I'm a student with no job experience. Who should I ask to be a reference?

It's summer so I'm not sure if I can use teachers as references since their phone will be the school one. I have volunteer experience, but my volunteer director can't be contacted at this time. Also, my volunteer director's co-workers don't really know me that well, if at all.

I'm wondering, who I can use as a reference in a time like this?

  • 6
    What kind of jobs are you applying to? If you are still in high school, the types of jobs you'd be applying for most likely won't need references.
    – David K
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


Just because you've never had a "legitimate" job doesn't mean you don't have references. Teachers/faculty are excellent references. Approach them about this, and mention that you'd like to provide valuable contact information. You've probably got friends who are in the same position. These are also valid character references, but I would be very selective. Only ask the friends who you trust will represent themselves professionally. Someone who can't be bothered to be professional on their own will absolutely not be able to be professional on your behalf.

Another resource would be family friends for whom you've done work of any kind. Anyone who can vouch for your work ethic and responsibility under any pseudo-professional context will be good enough.

At this stage in your working life, character references are the most important. It's understood you don't have a lot of work experience and won't be able to provide those kinds of references.


There's little more to do.

If this is going to be your first job, and you don't have institutional contacts (e.g. a mentor from your University), then your only other option is to look for volunteer experience.

However, in those conditions, I would just state to the new employer that you cannot provide references - they shouldn't have any problems with that, given your current situation & experience.


I've used coworkers and friends as references. I have friends who still continue to use me as a reference over past managers. These are friends whom I've worked with in a professional or classroom setting. In both situations, I'm able to speak to their ability to act professionally and/or work in a team.

Honestly, none of my references have ever been contacted and I've never been contacted so I can't say if this has had a positive outcome in a job search or not.

As for asking a teacher, this will depend on high school vs college.

Many college professors/teachers work summer hours (teaching is not the sole responsibility of professors). You can definitely try calling and leaving a voicemail or email them! (if you don't have their emails, your college website might have it available)

For high school, this is a bit trickier. You could always drop by the school and see if anyone is around, honestly, even in HS, teachers are there sometimes during the summer. Or you could call the school, either a receptionist will answer and you can ask if so-and-so will be in any time soon and if not how to contact them if it's okay or a prerecorded message should play telling you the summer hours of the school.

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