ARE REFERENCES FROM PART-TIME JOBS WORTH ANYTHING?
This is the second follow-up to the piece I wrote about whether or not personal references are a waste of time. The first follow-up had to do with students who are just out of school and have never really had a full-time job. Now the question has arisen about the value of references from those who have only had part-time jobs during the summer while in school. I alluded to this in the previous piece, but it deserves expansion.
If all your jobs have been short-term summer jobs or part-time jobs while in school – and that’s all you have to work with – references from at least three people you’ve worked with during the summer or on weekends or a few hours a day during the school day will usually be satisfactory to prospective employers. One of the keys to job performance-based reference checking is looking for consistency among what references have to say. Even for a part-time or summer job, an employer will have a fair sense of qualities like dependability, overall job performance, attitude on the job, career development needs, and so forth. If the assessments of at least three references are consistent, then the prospective employer can make a more informed hiring decision based on those comments.
The only real disadvantage to references that are shorter term in nature is they’re not quite as reliable as references that knew and worked with the candidate over an extended period of time. “He only worked here three months during the summer” isn’t as obviously reliable a predictor of future job performance as, “He and I worked together for over five years.” But, if short-term work references are all you have, they’re better than none at all and certainly better than a next-door neighbor who can only comment on how often you washed the car!
The secret to the selection of references lies not so much with whom you choose, but the quality and consistency of your job performance between employers and over time. If, for example, three different summer employers, extending over three summers, describe you the same way, then a prospective employer’s hiring decision will be that much easier. So, ultimately, it’s how well the candidate for employment has performed – regardless of the length of time on the job – that really matters. If you’ve done a good job for a summer or part-time employer, it won’t really matter whom you ask to be your references because you’ll know what they’re likely to say!
It’s important to note that I’m not advocating working while going to school as an essential part of the hiring process. Summer jobs usually make more sense than working during school, assuming that’s an optional decision. The key to landing that first real job after graduation is simply to have done the best job possible for every employer regardless of the type of job it was or the length of time you were there.