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When managing a job search, most professionals focus their energies in a few key areas. They may dedicate themselves to the hunt and spend hours honing their resume. While those activities are essential, it’s vital not to neglect other aspects of the process, including your references.  

Your professional references can mean the difference between landing a job offer and being passed over. Companies speak to these individuals to learn more about your competence, character, and accomplishments. If your references don’t make a positive impression, you could be in trouble.  

Luckily, through the power of networking, you can make sure your references can extol your virtues and put the hiring manager’s mind at ease. If you want to ensure that yours are up to the task, here’s what you need to know.  

Keep the Connection Alive  

Here’s where the networking part comes into the equation. While anyone you’ve worked with previously could be a reference, rarely is it a good idea to hand over someone’s contact information out of the blue. Similarly, reaching out for permission to include a person as a reference when you haven’t spoken to them in years may not go over well.  

Ideally, if anyone may be a great reference, you want to keep that connection alive. While you don’t need to remain incredibly close, touching base on occasion, making positive comments on their social media posts, or similar actions can decrease the odds of that relationship completely fizzling out. Then, when you need a reference, you’ll be able to reach out, and they’ll be more likely to say yes.  

Don’t Be a Burden  

When you’re actively searching for a new opportunity, you may end up attending several interviews before you land a position. While asking members of your network to be referenced for each one may seem simple, that approach comes with risk. After more than a couple of phone calls, a reference may begin to view you as a burden. Being a reference takes time and energy, so it can be annoying if someone is getting inundated with calls and emails.  

Ideally, you want to limit the number of times you use a particular reference. If you’re interviewing in close succession, consider only listing a specific person up to three times.  

If you have a strong network, this shouldn’t be an issue. While it does mean reaching out to more people and asking for a favor, it’s worth it if your connections are viable, and you want to avoid tainting a solid relationship by overwhelming them with reference calls.  

Give as Good as You Get  

Most professional relationships need to be reciprocal on some level. In the land of references, that usually means being willing to return the favor, should the need arise.  

If you can’t imagine being a reference for a person, then asking them to do so for you isn’t ideal. Your hesitation is a sign that you may doubt their professional capabilities, workplace attitude, or something similar. Others may feel the same way, so having them speak on your behalf could do more harm than good.  

Ideally, you want to focus on professionals you respect. That way, if they request the same favor from you one day, you’ll be happy to lend a hand.  

Always Say Thank You  

When a person acts as a reference, show your appreciation for their efforts. Once you know they’ve been contacted, send a thank you email, invite them out for a cup of coffee (your treat), or otherwise demonstrate your gratitude.  

Remember, you asked for a favor. No one is required to be your reference. By showing your appreciation, you acknowledge that fact, increasing the odds that members of your network will be there for you again should you need them.  

If you’d like to learn more about the power of networking, the staff at Alpha Consulting can help. Contact us today.  

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