It’s not surprising to start pulling together a list of references when you’re looking for a job or planning a career move. What isn’t immediately clear to many however is the point in assembling your references when you are gainfully employed and have no career move in your immediate future. Good advice dear reader is to start compiling that list now no matter your situation.
The usual objections to lining up references when a person isn’t actively job searching are that its extra work to do so, and that they don’t want to confuse the people agreeing to be their references; getting them ready for calls that won’t be coming because no employers are being approached for employment. To the first objection I say it takes very little effort. To the second, your references shouldn’t be expecting calls from employers at this stage if you have properly advised them of the situation.
We all hope it doesn’t happen to us, but there are many examples around us where companies suddenly close their doors. In my community, I can think of two businesses which, in the last two weeks just closed up without any notification. One day they were there and the next they were locked; signage removed within a few days. The employees that worked for those organizations had in at least one of the two situations no notice whatsoever that this was about to happen just 24 hours earlier.
Now if your company closes quickly and you’re out of work you want to be equally quickly out of the gate and ahead of your former co-workers in applying for work. It could be a time of confusion, anger, resentment, shock, disbelief; and the last thing you should be doing is trying to pull together your résumé and job references when thinking rationally and being your usual upbeat self is challenged. This is a big case for keeping your resume current and having your references assembled.
Many times I’ve helped someone with their job search and found that they cannot find people who could best vouch for their work because they simply have no way of contacting them. They may not know someone’s last name, don’t have their contact information or simply have no idea where they’ve relocated to. Now is definitely time to pull such information together while you see these people regularly.
You don’t have to give people the impression you’re job searching with earnest and they should be expecting calls. No, that would be misleading, setting them up for calls that don’t materialize and disrespect them by putting them on alert.
A good practice is to approach potential references and seek their permission to get their endorsement of you in the event you wish to take advantage of an opportunity to advance yourself. You’re only requesting their contact information to be proactive and will inform them that should you actively begin a job search, you’ll do them the courtesy of letting them know you’ve put yourself in play, at which point you’ll issue them with your résumé and application information so they are then prepared. At the moment, they need not actually, ‘do’ anything other than agree to the request you’re making of them and supply their contact information.
So now, who to ask? Typically of course you’re after co-workers you feel a strong connection with; ones who value your contributions. You don’t want to start a rumour mill, so of course make it clear you’re simply being proactive. Similarly with your immediate Supervisor or others in Management, best to clearly tell them that they need not start thinking of how to replace you, you’re just being responsible and thinking forward. Reassure those you feel you need to that there is no immediate want or action being taken on your part to part ways. This wouldn’t be a good time to take home the family pictures on your desk for re-framing for example!
Once you have compiled this list of people willing to stand for you and back up your claims of experience and work performance, make sure you have this information available to you outside the workplace. Put it in the Cloud, on your home computer, in a filing cabinet etc. within easy access. The importance of this information will dramatically elevate when you need it and you don’t want to scramble wondering where it is should that time arise.
Look, it doesn’t have to be pulled out when there’s tragedy and loss; it just might be that someone puts a dream job in front of you with a real short timeline for applying. With a current resume you can submit an application on any given day and as for references, you’re doubly ready. Even if you never apply for another job, you’ll be practicing good behaviours and demonstrating to others how prepared and organized you are.
Honestly however, most of you who read this will agree the practice is good in theory but won’t do it for yourselves. This is the nature of such forward-thinking and advanced preparedness. Most people wait until the need arises and scramble to put together their resumes and find references.
Think about how unsettling job searching can be though. You can save yourself a great deal of anxiety and stress in the future by taking a few steps in the here and now.