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Difficulty Thinking of References

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 2 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Reference References Job Employer

Quick - think of the names of three friends. Easy, right?

It's ironic, then, that when many people are asked to think of three job references, their minds go blank and the only thing they can do is stammer or stare.

Fortunately, they usually recover and can put together a listing of a few individuals; however, there are times when it seems like getting a camel to tango would be an easier task than coming up with references.

Below, we've tackled some of the more common problems that many job seekers have faced when dealing with references and how to resourcefully solve those issues.

Problem 1: You've only worked at one place and you don't want them to know you're looking for another job.

Solution: Obviously, you cannot jeopardise your current employment; even if you want to "escape" from your situation, losing a paycheque is probably not what you had in mind.

Instead, consider references who are not co-workers, such as former employees of your present company. Is there anyone who resigned or retired recently and who would be willing to say a few kind words about you to a prospective employer? Often, we forget about those who used to sit at the desk beside us; now is a good time to remember their names!

If you still come up empty-handed, there's another way around this dilemma. Unless you just go to work in the morning, come home at night, and never do anything else, you have probably volunteered for at least one organisation (or even at your children's school) from time to time. Ask a representative of that enterprise to vouch for your steadfastness, professionalism, and/or acumen; 99.9% of the time, they'll happily sing your praises in return for your valuable services.

Problem 2: You're applying for your first job, so you have no previous colleagues or supervisors to list as references.

Solution: Congratulations! You're trying for a job right out of secondary school or college! Though you're probably a little worried right now, there's no need to let your situation overwhelm you.

If you recently were in an educational institution, why not ask one of your favorite teachers or professors to be a reference for you? If you played a sport or were part of a club, a coach or advisor would most likely be flattered to be asked to give his or her opinion of your moxie or intellect. Finally, if you held a part-time job, even if it was at a fast food establishment or retailer, ask your former boss if he or she would be willing to be a reference. Again, if you performed well and were a good pupil, acquaintance, athlete, or worker, the person is almost guaranteed to say yes.

Problem 3: You are an entrepreneur, so you never worked with anyone else during your career. Thus, you have no co-workers to use as references.

Solution: For entrepreneurs who have decided to become employees, the move can seem a bit overpowering. Add to that the stressors of having to list references when you've been on your own for a while, and the brain can suddenly freeze in terror.

However, there's no need to panic. If you were in business for yourself, it's likely that you had clients, customers, or other contacts during your self-employment. Therefore, you might as well ask them for their assistance, especially since you'll be letting them know about your new career intentions, anyway.

Problem 4: You were asked to leave from your last place of employment, and it wasn't due to downsizing or a merger.

Solution: You were sacked. Ouch. But it happens sometimes. The biggest concern is that you cannot use your most recent employer as a reference. However, there are always other people whom you can put on your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV).

For instance, let's say that you are asked to leave your place of employment. If you have free time on your hands, why not volunteer with some local nonprofits? Not only will it give you something to do (rather than sulk around your house or flat), it will also introduce you to a whole world of persons who might be willing to be references for you. Again, you'll have to knock their socks off, but if you can put some effort into being the best volunteer possible, they'll most likely return the favour with a complimentary reference.

Problem 5: You've been out of the workforce for a while and are not sure where your former bosses are even working.

Solution: This problem is often faced by parents who have stayed at home to raise their children. However, all is not lost.

First of all, if you were once a career man or woman, it would behoove you to find at least one or two of your former colleagues. Call your old employer; Google the names of your past supervisors; and do some legwork. Though it might take a bit of research, chances are good that you'll find someone who can talk about what a terrific employee you were.

Secondly, there's nothing wrong with adding one or two new references to your list… and they do not have to be people with whom you've "officially" worked. Many parents are involved in a plethora of activities (typically kid-related) and come in contact with a multitude of persons. Pick a couple who know best what a well-rounded, level-headed individual you are and add them to your references.

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