You know you’re a hard worker, and you’re ready to enter the workforce. But what do you do if you don’t have much or any work experience? Employers can’t just take your word for it, so they’ll likely ask for references. Without that work experience, what can you do?
Many young adults may have questions about job references. Here, we’re offering 3 ideas for people who can provide references for you.
Teachers: Your teachers can provide a reference — just ask. This can be someone from high school, vocational school, apprenticeship or college. They can speak to your work ethic for completing assignments that will provide insight regarding your reliability and commitment and demonstrate how you are likely to perform on the job!
Coaches or club leaders: Did you play a sport or belong to a club in school (or outside of school)? The attitude, character and leadership you brought to the playing field or to club activities can give potential employers a look at how you’ll perform at work. This can include religious activities, like youth group, school clubs, school or local sports teams and so much more. Ask the team leader if they would be willing to give you a reference.
Volunteer coordinators: Whether you’re a recent graduate or have been out of school for a while, you may have had some volunteer experience.
Volunteering is an excellent way to build your network and make contacts with people who can help you on the path to employment. Ask your volunteer coordinator to serve as a reference. If you haven’t volunteered recently, find an opportunity and start building those relationships!
What are employers looking for in a reference?
When an employer contacts your references, they are seeking information to help them decide if you’re a good fit with their organization. They’ll be interested in learning about your work habits. For example, are you a team player, self-starter, or problem-solver? They will also ask questions about:
Your previous duties and responsibilities Your accomplishments Your dates of employment.
How to Ask Someone to be a Reference
Once you’ve narrowed your list of possible references, there’s still work to be done. You not only have to ask the person if they’ll agree to be a reference, you also need to prepare them to be an effective voice for you. Take the time to follow these tips:
Get their permission. It can leave a bad impression with a potential employer if someone you’ve listed as a reference is caught off guard when they are contacted. If you haven’t been in contact with the person recently, consider a written request by letter or email. Otherwise, an in-person or telephone request is best. Include details. If the person isn’t familiar with your current job search, let them know what sort of work you’re looking for. This will help the person think about skills and experience you have that relate directly to that type of job when they are contacted by the employer. Provide your latest resume. This gives your reference a fuller appreciation of your capabilities and also lets them know what the employer has seen. Follow up and stay in touch. If you learn that the employer called your reference, you’ll want to know how the conversation went. This will give you a sense of what the employer values in employees and possibly more information on the skills and experiences for the position.
Periodically, let your references know how your job search is going. Say thanks. Once you receive a job offer, remember that the people you’ve asked to be references helped. Let them know that you’ve gotten a job. If they agreed to serve as a reference, they’ll be excited for you!
A written thank-you note, or a personal phone call will show your appreciation for the person’s time and help.