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A little background, I worked at a company for two years out of college. I left this company almost eight years ago now.

While the role offered very good experience and was a solid stepping stone for my career, and I did fairly well, I didn't really form much of a positive relationship with my boss or team lead. While I made friends at the company, it's a period of my life I'm now interested in moving on from, and so am considering cutting ties with my lead and former boss.

In a very best case scenario I can't imagine they would help me out of any type of employment bind, beyond giving me a good referral to a company who was already interested.

Given the above, and that I haven't been with the company in eight years, I'm wondering if using them as a potential reference would even be realistic? Would a new employer ever feasibly want to hear from them? Is there any other value in maintaining ties?

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    Giving you a good referral is all a reference ever does. I'd go with "references on request" and wait to see if the prospective employer asks for anything that far back.
    – keshlam
    Apr 7, 2023 at 2:09

2 Answers 2

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What is the value of an old reference?

It is helpful in this case if the persons who give you the referral have great credibility and expertise.

For example, it would be great if they are experts in certain areas, or they are in management positions such as managers, senior managers, or directors of a good company. Many of your former coworkers or managers in the past could now be promoted to important positions in a company.

Don't be afraid to ask them for a referral. You may be surprised that they still remember you, and are willing to help you out especially when you did a good job in the past.

You have nothing to lose by politely asking them for a referral because the worst-case scenario is that they simply ignore you and your request. They won't yell at you for sure.


PS: Here is what happened to me:

A few years ago, I reached out to 8 of my former coworkers and managers to politely ask them if I may use them as my referrals. I worked with them about 12 years ago. I was not even sure if they still remember me.

To my surprise, 7 of these 8 former coworkers responded very positively and friendly. They are now senior managers, directors or VP's of different companies.

Of course, 1 person simply ignored me and my request for referral. Hehehe... But, that was fun too. :-)

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Given the above, and that I haven't been with the company in eight years, I'm wondering if using them as a potential reference would even be realistic? Would a new employer ever feasibly want to hear from them? Is there any other value in maintaining ties?

In the past I have had to provide a way to contact people who worked with me for every work site I have had in the last 10 years.

In another situations somebody who I sort of knew 5+ years before contacted a person I worked with 10 years ago asking for contact info for a potential candidate with a specific skill mix. I got the job.

I doesn't take a lot of effort to keep some of these contacts alive. You never know if they will be needed.

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