When it comes to finding a new job, one of the most important things to have is strong professional references. It is recommended to have three to five references with at least two at the managerial or supervisor level. The Partners here at AtlasAdvancement have shared why it is important to have references, what to look for in those references and we have broken down the most important details below.

References help open doors. They help maintain relationships throughout the years after leaving a company with previous employers and bosses. This is important because it speaks to the caliber of your work; they provide insight the quality of work you provided to the company while an employee. Your ability to transition into a new role and tackle new challenges is critical to any prospective employer when interviewing candidates. References can provide your potential new employer insight into who you truly are as an employee. Having a peer or character reference instead of solely professional references is not recommended. Candidates have been cut from the interview process because they were not able to provide strictly professional references from past positions. While your friend may be able to give you a rave review, this is not as important to your boss or supervisors’ opinion of you and your work. The credibility of your reference is important and there is no better way to convey what you have accomplished than through a professional reference.

If you are someone who has not had a lot of work experience based on age or substantial tenure, it could be hard to find three to five references. If that is the case than a professional review or an annual review can be just as effective. However do not solely rely on performance or end of year reviews to stand in as your references but utilize reviews as supplementary material to provide a more comprehensive picture of your skillset.

When you are selecting who should serve as your professional reference, consider two primary factors. First, the relationship between you and the reference is critical. Your reference should be someone who you report to directly and have daily interaction. They are the ones that will be able to give an accurate depiction of your skills and accomplishments. Secondly, consider the quality of information they are able to provide. They should be able to speak to your strengths and weaknesses, challenges you have overcome, your motivation and your reliability.

Whether you are a young professional or have 15+ years of experience, professional references can either help you advance in your career or hinder you from growing. Continue to cultivate your relationships even after leaving a company as you progress throughout your career because you never know who will be a resource to you or how you might assist someone else in their career progression.