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I'm looking for references, and I don't have any previous job experience, outside of my current job. I'd rather not let anyone at the office know that I'm looking for a new job. I do not have any offers at hand, but I would like to be prepared with references before entering an interview.

I was thinking about asking a contact from a business partner of my current workplace. I work with this contact regularly, and we're connected on LinkedIn. It seems safer than asking my boss or coworkers, but I'm not sure how appropriate it is.

If I do ask this person as a reference, it will be from my personal laptop at home, through a LinkedIn message.

  • why do you need a reference? you presumably got your current job without a reference? – bharal Apr 30 '17 at 22:19
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    Why not just ask the person for skill endorsement on LinkedIn? – Vylix May 2 '17 at 14:41
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    You should under no circumstances reveal your references to anyone until after you have been offered the job. I personally refused many times to share reference information and it has never had a bearing on whether I got the job or not. Once they have made an offer, then, of course, you should share them. At that point, you could ask the business partner to provide one. – numenor May 2 '17 at 14:42
  • It's quite likely that asking this business partner for a reference would warrant an immediate call from the contact to your boss informing them of the request. – Chris G May 2 '17 at 18:43
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It isn't a good idea for one major reason: it puts the person you are asking for a reference in a bad situation.

If they write you a reference, they are potentially jeopardizing their business relationship with your current company. Not to put too harsh a point on it, but that is probably worth more to them than their relationship with you.

If they don't write you a reference, they are again harming the business relationship because their contact (you) isn't happy with them.

Asking for a reference should be a pleasure for both parties. If it isn't, that should tell you that maybe you are on the wrong track.

In any event, good luck with your search!

  • Why is offering a reference some kind of a personal betrayal? References are given in confidence. All they would be doing is answering questions about the quality of the work of the person asking. If they don't feel they know it well enough, they can decline, but I don't see why asking a business contact for a reference is a bad move. – PoloHoleSet May 2 '17 at 20:40
  • I never said it was a "personal betrayal", my reasons for thinking it's a bad idea are outlined above. – KevDog May 3 '17 at 15:45
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    Unless you think it is, I'm not sure why you think providing a professional reference would jeopardize their business relationship. – PoloHoleSet May 3 '17 at 15:47
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Yes - I know people who would consider it inappropriate and unprofessional to ask for a reference in the situation you described. Personally, I'm flexible, but I would still recommend a different approach that will provide better results.

Instead of asking for a reference, it is better to ask for feedback on your performance at your current job.

You represent your company when working with this person. Explaining that you are looking for a new job and asking them to serve as a reference could be considered unprofessional. It might also cause problems if you make them feel awkward or if they decide to mention your job search to someone else at your company, like your boss. Plus, you run the risk of sounding like you're complaining about your current job or the company you work for, which would make things even worse.

However, asking for feedback on your performance is great customer service; after all, everyone you work with is a customer in some sense.

Ask specific questions when you approach them about things related to your work together. Focus on questions that highlight skills that you value and want to promote, but also focus on finding out if there are ways in which you (or your organization) could better serve their needs. You're trying to ask for honest feedback on your performance.

Be prepared for criticism. There is going to be a lot of opportunity for growth early in your career, so they may have a lot of feedback. You may not like what you hear though, so try to remember that quality feedback is actually very valuable; why would you want to waste time making mistakes when you can listen and learn from anyone who cares enough to share their opinion and help you out.

Try to get feedback in writing. And if things are going well, request a Recommendation through LinkedIn. The recommendations on LinkedIn will become part of your professional profile, which is something you can definitely refer prospective employers to.

Finally, if for some reason you feel that you are close enough to trust this person and you still want to ask them to serve as a reference, keep it positive and avoid complaining or being negative at all. If they ask why you are asking for a reference, just explain while you are happy in your current position, a new and exciting opportunity has come up that you would like their help pursuing.

ps. I am okay if you down vote my answer, but feedback on why you are down voting is useful and appreciated.

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When I was building experience, I used to offer to "trade references on LinkedIn" with other peers that were in the same boat. It's a nice offer to make: Give a reference, get a reference. It's not a formal reference, but enough of them can show potential employers that you are not alone in the confidence of your work, and these usually last well beyond when you might have last had contact with each person.

  • Downvotes with no explanation? Maybe I just exposed someone's best secret? – Brian Topping May 1 '17 at 20:21
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    I'll up vote your answer if you up vote mine :D (humor) Joking aside and technically speaking, you didn't answer yes or no to the question presented in the subject of the post. There seem to be certain expectations about how questions or answers are formatted for clarity and conciseness. Your answer implies Yes, but does not specifically say it, so maybe people are down voting because of it. – Lazor May 1 '17 at 21:02
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    Also, I am wondering if people might see the idea of trading referrals as a violation of the ethics or integrity behind the idea of providing referrals. Not sure - just guessing why you are getting down votes. I'd like down votes to require feedback personally. – Lazor May 1 '17 at 21:14
  • Lol! It's unethical if one lies about someone else's referral. Who would ask someone for a referral if they were unwilling to give a good one? It's far more unethical to down vote without a comment than two people who wish to highlight each other's past and future contributions to mutual success. – Brian Topping May 2 '17 at 0:33
  • I'm not one of the downvoters, but my understanding is that references on LinkedIn don't have the same worth. – Student May 3 '17 at 22:28

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