Some of your most important allies in your job search are your professional references. I mean the references that might be listed on your resume or application, as former colleagues who can speak to the experience of working with you.
These are your former bosses, close coworkers, and mentors who you hope put in the good word that wins over the hiring manager.
You choose some references. Others, like former bosses, will be sought after by default.
When you start your job search, it’s a good time to reconnect with your references. You are far better off getting them prepped early and renewing relationships with these important people.
At the start your networking conversations, I encourage you to reach out to your references and say hello.
Connect as people. Update them on your life. Let them know that you are starting the job search process.
Gauge their response. If they seem supportive, ask them for introductions to others.
“I am trying to figure out my next steps. And I was wondering whether you might have a couple of people that would be interesting for me to connect with?”
One client reached out to three references.
Two responded with, “I wish you well in your job search. And I would be quite enthusiastic in giving you a reference. But I don’t have people to suggest.” The third responded with, “Just let me know a date, and I will fill your day with meetings with potential employers.”
Another client reached out to her former boss and had a new job before the conversation was over.
You won’t know where your references are until you connect with them. These are people working in your field, who know you well. They likely know people in your field you don’t.
So I suggest reaching out to them early, even in the first round of conversations. There will be times when you don’t want to contact your reference, such as your reference is best friends with your current boss, and this would put your current job in jeopardy. But unless there is a compelling reason not to contact them, just go for it.
You will be surprised at what these folks can do for you, and what they can say about you.