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I work in a large multi-national. For personal family reasons, I have a need to quit work for 3 - 6 months to deal with a personal matter. At the same time as considering this, a voluntary redundancy program was announced and I applied for it and now I am soon leaving the company.

At some point, after the 3 - 6 months, I expect to start seeking normal employment again and I expect I will need references for future interviews etc.

I have 2 managers and I get on well with them. Should I be asking for letters of reference from my managers now before I leave? Do I need letters of reference at all? What should I expect or ask to be in them? What is the normal procedure?

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Letter of recommendation is quite culture specific but in general it shouldn't be required.

Employers who are hiring tend to value a private talk with your previous manager even more. Having a list of people who recommend you, their position and their contact information will probably benefit you, and your future employer, even more.

That being said, when leaving a company you should ask your current manager if you can list him as a recommend-er and ask him whether it's okay or not for future employers to contact him. Usually that's not a problem, especially if they value your previous work. You can still list them as recommenders, even if they do not wish to be contacted, just make sure to mention that.

If a previous manager does not wish to be contacted (some managers simply manage too many people) then a letter of recommendation would be a sweet backup alternative, but a personal talk between your previous manager and future employer is probably more valuable since it gives your future employer the ability to ask for very specific questions about you and it gives him the implication that you have nothing to hide.

Feel free to take advantage of today's social media though, like Linkedin, to request for written recommendation, but having it as the only source of recommendation should be avoided; you never know when media change or dissapear.

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Whether letters of reference are useful or not depends a lot on where you are and what kind of work you are doing. If you are in education in the US, then yes, that could be useful, either now or when you are trying to get the next job. For many other types of jobs, it is not useful.

A better option would be to stay in contact with these managers. Ask to connect to them via LinkedIn, periodically email or call them. That way, when you need them for references, either in the form of a letter of reference, or as a more standard reference, you already have their contact information, and they have not forgotten you.

Hiring managers usually want to speak to the references, and get nuances about you that would not be written in a document that you would see.

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I don't see where you say how long you've actually been in your current position. If you've been there long enough to have had your first evaluation & received positive results, I would say that asking for a reference letter would be perfectly fine. I think it would also be helpful if they were to mention that your resignation was beyond your control. Have you asked whether they would consider rehiring you should a position come available? Again, that will more than likely depend on how long you've been there. Oh, & one little tip I've found that helps is, don't have the managers date their letters of reference. I think sometimes that can put-off potential employers depending on how long it is until you are applying. Good luck!

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Since it is so location-dependent and you did not say where, I'll add my 2cents from Germany.

In Germany you have the right to a letter of reference (Arbeitszeugnis) from the employer you are leaving if you remember to ask for it.

It should state what you did at that company and usually includes something along the lines of "they left of their own accord and we wish them all the best for the future".

Watch out for phrases like "they made an effort to do X" - that translates to "... but didn't actually do it." In a really good letter it should say "They did X, Y and Z to our great satisfaction."

HR usually expect to see such letters from your recent employers or will ask you why you don't have them.

However, it never hurts to stay in contact via Xing or similar and having the permission of an ex-boss to give their contact details as reference also helps.

Source: Duden Bewerbungsratgeber (=how to write applications by major publisher) plus own experience.

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