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When is it Appropriate to Ask for a Reference?

Periodically updating and having a resume ready or nearly ready to use at any given circumstance is a good idea in the current economic climate. My own thinking is that people should always be at least passively looking for a job regardless of their situation; and by passive, I mean simply keeping your ears open, being receptive to consider opportunities – that’s all, no big deal. I’ve written other blog entries that discuss it more fully but, even then, it’s simply a short blog entry, my book provides more detail. The same goes for references, don’t wait to be asked for them before you start scrambling one step behind where you should be; that’s what the zombies do, reacting with no forethought – and as is their nature, zombies don’t take my advice because it means having to think one move or more ahead in the chess game of life – they’re having a tough enough time just playing checkers.
As for when to ask for references, you do it as opportunity affords rather than after a hiring manager alerts you to the request. For example, if you are leaving a company or if someone who is a potential reference is going elsewhere – ask them if they are willing and would be a reference and get their private contact details. If you wait you may not be able to locate them, might waste time trying to find them and the longer span of time the less enthusiastic they may be, and how confident, as a result, will you feel about presenting such a reference.
Being a bit of an opportunist should be a factor in your thinking as well. After you’ve gotten a pat on the back for a job well done, a project concluded or any other event that puts you in a good light, ask if they would provide you with a reference for your file. This simple act does not mean you are looking for a job and you can reasonably suggest you maintain a file of such items. And what if a boss suspects you may possibly be looking for a job, or at a minimum keeping your options open – good, all the better. It is possible whomever you ask may put you off and suggest that if / when the time comes they are happy to be a reference; that is also a plus, add their name to your go-to list.
I am also a strong believer in the use of written reference letters because it doesn’t matter if they might be on vacation or you have to track them down, you’ll have a written reference in the meantime that may bridge the gap.  The best thing about a written reference is two-fold, it shows someone thought enough about you to produce a written statement on your behalf and the second reason –you know what they will say about you. But this subject also, regarding the value and use of written references, is also the topic of another past blog in the archives listed on the blog site.
My biggest task, generally speaking, is to break the bad habit of people thinking they can sit back, do nothing and when they need a job succumb to the false premise that all you need to do is send a few resumes and voila, you have a great new job. It doesn’t work that way. Not planning ahead is the biggest reason people find themselves freaked out because they have said to themselves “I’ll do it later”. I suppose that from a business perspective I am urging people to acquire and develop some professional survival skills. If the word survival is a little strident for you, use the term adaptable.
Surely you’ve heard of Preppers, or at least the term; those who accumulate and prepare things in order to be ready in the case of a hurricane, a prolonged power outage or any number of contingencies. Well, the global economy and subsequent jobs market is more erratic than ever and I am suggesting you adopt just such a mindset regarding your career readiness and, if need be, your career survival. I don’t have much pity for those who know they should do something in order to better provide for themselves; the means and info to take advantage is there for them and they do nothing, lazily awaiting something or someone else to do it for them.
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