Asking for help is never easy, but in our careers, as in life, we all need some from time to time. It is good to remember that those people who have been the most successful and important to our careers are usually the people most able, and willing, to lend a hand. So when it is time to ask for references seek out the most successful and influential people you can.
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me?" ~ Brian Tracy
I talk a lot about the use of social media and its ability to help you create a well rounded professional image to potential employers. Good references can do much the same thing by helping to flesh out the details you have given on your resume. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about collecting professional references. Let the tips below be your guide.
1. Choose wisely. People who know you well professionally are the key people to target. These do not have to be your best friends, but they need to be people who know what you have done and can speak to your strengths. You also do not need to limit yourself to former supervisors, business acquaintances of all kids are appropriate references.
2. Do not forget to ask. I don't care how great a reference he can be, if a potential employer calls him out of the blue the reference he gives is not going to be great. Manners matter. Give him a call; ask him out for some coffee; update him on what you are doing and that you'd like to ask him for a reference.
3. Stay connected. Make sure all of your references have an updated copy of your resume. No one can remember every detail, but if they have that in front of them when the answer the phone for you, they can be sure to give you an accurate referral. Additionally, if they are not already part of your virtual social circle, include them now. Order of importance for social relationships: LinkedIn, Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus. (For now, these are subject to change as G+ has been gaining quite a bit of steam lately.)
4. Provide specifics. This is especially important for higher level applicants. Sometimes potential employers will grill your references to provide specific details about you. If your reference says you are a great people person, they may ask for proof. Make sure your reference has the information needed to present you in the best light. Think in terms of interview questions and provide them with detailed answers.
5. Use different references for different positions. I always recommend targeting your resume to one particular job. A generalist resume will never win over one that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the particular job you are applying for. References are no different. Certain people are going to be able to speak to certain skills. When choosing and listing references keep this in mind.