Before you even begin to seek new job opportunities, consider compiling your job references. Avoid saving this step for the last minute, rushing to track down contacts and reaching out regarding their availability.

Also, get in touch now! Ask questions and gain insight from them regarding their experiences working with you, along with help looking for new opportunities. Consider asking:

  1. What stands out to you about working together as a team?
  2. Do you remember a project that involved a significant number of challenges? How did we handle them?
  3. What was your least favorite thing about working together? Is there something I should focus on in terms of skill development?
  4. Do you remember when we worked together? In what capacity?
  5. If you had to use one word to describe me, what would it be?
  6. What type of role do you see me succeeding in? What type of role do you think would make me miserable?

The initial goal is to get information that is useful to you, so don’t worry about asking very direct questions. Direct questions are leading, which will potentially influence your contacts to provide very limited, inauthentic feedback.

You want authenticity to ensure the information you gather is information you can utilized while reflecting on your career, but also to help you identify the strongest references to provide to a potential employer. To find references…

(1) Review previous job assessments.

Have you kept copies or notes from previous job reviews? If not, your current and previous HR offices may have copies available. This is a great way to start gathering notes on what has worked and has not worked for you in terms of previous jobs or managers. You should also be able to identify some names of contacts as potential references.

(2) Take stock of your existing professional and personal networks.

Identify those who are in the best position to help you find opportunities or gain insight regarding positions to which you plan to apply. Don’t discount those you meet through your social activities. They may have contacts in your field or know recruiters, which are a great resource while job searching.

(3) Target three solid people.

Seek those who have insight into your experience and capabilities that is relevant and appropriate. In terms of the references you provide to a prospective employer, focus on those that you trust to say authentic, but good things about you and your work. For any contacts that agree to be references, provide a current copy of your resume and a run-down of your elevator pitch so they understand your job goals.

Photo credit: TeamBonding