There is nothing like a third-party endorsement to earn someone’s trust and respect.
But you have to do it right.
You don’t want to attach letters of recommendation – these are too long. What you want is to create one or two pages of short quotes from people who have worked with you in the recent past.
Marketing yourself may not be your first love, but making sure your references back up your achievements with their endorsements is critical. Here are some tips to getting them.
Use LinkedIn to Get Endorsements
If you are a professional, I strongly recommend having a LinkedIn profile. You should send an invitation to connect to everyone associated with your career history (with the exception of your current employer, if you want to keep your job search a secret).
Become a “Reference Collector”
From here on out, consider “collecting” references and testimonials well before you think you might need them. You can accomplish this by simply telling your potential references that you are gathering testimonials as you go… as part of your long-term strategic career goals.
Widen Your Pool of Potential References
Do you know that many people other than your immediate boss can be a highly compelling reference? You can get references from colleagues, people that work for you or with you, clients, vendors, and even co-members of associations or boards on which you serve.
Ask for a Written Reference
Why not ask for powerful, short performance statements in lieu of the more typical “letter of reference”? I put together a one- to two-page document for my clients filled with short statements from all sorts of credible references speaking from their unique vantage points.
The result is a reference page that reads like a list of 5-star book reviews!
You may even offer to write the reference FOR them and then simply get their OK. Though this can be a little uncomfortable at first, you will end up with some very powerful reference statements that convey exactly the message you want to get across.
References that say “Jim is a great guy. I would definitely refer him to others,” is vague and unimpressive. If you get a reference like that, you might go back to your contact and ask if they wouldn’t mind inserting a little more detail; something like this:
“Jim helped us close a $140 million healthcare construction project that opened the door to a new industry segment for us. In addition, he also happens to be a positive influence and a great person to work with.”
Additional Ways to Help Your References Help You
You will do well to take an active role in developing a powerful reference topic or topics. Simply give potential references two or three things to focus on. Of course those two or three things should be in sync with the kind of position you are focused on. Let’s say in your next position you want to target a Senior VP Operations role. You could coach your references to comment on the following strengths:
1. My abilities as a leader; taking a company global.
2. My capabilities on the new technology integration task force.
3. My abilities to analyze current operations and pioneer long-term growth plans.
Using these easy and powerful tips, you will soon have an abundance of highly targeted and compelling references that will have potential employers taking notice!