It's the time of year when those looking for internships or their first professional gig are madly churning out resumes, answering online ads and trying to figure out who the heck can be a reference for them.
It can be a bit difficult to think of someone who can vouch for you when you don't have a lot of work experience. Still, employers understand that Bill Gates or Jimmy Fallon probably won't provide a reference and that you're just starting out.
Here are some people who might be able to help:
- A teacher. This teacher might be from high school or college, or even grammar school if Miss Evans from fourth grade has kept up with you. Make sure the teacher remembers you -- it will be a bit embarrassing if you select someone who doesn't know your name. Also, choose someone who will for sure give you a good recommendation. The only way to know this with certainty is to contact the teacher and ask if he or she is comfortable vouching for your character and work ethic.
- A religious leader. If your rabbi or pastor knows you, then he or she can provide some evidence as to your good character, your contributions to the community, etc. Employers are often looking for those who have shown teamwork, so a religious leader can address how you helped with various missions or ministries.
- Volunteer coordinators. If you've put in time at a local food bank, helped clean up trash by the side of the road or volunteered with a literacy program, ask the coordinator for a reference. Again, employers want to talk to those who have seen your work ethic and teamwork firsthand.
- Family member. No, Nana can't talk about what a good boy you've always been. But if you spent one summer helping Uncle Fred clear the back 40 or pitched in with your cousin Bill to design a new app, then that's fair game. When using a family member, make sure he or she can talk specifically about work you have done since any employer is going to take a personal reference with a grain of salt.
Finally, remember that any of the above references should be contacted first by you, to ask them to be a reference and to make them aware of the qualifications they need to discuss. After they've talked to your potential employer, make sure you send a thank-you note or follow up with an appreciative phone call.