Providing references can be one of the most difficult tasks during the job application process. This is especially true when you’re fairly new to the job market with limited resources and experiences. Luckily, you are not alone, almost everyone goes through this barrier! Here are a few tips that will help you remain a strong candidate, even with a lack of professional references.
You’ll have a greater chance of being hired if the rest of your job application is strong! Create a resume and cover letter that will make you stand out and highlight why you would be fit for the position. A lack of experience doesn’t mean you don’t have the skillset to get the job done! Also make sure that your Linkedin profile and personal website (if you have one) is completed thoroughly and updated with no mistakes.
If you’ve been offered an interview, this is your chance to blow the interviewer away! Prepare by researching the company, practice answering potential questions, and relevant follow-up questions that show you are interested and dedicated to the position. This is an opportunity to prove that your lack of references isn’t going to reflect your work ethic!
When you don’t have the option of providing a professional reference, it is okay to add a personal reference. The personal reference must be someone that you worked closely with in some sort of capacity, particularly not a relative or best friend. Here are a few examples:
Is there a professor, mentor, or teacher that you’ve worked closely with? Maybe you attended their office hours or were more engaged in their class? Professors are often used as references and can provide great feedback of your work ethic to an employer. They graded your work and saw your growth and engagement in class after all!
Family Friend / Neighbor
This reference is someone you may have done work for on a smaller scale. Like babysitting their children, taking care of their pets while on vacation, yard work, etc.. They can not only provide insight on your work ethic and responsibility, but also your character as they know you on a personal level.
Group projects are one of the strongest reflections of your work ethic, aside from professional experience. A fellow group member will be able to tell an employer how you worked in a group setting, how you were with time-management, and your level of responsibility and leadership skills. This can give the employer insight on how you will work in either a team or independent setting.
It is extremely important that you ask permission before writing anyone down as a reference and letting them know of the company and position you will be applying for. This way your reference won’t be caught off guard if they receive a phone call and will be better prepared in providing a thoughtful and positive reflection of your abilities. They also have the option of saying no if they are too busy or out of town so as not to hurt your chances of getting the job so you can actively seek another reference option. Always personally thank them if they agree to it, it is a big favor!
Picking a list of strong references may seem challenging with a lack of work experience, but you know more people than you realize that can provide positive feedback of your work ethic and character!