The Importance of a Good Reference
When you apply for a job, a volunteer position, scholarship or even graduate program, you are often asked to provide reference(s). A reference is a person who knows you well and who can vouch for who you are. They can be your high school teacher, college or university professor, former boss or even former colleague.
Ideally, you want to choose a reference that likes you and will speak highly of you, whether personally or professionally. You want that person to highlight your strengths and not your weaknesses. You want them to convince the person requesting the reference that you are in fact who you say you are – and more! A good reference can make the difference between you getting a position or not. It can even be more influential than a transcript, resume or cover letter put together. This is why it is so important that you choose a reference who not only knows you well, but who speaks well of you and can increase your chances of being chosen for a particular job, volunteer position, scholarship or graduate program.
It is a good idea to ask the person whether they can provide a reference for you before putting them down as your reference. This way, your reference is not caught off guard when someone calls them asking about you. It is also a good idea to give your reference a heads up that someone may contact them to ask them about you. This way your reference is prepared and knows what to say when that email or phone call comes in.
Sometimes references are also required to provide letters of recommendation, as is the case for graduate school and scholarship programs. In these instances, you should ask your reference well ahead of time if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. Beware that often times these letters of recommendations are required to be sent directly from your reference to the school or scholarship program. This is done to ensure that the letter has not been tampered with or altered by you in any way. In situations like these, it is imperative that you pick a good reference that you trust will put in a good word for you, because you might not be able to see what they wrote about you.
Remember, references are not supposed to lie about your credentials or who you are. Rather, they are meant to support and enhance the person you have claimed to be. If you have chosen good references that know you well, like you, and can verify the kind of person you are, then you are already on the right track for success.