Many people wait until they need a job (or a job opportunity is brought to their attention) before they get their resumes and other career documents in order. And references are usually the last thing people think to prepare in advance. But if you wait until you absolutely need your references, then you may already be too late.
In reality, you never know when you’ll need a job, or when a job opportunity will present itself. And you never know how long or short the hiring process will be. If a hiring director, recruiter, or employer calls you today and asks for three to five references, would you be prepared to provide them? Or would you spend the next week running around, trying to decide who to ask, trying to track those people down after they’ve relocated or changed jobs, updating them on your employment history and career goals, and asking them to agree to serve as references?
One of the most simple and most important tactics you can implement in your job search and career development is to be ready. Invest the time now to decide who you want to use as a reference and to track that person down. Set up a call or a brief lunch meeting. Update her on all the great work you’ve done since you last spoke. Talk to her about your job search and your career goals. Ask her if she would be willing to serve as a reference. Talk to her about any hesitations she might have. Ask her advice about strengthening your technical skills or building leadership. Give her a copy of your updated resume.
Once you have at least three references, put together a reference page. List their contact information, along with an explanation of how they know you and which of your great qualities they can speak about. Check in with them from time to time, making sure they’re contact information is current and keeping them updated with your job search.
Now, you’ll be ready to instantly respond when you’re asked for your references! By talking to those references at the start of your job search, you know exactly what they’ll say about you to prospective employers. And, best yet, you’re enlisting their help and even turning them into mentors who will be on the lookout for any opportunities they might be able to steer your way!
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