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Who Can I Use As A Reference For My First Job? 6 Options Explained

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Are you new to the workforce and struggling to figure out what to use as references? You are not the only person in this position.

Many people think they can not provide references if they have never had a job as coworkers can also make great references. However, you likely have more reference options than you think!

So, if you’re wondering “who can i use as a reference for my first job” read on to learn who you can use as a reference to help you land your dream job. You likely have several people you can use as references for your first job!

Who Can I Use as a Reference for My First Job?

References can come from more than just professional contacts. Look for people you know in academic settings, from volunteering, or other parts of your day-to-day life. Here are six great options if you need a reference.

A Professor

If you go to college or recently graduated, professors are a great reference resource. They know what your work ethic is like, and what it’s like working with you daily.

Professors also have a certain level of credibility, meaning a prospective employer will likely value their opinion. Teachers from high schools and other educational institutions also make good references.

A Friend or Family Member You Worked For

Even if you are new to formal employment, you may have built up experience helping out family or friends in a work-like capacity.

For example, if you mowed lawns, tutored younger cousins, or delivered papers in your neighborhood, you may be able to ask the people you worked with for a recommendation. They can speak to your work ethic and attitude.

A Fellow Student

While many people think that you can only go to a person of authority for a recommendation, that doesn’t mean you can’t look elsewhere to help flesh out your character for a potential employer.

A peer, such as a fellow student, can talk about what it is like working with you on academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Someone Who Led You in the Past

There are plenty of leaders who can make for a great reference, even if they never directly employed you. Consider asking sports coaches, club heads, camp counselors, religious leaders, or any other person who led a group of which you were a part.

Besides speaking to your collaboration skills, this type of reference can also support any interests you mention having in the rest of your job application.

Someone at a Place You Volunteered

Volunteering is always a good idea. Besides helping others, volunteering helps you build skills, develop lifelong relationships, and show that you’re a well-rounded individual.

Volunteer leaders and peers can be compelling references. They can talk about you being good at teamwork and any skills associated with volunteering.

A Guidance Counselor

Guidance counselors know your accolades well. They usually have a good handle on your academic history, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of your life. As a result, they can provide a reference that describes you as a full person.

Who Should You Never Use as a Reference?

While references are often essential to landing a job, you could hamper your efforts if you make the wrong choices. There are a few people you should never ask for a reference if you want to get the job.

Someone You Didn’t Get Along Well With

The key to a good reference is finding someone who knows you well and wants you to succeed. In most cases, the person fitting that description will be someone you got along with.

Of course, someone who you did not mesh with will not want to spend their time writing a glowing recommendation for you. In some cases, they may even write a negative recommendation, so be careful with your picks.

Someone You Haven’t Checked With First

Asking someone for a recommendation is an essential step in the process. Failing to do so could be seen as rude and unprofessional.

Plus, not giving a reference advance notice means they will not be able to prepare adequately. You might end up with a sub-par reference and an awkward conversation with the person you failed to communicate with.

Why Are References Important?

References are vital because they give a prospective employer a fuller idea of who you are as a person and what you would be like as an employee.

They flesh out your character, attitude, and abilities in a way that a resume alone will not capture. References lend you credibility and make an employer more likely to hire you.

What Do You Do if You Have No References for Your First Job?

If you have absolutely nobody in the above categories to ask for a reference, all is not lost. You should still apply for the job. Often the strength of your resume will be enough to get your foot in the door. Even if you don’t get hired, practicing applying is still valuable.

Without professional references, you can also try to get some references from friends or family. These can discuss your character and how you apply yourself in daily life.  

Do Companies Actually Call References?

It is a myth that prospective employers do not call references. While some jobs ask for them and never contact the person directly, most do. If there are several rounds to the interview process, a prospective employer will likely not call references until the final rounds.

At that stage, they may want to verify certain details or find out more about you. Positive feedback from a referee can be a deciding factor for a prospective employer to hire you.

Can You Fake a Reference?

While it is possible to fake a reference by giving a friend’s number to a prospective employer and having that friend pretend to be someone else, you should never do this. Faking a reference is not how you want to start a new job. It could get you in trouble and set you up for failure.

Why Not to Fake a Reference

Here are a few specific reasons why you should never fake a reference.

  • It’s Wrong: On a moral level, it is simply wrong to fake a reference. That’s especially so when you can honestly use a friend as a character reference.
  • It’s Illegal: Faking a reference on a job application is committing fraud. While most employers will not take legal action if they see you have fake references, some will.
  • You May Get Caught: Most prospective employers do check in with your references. If they find out you faked a reference, they will likely reject your application immediately. If you get hired based on fake references and later get caught, you will probably get fired, and this damage to your career could follow you for a long time.

How To Ask Someone To Be Your Reference

For those new to the workforce, understanding how to ask for a reference can be daunting. But, remember, asking someone for a reference is common and most people are usually happy to provide one.

However, there are right and wrong ways to ask someone to be your reference. Making such an inquiry is asking someone to dedicate time and thought to something that will help you.

1. Give the Person Advance Notice

Good communication is essential when asking for a reference for help. Part of high-quality communication is giving a reference as much advance notice as possible. Doing so will demonstrate you respect your reference’s time, and they will have time for a thoughtful review of you. Two or three months notice is ideal.  

2. Ask Politely

There’s no question that saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. With that in mind, use polite language whenever you reach out for a reference over the phone or in person.

Asking for a reference via email is perfectly acceptable so long as your message is structured appropriately. Regardless of how you contact them, be sure to give your reference reason to want to speak well of you and your abilities.

3. Give Them Details About the Job

Telling your reference about the job helps them know what elements to highlight when talking to your potential employer. Also, if your reference seems well-informed about a job when talking to the employer, that will indicate you care about the job.

4. Follow Up

It is always a good idea to follow up with your references. Besides finding out how the conversation went, a follow-up discussion can give you more information about the job and make your reference feel valued.

5. Thank Them

Thanking your reference is essential to maintaining a good relationship with them. Consider a thoughtful card soon after they give their reference. If you get the job, give your reference something special, such as a bottle of wine or a candle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions people have about references and applying for jobs.

Is it Okay to Only Have 1 Reference?

While two to three references are usually desirable when starting with an employer, you may find yourself in a situation where you only have one solid reference.

If that is the case, go ahead, and apply since one is still better than not applying at all. If possible, try to provide at least a few character references.

Can I Use a Friend as a Reference?

It is best to use someone who is not a friend or relative as a reference since a prospective employer may think they are biased.

However, friends as references can be a helpful tool. Especially for someone new to the workforce, a friend who gives a good referral is better than nothing.  

Wrapping Up

So, now you have the answers to the question, “who can i use as a reference for my first job.” Of course, entering the workforce can be stressful but you are better equipped than you think.

And there are plenty of people in your life you can use as references, even if you never had a job. Try talking to people from other areas of your life, such as professors, guidance counselors, peers, volunteers, club leaders, and employers who are family friends.

Please comment below if you have any questions. If you want more information, such as examples of great reference pages, check out the rest of our site.  

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