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References: Who to Ask and How to Get Them

There are times in life where you need an advocate to vouch for you. In some instances, this person can also be called a “wingman” or “wingwoman”. In the professional world, your “wingman” or “wingwoman” is your reference. When applying to companies, you may have to provide anywhere from 3-5 references. Companies want to know what you’re like and how you work. To gain that insight, they want to talk to people who you’ve worked with. We’re here to help you choose who to ask to be your reference and how to approach them.

When a company asks for references, they are asking for professional references. A professional reference is anyone who you’ve directly worked with in an office setting. This may be a co-worker, a supervisor, a vendor, a buyer, a subordinate, or even a top executive. When choosing a professional reference, it is best to select someone who you closely worked with, preferably daily, who can attest to your work skills. This should also be someone who won’t just give a positive word about you, but someone who will feel strongly enough to gush about you and how great you are.

When it comes to asking someone to be your reference, it helps to ask in writing.

“When requesting that an individual to act as a reference, ask ‘Are you comfortable providing a very positive recommendation for me for a financial analyst job, I'm trying to make a strong case for my candidacy?’ Making your request in writing is usually the best approach so a reluctant individual can decline more comfortably.” (Alison Doyle, The Balance)

Also, when you are back on the job search, it is a good idea to reach out to your references again to let them know you are searching and that they might be getting calls soon. They might also look out for you and alert you on open jobs they’re connected to.

Lastly, once you get started at your dream job, be sure to contact your references and thank them for their generous, kind words. You probably couldn’t have done it without their help!

For more information on references, check out these articles:

What is a Professional Reference? – Alison Doyle, The Balance

Who can I use as a reference? – Kim Costa,

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