Finding a job while unemployed can be a stressful task, but applying to new ones while still employed comes with a variety of its own challenges.
One of the most uncomfortable scenarios is often trying to get a strong reference from your current employer without your manager finding out you’re considering moving on.
Here are a few tips on how to getting references without losing your job.
Your Trusted Co-Worker
For most job applications, the more recent your reference can be the better. The tricky part is finding a reference while still working in your current role.
How do you know who you can trust? Will word spread that you’re looking at options? Will they tell one friend who tells another?
To get a reference from your current job, the most important thing to do is to proceed with caution. Pick one co-worker and discuss it with them offline. Grab a coffee or head out for lunch, but avoid using any formal, company-owned communication channels to discuss it. And yes, this includes Slack.
It’s best to avoid asking anyone in a higher management position than yourself. While the option of a senior reference is tempting, they’ll obviously question how your departure affects their team, and it could hurt your future with the company if you decide to stay.
A Satisfied Customer
If you work with an agency or deal with external contacts, consider using a customer as a job reference from your current job. If you go this route, you need to tread lightly.
Make sure this is someone you’ve gotten to know over the years, and who would ultimately be more interested in hearing about your next exciting career move than how it affects your company. It’s common to develop friendly relationships with clients, and there’s no harm in asking them to speak to how satisfied they’ve been with your work.
Don’t use company channels, and ask them out for coffee or lunch before you put them down as a reference. Also, this usually works best if it’s someone who worked with your organization a lot in the past, but has moved away slightly.
A Current or Past Mentor
If neither co-workers nor customers are an option, consider a reference from outside the company. Ideally, your mentor isn’t someone associated with your current organization. It could be a professor you kept in touch with, a previous employer who has always helped guide you, or a family friend in a similar field that’s taken you under their wing.
This person has experience in your field and is a credible source. Most importantly, they can discuss your growth in your current and past positions.
It’s best if they have a strong LinkedIn presence to validate their experience, and have a flexible schedule to be the first one who answers for your potential employer’s reference check. You can also get ahead of the hiring game by asking them to give you a reference on LinkedIn.
The Previous Manager
This reference will usually be one of your easiest to get, and sometimes, you can get one from a few different past companies.
Making sure you leave a company respectfully and on good terms plays a huge role in where you could land in the future. You may get caught up in leaving that position to go to a new one, but don’t forget your manager is the ideal reference for your next stop after that.
This person has worked closely with you, seen your collaboration skills, your independence, and your receptiveness to feedback. They have a clear understanding of who you are, and they can speak freely since they have nothing at stake for themselves.
Try to keep in touch with people like this, so you don’t feel uncomfortable reaching out in the future. Send them a message through LinkedIn or via email and ask to grab a coffee and catch up.
If your job application process is moving quickly, you can be upfront about the need for a reference and ask if they’re comfortable with you submitting their name and contact information.
Making your exit
Getting a reference from your current employer is a tricky task. Internally, you might be able to use a co-worker or a client. If not, consider external references who can speak to your time at the current company.
But regardless of your connection to your references, choose people who have your best interest at heart. No matter how excited you are, try to stay low key about the application and don’t be the one to spread your news too soon.
Ready to put your references to work? Authentic Jobs has an opportunity waiting for you.