There’s been a lot of conversation lately about references and whether or not they matter in today’s job market. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal says references are important while a post from the Brazen Careerist offers a different view. My two-cents? Both views have their merits and here’s why:
- References are for more than just getting a job. If that’s all you use a reference for, then you’re missing the boat. References are your supporters. They can help you get jobs, speaking engagements, board appointments, consulting assignments, etc. So instead of thinking references are just a bunch of names on a list, view them as anyone who can potentially support you and what you do.
- Many employers realize that the references on your list will say you ‘walk on water.’ This is not a bad thing…that’s what you’re references should do. They should say you’re great. But, as a result, some organizations don’t check references or put a lot of stock in them. Don’t assume that companies will or won’t check references … it’s a very culture based decision.
- Your references might not be the people on your list. It’s time to realize the world is very small. People are talking about you whether you like it or not. In a lot of situations, you might get an interview or consideration for an assignment because of your reputation. Chances are this is because of ‘references’ that aren’t on your list (see #1 above).
- Your references can only comment if they know what’s going on with you. Are you using a person’s name from years ago that you haven’t kept in touch with? Shame on you! What do you expect them to say when they get a call? “He/She was awesome five years ago, but I have no clue what they’re up to now.” Nuf said.
So if you view everyone as a possible reference, then the only logical reason to burn a bridge with someone would be if you are absolutely certain that you will never need a single thing from them for the rest of your life. I don’t know about you…but I’m not sure I can make that statement about anyone.
On the flip side, this doesn’t mean that everyone has to be your BFF. You just might want to think a couple extra seconds before you douse the bridge with kerosene and toss that match.0