Back in the old days when people rarely switched jobs, references were not particularly a priority for career management. Before you left a company, you might have asked a coworker, mentor or even your boss to write a reference—or else, this might have been left for the potential new company to do, with contact information you provided.
Well, it’s not the old days any more. A reference strategy must be part of your career management planning. And this month, you can turn to PM Network® for advice on how to make references work for you.
First thing you need to know is that you don’t need to have a new opportunity in mind to ask for a reference. If you have references in your pocket ahead of time, so to speak, that makes it easier when that new opportunity comes along.
When should you ask for a reference? Right after closing a successful project is an ideal time, the article says. This way, your teammates’ memory of working with you is fresh. And as you manage the project, keep in mind that providing extraordinary service to stakeholders will pay off in great recommendations later.
Whom should you ask? Experts say diversity is paramount. Get colleagues, sponsors, bosses and peers to “write you up.” If you already know what opportunity you are seeking, try to match the desired recommendations with the needs of the new job, such as skills in a particular tool or strategy expertise.
How do you ask? In person is always best, but if that can’t happen, a phone call allows for full explanation of what is needed. Once the potential reference agrees to help, urge him or her to provide specific project details, positive anecdotes and relevant metrics.
Where do you put recommendations? Written ones are always great, but public references on LinkedIn will help you show up on recruiters’ searches.
The article also covers what to do if your reference wants to help but does not have the time. Either you or the reference might suggest writing your own recommendation to be endorsed upon completion. As long as you maintain objectivity, this should work. Another possible way around the time conundrum is to provide your reference bullet points to expand upon.
Finally, one sure way to meet the need of having a recommendation written for you in the future is to write recommendations for others. Offering it before being asked and extending your reference role beyond the usual places (such as people you interact with in volunteer work) are sure ways to strengthen relationships. And good relationships mean good recommendations in the future.
We’re here to support your career journey, so be sure to read PM Network every month for practical and helpful information.