Skip to main content
Career Peer Educator

the author's portrait
I have a story to tell you. Have you ever referenced a person?

I have a story to tell you. Have you ever referenced a person?

As a university student, we try avoiding procrastination. But overall, some of us have to learn this lesson the hard way. I wrote a paper in one night. I was focused on the task at hand, but I did not get any sleep for almost 60 hours. Tired eyes, sore body and could not think. One thing is for sure, I was not expecting a cold call reference on the Skytrain the next day.

Cold Call Reference

My definition of a cold call reference is when a person does not warn you that a potential employer of his/hers will be calling you. Two words to describe when someone provides cold call references to a potential employer: RED FLAG.

First, the relationship you built with your references can easily be strained. Why risk this bond? What I would do is communicate with your reference, either by phone, email, social media, or coffee dates. In addition, you are risking future opportunities for getting future references due to the strain in the relationship. References don’t only reflect you, but also the person who is giving the reference. I’m not saying you should become best friends with your reference, but at least be courteous. Remember, both of you are human.

Secondly, if the hiring person calls the reference, you have no idea what your reference will say. Depending on the mood of the day, your reference could give you a good or bad reference. Based on this conversation, it can make the difference between you getting the job.

Your Reference Sheet

Interviewers may (read: usually) ask you to bring a document of your references. But do you know 100% who the hiring person will call on your list? Obviously, if you have one or two references on the sheet, chances they will be called are quite high. Let’s say you have six references, but two of them are your strongest. Should you put them closer to the top of the sheet?

Honestly, I believe it does not matter. Employers care about the person they are potentially about to hire. What matters is what you can offer to the employer, what your industry background is and most importantly, you. The employer cares about who you are as a person.

What I believe matters most on a reference sheet is what isn’t on the reference sheet. Yes, I could tell you what should be on a reference sheet, but I feel like I would be lecturing you (We all love sitting very still in a 4-hour lecture, right?). I believe the bond you create with your reference is more valuable than the sheet itself. All the sheets have are two main components: the name and contact information. What the sheet doesn’t have is a person speaking about you. Finally, someone who can support you in your future endeavours! But how you establish (or reestablish) the relationship is up to you.

Choosing References

No, I’m not here to tell you who I have as a reference (though unless you are reading the article, and you are a reference of mine… Hello, and thank you). I just wanted to tell you about the references I have chosen.

Asking for a reference is one thing, but asking for a meaningful reference can last you a lifetime. Throughout the years, you may lose being in regular contact with your reference (and you have opportunities to reestablish the relationship), but the memories of the relationship will still be there. Here is what I do to choose references:

  1. Talk to your co-workers, including your supervisors and boss. I’m not saying you should be idolizing these people (I would go insane if I were to do this), but establish a relationship with them. Like I said above, we are all human. Getting to know the lives of people establishes great friendships, both in and out of the work environment.

  2. Work Hard and Have Fun: Yes, this is a given. Having a great work ethic is an important factor when working under someone or yourself. In addition to this, while working, have some fun in the workplace and get to know your co-workers. They are kind of like another family because you are working with them for an average of 6-8 hours per day. Also, understand your co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses, and you will become a more cohesive team when working on specific tasks. By having great co-workers and getting to know them on a personal level, you can have a better idea of who you want to ask for a reference.

  3. Finally, pick, choose and ask the person. Based on what you have observed, set up a coffee date. This is not like taking a person out on a date to go ice-skating, but just establishing a relationship. Let the person know right away that you are applying to new positions, and ask if they are comfortable being a reference for you. This is a GREEN FLAG!

Asking for references is a skill that helps career development. Back to the story above about giving a reference on the Skytrain, I gave this person a good reference based on the information I observed, although I had just recovered from pulling an all-nighter. Did I learn a lesson? Yes. Did my friend learn a lesson? I believe so. After all, we are all humans.

Career Peer Educator
Connect with Kaita on LinkedIn and Twitter. Stephen Kaita is a Career Peer Educator and a second-year International Studies and World Literature student. He currently volunteers as a high school wrestling coach at the Langley United Wrestling Club and aspires to become a high school teacher or career advisor. As an aspiring teacher, he wants to focus on social issues in education and how to improve the well-being of a teacher. He has also previously volunteered as a teaching assistant.
visibility  57
Apr 28, 2015

You Might Like These... Networking, Professional Development

Peeriodical: Harness the Power of Networking at SFU

In today’s competitive job market, no matter what field or industry you are in, the key to discovering the hidden job market is through networking.  It’s all about “who knows you”.  Networking involves mutually connecting and building a relationship with others at a personal and professional level as sources of information and support.

Working on campus
The 10 Minute Commute – Resources and Useful Information for Working on Campus

Have you ever thought about working in a place that you are familiar with?  Perhaps a Tim Horton’s close by? For many students the idea of working at SFU might be a great option, if you prefer a 10 minute jaunt to work after class or an opportunity to learn more about how a university operates.

a flatlay of a person using an ipad to browse images
Can Blogging Help You Land a Job?

Some job seekers looking for possible ways to edge out competition are using weblogs (or blogs) to create and maintain a positive online presence. Blogging might help you land a job – but before you open a blog, we offer some information about blogging and a few tips on what you can do if blogging intimidates you.

You Might Like These... Career Exploration

eight jackets hanging in order of the rainbow
4 Reasons You Won't Regret Working in Customer Service

After spending 5 years in retail, Sydney was ready to pursue a career related to her studies. Looking back, although there were trials and tribulations, her time in customer service was a spectacular triumph as she developed new ways of communicating, leadership skills, and other attributes that have propelled her professional and personal development. 

two people in the middle of an interview with the focus on the employer
Employers are Out There, and They are Looking for YOU

We are all used to hearing of the impossibility of finding a career after university, and that our degree alone is not a golden ticket to landing that dream job after graduation. While it can seem like a daunting task to find work experience, it may be easier than you think.

a group of people gathered together for a conference type event
Speed Networking: Not for the Soft-Spoken

Keep hearing that networking is the key to professional success, but unsure of how to go about doing it? The Vancouver Board of Trade's first-ever Speed Networking event brought together students, mentors and representatives of the business community for 2 hours of intense contact building. Widely attended and well-received, this event proved that networking can be an enjoyable affair.