let him know that I understood the length of time and that he may not be comfortable with being a reference of mine.
No one should ever feel obligated to be your reference. Try your best to help them understand that this is truly you asking their permission, not you asserting that they will be your reference. The best type of reference is one that is excited to talk to your potential employers. They are going to be someone that will be in your corner and help
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