WHAT IF YOU’RE JUST OUT OF SCHOOL AND HAVE NEVER REALLY WORKED?
This is a follow-up piece to the one about the problem of listing personal references on a job application or resume. The question has been subsequently asked, “But what if I’m just out of school and have never really had a full-time job before, will I not have to use personal references?” Not really.
Here is what job seekers who truly haven’t held a traditional 9-to-5 job should do. First, realize that the focus of the reference checking exercise has shifted slightly for new graduates from an evaluation of past job performance to an estimate of job performance potential! Second, identify people you’ve “worked” with while in school. Folks who fit this category include a major professor who remembers you and can comment on qualities like attendance, getting projects done on time, participation in class, grades, ability to work effectively as a member of a team, and an estimate of how you would be likely to perform on the job.
Another ideal reference would be an activity advisor who oversaw some campus activity in which you were involved. Then the questions tend to be about qualities like dependability; willingness to take on extra responsibility; leadership; ability to work effectively with others; and other qualities like attitude, interpersonal skill, and ambition – all qualities a prospective employer would be interested in knowing.
A third reference could be a coach, a counselor, or another adult you interacted with as part of some community service activity. The same sort of questions would apply to any of these “personal” references.
Finally, even if it was only a summer job or a job just on weekends during school, whoever supervised your work will have some sense of your dependability, willingness to get the job done, attitude on the job, and other similar qualities that suggest what sort of employee you’ll be. Taken altogether, these types of “personal” references can give a prospective employer a very good sense of your job performance potential.
There’s another tangential point that should be fairly obvious to anyone who’s still in school. Taking part in campus life is very important. The individual who’s going to have the most trouble landing a solid entry-level job is the one who did nothing but go back and forth to class, who took part in no campus activities, and who spent all free time doing nothing but studying. The point is most employers want well-rounded graduates who were good students and who were active in campus and/or community activities. Given the choice between two students who made comparable grades – one of whom was active in campus life and the other who just went back and forth to class – whom do you think the prospective employer is going to choose when the time comes to make a job offer? Well, the answer is obvious. By taking part in campus life, a student will be able to provide suitable references who will be happy to discuss job performance potential and, in some cases, actual job performance!