The No. 1 must-do before you graduate

If you are a college senior and about to graduate, your world is about to evaporate. The day you receive your diploma, your friends will go their separate ways, you will go somewhere else and the world you have put together for the last four years will disintegrate. It’s scary and here’s the number one thing you need to do, before you graduate: Get your references lined up—even if you have an internship or a job and believe you are all set.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Identify four or five (six is better) professors, advisors, mentors, or supervisors that know you and ask them if they will serve as an employment reference.

    Here’s how to ask:

    “As I launch my career, I would like to ask if you would be comfortable serving as one of my references when I apply for employment?” 

    You may not need six, but the person checking your references will look for three. If you have five or six, there is a better chance that they will get through to three and be able to process your application.

    If you are at all unsure whether a person would make a positive contribution, then ask the following:

    “As I apply for a job, I would like to ask for your recommendation. If this makes you uncomfortable, I apologize for the awkwardness, but I’d be grateful if that is the case, that you let me know now.”

    Here is the deal: If they will not be giving you a stellar recommendation, then it’s better to find out now. People have gone for months, wondering why they get so close to a job and never land an offer.

  2. For each reference, you will need the following:
    • Full name with appropriate prefix.
    • Their formal title.
    • Name of the institution or place where they work
    • Context of your relationship for the caller (see below)
    • Their preferred phone number with designation (Home (H), Office (O), Work (W), Cell (C)).
    • Their email address.

    It should look like this on your Reference List:

    Dr. Name Name
    Associate Professor of History
    University of Connecticut
    (My advisor and mentor)
    (860) 000-0000 (C)

    Want more?
    Need an interview? Consider a Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop, where you will learn how to navigate the online application systems and differentiate yourself both on your résumé and in your interview.

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