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How to Get the Best Recommendations from Your Former Employer
Gone are the days when we’d stick with one career for life, starting it after we left school and staying until we retired. Now, the average Millennial will only stay at a job for about four-and-a-half years, meaning they could feasibly have a dozen and change careers over the course of their lifetime. Because of this, they’ll need a boost each time they look for the next job, a sprinkling of encouraging words that’ll help their prospective new employer make the right decision. And assuming your current job doesn’t have a no-reference policy in place, read on to find out what you need to do to get the best recommendations from your former employer.

Show up on Time for Every Shift

One of the quickest ways to get yourself in the doghouse — permanently — is to treat your shift start times as though they’ve been written in with a pencil.

They’re not.

Your shift has been designed because management needs you there for a specific amount of time, and not just because you arrive when you feel like it. Constantly coming in late to work gives a loud and clear message you don’t care enough about the job to be there when you need to be; showing up on time carries the opposite message. And if you’re consistently on time or early, your former employer will gladly pass that information along.

Target Specific People for References

Your manager may officially be Susan, but if you spend a lot more time with Bob, then that’s who you should be asking for your reference. Although Susan may be in a greater position of authority, if she hasn’t regularly worked with you, she’s not a very good judge of your work ethic and abilities.

You want to find a reference who can speak honestly and glowingly about your time at the company, so use a bit of thought when it comes to asking a person to be your reference. They should be someone in a higher position than you, in your department, and an employee who can really speak about your performance. While “manager” isn’t as flashy a job title as “senior vice president”, it’s a reference that can get you the job, not what’s on someone’s desk.

Be Polite When Asking and Don’t Push the Topic

Before handing your prospective employer a list of names and phone numbers, always make sure you’ve actually asked every person on that list for permission. There’s nothing worse than finding out from a boss they got a surprise phone call. At best, it’s a shock but at worst, it’s disrespectful. After all the time and effort you put in at your last job, and after your former employer giving you the fortune of a job, you owe it to them to ask permission first.

Asking also ensures your former employer will be around for when the new one calls, because you definitely don’t want your new job giving you the bad news you didn’t get the job on account of them not being able to verify your character. Plus, it gives your former employer time to organize their thoughts so they can speak highly of you when the time comes.

Use a Good Reference as a Negotiating Tool

Not every former job will be the result of you leaving willingly, whether it’s because of layoffs, termination or other reasons. If that’s the case, then try using a good reference as a bargaining chip.

For example, if there have been widespread layoffs at your company or it’s clear they’re downsizing and looking for employees willing to go, negotiate a good reference as part of your exit package. Finding a job is tough in any situation, but having a glowing reference in your back pocket can make the difference between an uncomfortable wait between jobs and having to receive public assistance.


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