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I am resigning from my job at a small company that I've been at for only about four months. I am quite young and have spent the two years prior to this job dealing with health issues, so this job will be the most prominent on future resumes.

I am leaving my job because my employer's short temper makes me very uncomfortable, and he often belittles and puts me down. More concerning though, he has been having financial issues, and for the past two months would not pay me or even give me any notice of when he could. He only finally paid me in-full recently.

I am hesitant to ask my boss for a reference as things feel tense at work. Will not having a reference potentially hurt my future career chances, despite not wanting to return to my current field of work?

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    After the edits, I think this is much clearer, I edited the title to match the post body, and have reopened the post for answers. Please keep checking back for updates in case others have questions. As an aside, you might be interested in taking the tour of our site. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Aug 27 '14 at 5:34
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Will not having a reference potentially hurt my future career chances, despite not wanting to return to my current field of work?

All things being equal, not having a reference will indeed make you a less desirable candidate than one who has great references.

But usually, the lack of this reference isn't fatal. As JeffO correctly points out in his comment, it's rare to have a reference from your current boss anyway, even if you are on great terms. Usually, you don't want your current boss to know you are looking for a new job.

You might have references from your current company other than your boss - perhaps coworkers. You might have references from prior jobs. You might have personal references, and references from school.

Begin young and moving into a new field might also help to lessen the impact as well.

It sounds as if you have already made your decision to leave. So now, you have to deal with your situation as it is. Don't worry if your lack of this one reference hinders your chances - just work harder at finding your next job.

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    +1 - It is rare to be able to use your current boss as a reference unless she knows you are leaving and are still on good terms. – user8365 Aug 28 '14 at 20:14
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References, in business, are not usually about your specific skills. Rather, they help a potential employer understand who you are and how you work.

When hiring people, for example, I ask "I will be this person's direct supervisor. Can you give me any advice about how to motivate her do her best work?"

It is not much help to have a reference from an abusive boss who didn't pay you regularly. Do not give this man's name as a reference.

It would be good to have a reference from a co-worker at that company, especially one who can validate your reason for leaving.

By the way, your reason for leaving should, I believe, be stated as "The company missed payroll and didn't pay me regularly," not "my boss was verbally abusive." Not being paid on time is good and sufficient reason to leave a job. You don't have much to gain by talking about the other stuff in an interview situation.

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