10

I've only been thinking about building and maintaining my professional network recently, mostly thanks to LinkedIn.com.

I have several jobs behind me, and I've always left on good terms. While I have asked people for references before, it was usually for the next position. Some people I've maintained contact with, but a number I have not. I'd like to approach both sets of people to see if they are willing to be references at sometime in the future. I might have a new opportunity coming up, but I don't want to limit the request to just this one.

I of course would always ask prior to giving a potential new employer their information, but how do I go about getting their general permission again? Is it best to keep it mostly professional and ask how they are doing or would that be too direct after some years of no contact?

  • Some people I've maintained contact with, but a number I have not. I'd like to approach both sets of people to see if they are willing to be references at sometime in the future. - This fact alone makes it nearly impossible for us to answer your question. We don't know how well you knew these people and what impression you left them with. Therefore, we really can't tell you if it's a good idea to ask them for a recommendation. – Jim G. Sep 23 '13 at 23:30
  • @JimG. The ones I haven't kept in touch with all had been willing to be references before, but it was purely a professional relationship where the others I also consider friends. – Andy Sep 23 '13 at 23:36
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Networking with Linkedin.com is getting easier and easier. I have found that just sending an email to previous people whom you’ve worked with in the past just asking what is new in their lives. Example: “Joe, It’s been a long time and I was just thinking about when we worked together. I just thought that I’d just ask what was new in your life?” (if they are still with the same company you worked for ask “What is new with Company X?” Leave it as that. You’ll find that they will reply with good or bad news. After their reply, tell them you are updating your Linked in profile and wondered if they would be willing to give you a reference for the past work you did with them. If they replied to the first email, I’ve found that they will do the reference for you. The worst thing they will say is No.

Another approach is to write a reference for them first. Then leave it up to them to return the favor. You may find that you are writing more references than you are receiving. But you may not want the reference form people that don’t return the favor anyway.

You can check out my references at http://linkedin.com/in/rodneyhickman

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If you are, for example, 45, people you worked with at age 35 wouldn't feel uneasy acting as a reference. Someone you worked for at 25, or even 30, might wonder. Probably the cutoff is whatever employer you were working for 12 years ago, and whoever you worked with or for ten years ago, at most. So if you worked for company ABC in 2001 to 2004, and reported to Jim in 2003 - 2004, Jim is a good reference. If you were working with Sue in 2001, whereupon she went elsewhere, Sue can say she knows you and what you did then, but may not feel comfortable vouching for credentials. If people remember you from ten years ago, good; if they remember what you did and how well you did it, even better. These would be good to include.

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