What about the job seeker who has only worked at one place for an extended period of time? What if a prospective employer wants to talk to at least one reference from the job seeker’s current place of employment?
And what if the job seeker has only worked at one place for, let’s say, the last ten years (or more) and he doesn’t necessarily want his employer to know that he’s looking for other job opportunities. How can he line up appropriate references? The job seeker needs to start by identifying people he’s worked with who’ve retired, taken other jobs, or moved to other functional areas within the company—people who can be trusted to keep not only the job search confidential, but who will also agree to serve as references for the job seeker.
If the job seeker’s best references are still with the current employer, however, then trust becomes the central issue. It’s up to the job seeker to come up with references willing to talk from among those people with whom he currently works. That means the job seeker will have to ask the appropriate people—confidentially—to be references for him.
Here’s a suggestion: The easiest way to enlist references is away from the work place, over lunch, or after work some afternoon. If they are loyal friends (and only the job seeker can be the judge of that), they won’t violate that request for confidentiality. By the same token, if the people willing to be references feel uncomfortable talking to a prospective employer while at work, then the job seeker should ask them if they would mind taking a call at home. It’s not uncommon for references to be glad to talk about the job seeker at home during the evening or on a weekend. Finally, it’s important for the job seeker to stress that he is not asking references to speak on behalf of the company, but only to state facts or offer an honestly held opinion about the job seeker’s job performance—and nothing more.
This approach should make it much easier for the long-term employee to find references to give the prospective new employer.