09 April 2018 | Career Advice | Guest Author
Most employers want one of two things from applicants – years of experience or strong references. How is a university graduate supposed to have either of those? It seems like this hopeless situation, but it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.
If you’re still at university or have recently graduated, you have numerous references at your disposal. Any employer will be thrilled to see a list of solid references on a young person’s application.
While it may take a little leg work, it’s well worth it to hear those two little words you’ve been looking forward to - “you’re hired.”
Do References Really Matter?
You might be tempted to just skip the references, but think about this. Without anyone to contact, all an employer has to verify your information is your word and probably social media. So yes, you do need at least a few references. You already have them, you just may not realise it yet. Of course, being prepared for your interview always helps too.
- Socialize On LinkedIn
Social media is helpful for college grads, but opt for LinkedIn over Facebook. Recommendations show employers what you’ve accomplished so far. For instance, if you volunteer at a local charity and manage your own team, ask the owner to add a recommendation to your LinkedIn profile and mention your employee management skills.
- Get Involved At School
Many students try to use their professors as references, which can be helpful. However, getting involved in non-profit organisations and clubs at school offer you chances to try out a wide range of skills. Politely ask the heads of any organisations or clubs if they’d serve as a reference or write a letter of recommendation.
- Land Internships
When you already have a heavy course load, an internship might not seem worth it. Just remember that it could make the difference between landing your dream job or not. A reference from a reputable business where you interned and trained looks incredible on resumes.
- Connect With Specific Professors
A list of references or recommendations from all your professors is about as useful as just having them all sign a birthday card. However, getting a few long-time professors who teach in the field you’re applying in is much better. Work hard to perform well in class and create a professional relationship with those professors. They’re far more likely to help you out if they like you.
- Start Now
The earlier you start gathering references, the better. For instance, your professors deal with hundreds of students yearly. Get their recommendation now versus when you’re ready to apply for a job. They’ll remember you better and create a more glowing recommendation.
- Maintain Relationships
Don’t just cut ties after you get what you want. After all, you might just need them to serve as a reference for multiple jobs. Maintain a relationship with the people who are willing to write recommendation letters, recommend you on LinkedIn and talk to potential employers on your behalf. Give them warning when an employer might be contacting them and always remember to tell them “thank you” for their time.
- Go Further Back
College doesn’t mean you didn’t have a life before that time. Did you babysit? Did you work any part-time jobs? What about volunteer work? Did you do any major school projects? All of these could serve as references. Go back to these people (it’s best to visit face-to-face if possible) and ask them to serve as references. For instance, if you’re wanting to work as a teacher or pediatric nurse, having multiple references from the parents you babysat for is useful.
- Clean Out Your Social Media Accounts
Employers aren’t just using the references on your resume. They also check your social media accounts and may reach out to close friends and co-workers for more details on you. Not only do you want to present your best self on any social media accounts, but avoid connecting with anyone who could potentially ruin your chances at a job.
- Prepare Your References
A heads up is always a good idea. However, you should also let your references know a little about the job you’re applying for. This allows them to prepare and know which skills are most relevant to that employer. This helps turn standard references into ones that help you land the job you want.
- Limit Your List
Employers aren’t interested in going through 10 pages of references. Instead, limit your list of references to only the most relevant for that job. Even if you have 20 incredible references, only five of them might be relevant to a specific industry or position. By only listing certain references, you increase your chances of an employer talking to the right people.
This is where sites like LinkedIn help. While your actual resume may only have a handful of references, you could have hundreds on LinkedIn.
Every college student should start preparing now and gathering references. Employers don’t care if you just graduated. They just want references they can trust. For you, this means getting the job you really want.