National Update Your References Week
It seems there are international and/or national weeks for just about everything, and the first week in May was, as proclaimed by Career Directors International, International Update Your References Week (UYRW).
Why such a thing? CDI says UYRW “was created due to the importance of job seekers [sic] learning to maintain a network of warm contacts and references, in order to assist them in career change, employment, and growth.” CDI’s director, Laura DeCarlo, asserts that “up to 45% of employers check references, so it is necessary to be prepared to be asked for them.”
Are You a Skeptic about National Anything Weeks?
Even as a resume writer, my initial response to learning about International Update Your References Week was, “You’ve gotta be kidding. How much could there possibly be to do or say about references?” But then I thought about all the people reading my blog who might not have their references updated. I did a double-take for myself too: If I were to apply for employment somewhere, would my references be at my fingertips at the moment I needed them?
I Need to Update My References
The answer to that second question was … well … “mostly yes.” I’m connected with the majority of my past supervisors on LinkedIn, and recently had a nice chat with one of them just to catch up. When I travel to New York, I make an effort to visit my old stomping grounds in Brooklyn to stay in contact with the folks at CAMBA Legal Services. So why do I say “mostly”? Well, I have, embarrassingly enough, forgotten the name of my most recent supervisor at the University Of Wisconsin Law School’s Career Services Office. Prior to posting this article, I wrote to the man who was assistant director during my tenure—someone I have stayed connected with through networking—and asked for his assistance in identifying her.
From my own erroneous ways in the references department, I can confidently say that while updating your references is something that’s best done on an ongoing basis (just like being nice to your mother on days other than Mother’s Day, or showing love to your partner on days other than Valentine’s Day), it doesn’t hurt to give some extra attention to this project once a year.
13 Questions and Answers About Updating Your References
Since Update Your References Week proved useful to me, I imagine it will be a wake-up call for some of you too! To that end, here are some questions you might have about updating your references, which are answered on the UYRW information page:
- Why do I need to provide references for an employer?
- Who makes a good reference?
- How many references do I need?
- What types of information do I list?
- Should I list references directly on my resume?
- Should I list “References Available Upon Request” on resume?
- What if I was fired from my last job? Do I need to list that employer as a reference?
- When do I send references?
- What if I can’t find all of my previous supervisors?
- Do I need to ask permission to use someone as a reference?
- Someone once suggested that I send a copy of my resume to all my references. Why should I do that?
- What if I don’t have any prior experience?
CDI has thoroughly answered all those questions and I recommend you read the answers. You might be surprised by some of them!
Another question came up recently for me:
- “Can I quote my references on my resume without asking for their specific permission to do so?”
My answer to that is, “It depends.” If your reference has publicized their testimonial on LinkedIn, then their recommendation is fair game. If they have not, then best practice is to request their permission before putting their name on your resume, especially if a quote is attributed to them. This doesn’t mean you can’t use their rave review from an evaluation or other source—but get their permission first, or, as an alternative, use their title only, without their name attached to it.
Keeping It Personal
Also missing from CDI’s list is a recommendation that I would like to make: Stay in contact with your references! Are you aware of your former boss’s career transitions? Family milestones? Remember, people will be most willing and enthusiastic about providing recommendations for you if you exhibit interest in them for more than their reference status.
Staying in touch with your references will be particularly useful if they are prohibited by company policy from providing a recommendation, but can find a way around the rules—or if they move to another company, allowing them to provide a reference for the prior one.
Do you have other questions about references? I will be happy to answer them even though Update Your Reference Week is over! I’d also love to hear how you would rate yourself on your communications with your references. Is it time to reach out to someone or find out what’s happening with their career or life? There’s no time like a national UYRW to do it!