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References and Letters of Recommendation

References and Letters of Recommendation

Two different things, but equally critical to the job search. As you advance through your career, be aware of those people you work with, for, alongside or above, who should become a part of your active network. It’s a mutual partnership of speaking and writing on the other’s behalf. Let’s break it down into what we mean.

It’s always to your advantage for future employers to get a 360 view of you as a professional. If they can hear in some way, shape or form from someone you directly reported to, someone who reported to you, someone who sat beside you, or a customer who did business with you, they will have good indicators all around of how you work and are generally perceived. Make note of who in your professional sphere might fit this bill, and then determine what exactly you would like for them to do.


Most employers will request at least three references once they have interviewed you and determined they would like to proceed.  You should have this list at the ready, complete with names, contact information, and even a brief description of how you know them. These are your references and they need to know they are on this list. Ask them before you add their name, and keep them updated as your search progresses.  They will likely need to speak to specific strengths and weaknesses, how they know you and the type of work you did. Select people who will be responsive and speak well, not to mention well of you.

Letter of Recommendation

Select one or two people who would serve as great sources of recommendation. Typically when we leave an employer we ask for a letter of recommendation, or we might ask one of a great boss before they move on. These letters are more general, as they are written to whom it may concern. You may, however, direct your writer to address a specific strength or set of characteristics you feel would serve you best. Ask them to write about your work ethic and discipline, or how you managed the customers or grew the team.  Most people asked to write these letters are delighted to have some direction, and may even ask you to draft it first. Select people who will be responsive and write well, not to mention well of you.

Whether your Career 2.0, or 3 or 4, do yourself a favor by maintaining good and lasting relationships. Keep them fresh so they will be ready when it’s time for a new start.