Could you give me an employment reference, please?

It’s an awkward question, isn’t it. References are nice pick-me-ups and confirm that you’re doing a good job. And of course, we need references when we’re looking for new jobs. But tell me, what happens in your gut when the topic of references comes up. I suspect it’s butterflies and anxiety and possibly a desire to visit a heavily tiled room.  So here is how references work.

Mitzi the West Highland Terrier Dog

1) If you ask someone in person to talk to a potential employer and give you a reference, it’s easy for them to say yes. Easy, peasy. But here’s the awkward part. You’re assuming they’ll give you a good reference when in fact they may only give an honest reference. If honest means that they think you’re a dedicated, conscientious, and highly desirable employee, you’ll be delighted when you get offered the job. However, if being honest means they think you’re a time waster, unmotivated, and  insufficiently skilled in your area of expertise, your potential employer might only hear, “Yes, John Smith was a colleague for six months.” Then you’ll wonder why you never got the job. You’re taking your chances.

2) There’s another way to ask for references though and that is by using Linkedin. Some people might pretend as though they never saw the request even though they read it and pondered over it. Surprisingly, just because you asked someone for a reference doesn’t mean they have to give you one. There are three things to think about when you ask for a Linkedin reference. First, consider if the person has worked with you for a long enough time to actually get a feel for you as an employee. Second, consider whether there are specific situations where you worked together as opposed to just chatting in the hallway and answering a question now and then. Third, are you really a great employee, in the top five or ten percent of employees? If you meet all of these conditions, then certainly ask someone for a Linkedin reference.

3) Now, if you’re going to be asking people to give you references, consider whether you have ever done the same for other people. Which of your past and present colleagues have you truly admired, which of them should have employers lined up to hire them, which of them do you still wish you worked with because they made your life that much easier. Simply, don’t ask for something that you have never given yourself.

4) Finally, if you know someone who is looking for a job and you think they’re a fabulous employee, why not tell them straight out that you’d be delighted to give them a reference. You don’t need to wait for them to ask.

With that in mind, do any of your past or present colleagues deserve the best LinkedIn reference you’ve ever written? Why not go make someone’s day right now.

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