The job market is a competitive place to be, considering the current state of the economy, so you should take every advantage you can in order to make your resume stand out. One way to do this is to let your references do your talking!
Pertinence is Paramount
When you are starting to compile your list of professional references, be sure they are pertinent to the position for which you are applying. The ability to demonstrate a history of quality work in the same field for which you are applying is tantamount to making a positive impression. Be intentional about listing references with which you have worked in the past that will display your talents and abilities to your prospective employer that will benefit his or her company. It is fine to have had experience with a certain type of business and list it as such on your resume, but don’t spend time on something that doesn’t apply to the business at hand. For example, if you are applying for an IT position that deals with a local intranet security, it does not do you a lot of good to reference a person that only has had experience working with you on web design. Both areas of business do involve computers, but that is about the extent of the commonality involved. If you haven’t had experience working in IT but have education in the area, try listing an instructor who remembers you and how well you performed in your training.
Similar Experiences Sell Your Skills
There are times that you may have to list someone as a professional reference for an area in which you have never worked. In these situations, it is necessary for you to give some reasons why you have chosen this person as a professional reference. You may need to explain on your reference sheet the type of work you did with this individual and how it pertains to the position for which you have applied. If you explain things in this fashion, it will be understood and accepted by potential employers and probably not viewed as a weakness in your work experience. In this situation, make sure you contact this reference and explain to them the type of position for which you have applied and how your experiences with them apply to the job. Make sure that you go over with them, what you have listed on your reference sheet and that they understand why you are listing them as a reference in this particular situation.
There are times when you may have applied for a position for which you may be qualified but in which you have no experience. If this occurs, your professional references should be aimed at people with whom you have worked in the past that can attest to you work ethic, your moral character and fiber and to your overall skill and prowess in working with others. While the type of work for which you have applied might not be an area in which you have worked in the past, chances are they have some things is common and qualities you can highlight. For example, if you are applying for a writing position that includes deadlines, you might include a reference from you past that can attest to your commitment to complete projects within the deadline constraints set for you. While the areas are different in their application, they have deadlines as a common thread.
Character References Make you Shine
If you know specifics about things the potential employer is looking for, either in the area of experience or in the area of character, don’t refrain from including references that will attest to your past performance in these areas. For an employer that holds a high standard for work ethic and honesty, you might include a professional reference that witnessed your work ethic first hand or that was involved in a situation where you stood out due to honesty. These things might sound like common sense, but professional references are about more than just your abilities. They are also about whom you are and how you get along with others. Anyone can list their skills and abilities on a piece of paper, but not everyone can influence another person in a positive light in these areas. To have such an impact on someone with whom you have worked in the past that they remember what type of person you are, will speak volumes to your potential employer.
Personal References vs. Professional References
Personal references are an area of debate amongst human resource professionals. Some see them as paper fodder that aren’t worth the ink used to print them, while others see them as very important. Those that are opposed to them will say that no one will list a personal reference that will say bad things about them, and as such are a waste of time and energy. However, others say that personal references can give you a great deal of information on a potential employee by seeing with whom they associate. In either case, you should be ready to provide personal references if asked. Personal references should be people of the utmost integrity and character. They should be people that by their very nature will represent you in a positive light without coming across as disingenuous. The last thing you want is someone who leaves the impression that they are being dishonest or trying to sell something.
Plan Now for the Future
The job market is a tenuous place at best, and in an economy like the one we have at the moment, the words job security don’t mean a hill of beans. Hopefully, you have established yourself as an essential employee that your company simply cannot do without and would be missed. Even with this in mind, you should still stay on top of your game and be prepared for the worst while expecting the best. Look at your co-workers now as potential professional references for a possible future and cultivate them now. You will find that not only will you perform better on the job than normal, but you might actually get to know your co-workers in a way you never expected. Remember, the frugally minded want to live on less without living less. Well, if you keep these things in mind while at work, you might just live a bit more than you thought on the job