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In short I’ve been working at my current company for just shy of 5 years and due to any substantial career advancement I’ve decided it’s time to start the job hunt so I can move forward in my career.

The majority of my work activities involve using a specific software suite that is by and far the industry standard and essential has a monopoly in this field.

Is it appropriate to ask out account representative, who is fairly senior with their company if he would be willing to serve as a professional reference? My resume at this point looks pretty good, but a few of my references feel outdated. Should I include my graduate advisor from 8 years ago? Normally I would automatically say no, but I have been an active alumni, offering internships, giving guest lectures, and have even been penned as an author on a academic journal article a current professor in that department has submitted for peer review.

Of course I would love to have a senior manager at my company act as a reference, but for obvious reasons I’m going to avoid that.

  • I believe so, I was brought in to start up a department (GIS) and he has worked with me and our IT staff since we started building the system and has worked with me numerous times on how to meet our company needs and has seen how we’ve progressed. He’s seen me present at numerous conferences as well. Of course he is a senior software rep. so he has a LOT of accounts and I may just be another brick in the wall to him. – Pete Dec 21 '18 at 23:57
  • My concern is it getting back to my company, though I would hope he would understand why discretion is important. Would it also be a benefit or a hinderance that an company insider has been willing to act as a reference. He may also see this as a liability to him as if he offers a good reference he runs the chance of running afoul with his own career if somehow things end up negatively, they may ask, “why did you offer to be this persons reference?”. – Pete Dec 22 '18 at 0:15
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No, for several reasons, most importantly he is connected to your current workplace and this would make it awkward for him even to be asked.

Secondly you're trying to use him as an 'in' with his company, this is frowned upon by some employers.

Thirdly if you land the job you will owe one of your colleagues a serious favour, never a great thing.

But from his side the biggest problem he would face is if you mess up and people ask why he recommended you. He'll be on the spot for you for the duration. If I was him I would refuse and mark you in my mind as a manipulative person out for whatever they can get at others expense. And I wouldn't be happy that you thought it appropriate to ask.

When you don't know people well, you have to judge them on a few personal interactions.

  • So where do you draw the line between manipulation and networking? You make very good points as to why not ask, and your right it would put him in a difficult spot if I didn’t work out, and i didn’t think of the favor (I’m a small town North Dakota boy, this is often how business is done. My company has a father and two kids working there, multiple children and parents, spouses, etc. I knew my bosses best friend was my mom’s cousin when I interviewed). I of course would have informed him that I was applying for a position in his company. I may be viewing this from a very different culture. – Pete Dec 22 '18 at 2:38
  • @Pete problem is probably solved in a small town, I'm in a small country. Use the usual references, if he wants to put in a good word, he will when your application is being looked at. Nothing is secret in small locales. Better than putting him on the spot. Mention in the interview that you worked with one of their people, and they'll quietly ask him later. – Kilisi Dec 22 '18 at 2:54
  • Networking is an exchange with mutual respect, manipulation is uneven. Putting someone on the spot is manipulation unless you're already 100% sure they'll be ok with it. So while asking the guy what his company is like and section, if jobs are available and details of interest is fine, asking him to go to bat for you is different. Unsure if that makes sense. Also working with someone for years even doesn't mean they like you. I smile every day at people I actually dislike for some slight or other they probably wouldn't remember.. – Kilisi Dec 22 '18 at 3:00
  • @Pete, it's not really, but there are boundaries, start putting people on the line and watch your network shrink rapidly. I'm in a position at my advanced age to do a lot for people who have no way of reciprocating, and I do, for some few. Others I would cheerfully watch fall off a bridge... it's down to the individual relationship and respect. – Kilisi Dec 22 '18 at 3:08
  • I really don’t think that networking is always a quid pro quo situation.”Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics.” - Wikipedia. I’m not going to but I would just be asking, On his end it would be as simple as saying “no”, then end of story. Everyone else I have gotten references from has always been from a position with a higher status than mine, there is no ability for an equity in that social exchange. – Pete Dec 22 '18 at 3:12

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