Is a reference really necessary to get a new job?
The job market is highly competitive. If you don’t have any references, it can be very difficult to get your foot in the door.
Getting a new job is tough. If you’re doing it right, it can almost be a full time job in itself. Modifying your resume for different roles, writing dozens of cover letters, searching job boards, reaching out to recruiters and following up with many different businesses at a time can be exhausting stuff.
It gets even harder when you don’t have the basic requirements of many employers. This includes references. Employers request references so that they can get a good idea of what kind of employee you are and how you’ve performed in the past. They’re making a big commitment by hiring you, and want to make sure that you’ve got the skills and the personality that you claim to have on your resume or during an interview.
Most employers or recruiters won’t ask for references until they’ve shortlisted you for a role. This usually happens after the interview stage. They’ve spoken to several candidates and narrowed it down to a few that they like. Now it’s crunch time, and they ask for references.
So, what do you do if you can’t find anyone to vouch for you? It can be exceedingly difficult if you’re new to the workforce and simply don’t have a past manager to use as a reference. If you’ve ended past roles on bad terms with your employer or manager, seeking a major career change, or are returning to the workforce after a long absence, you might find yourself in the same boat.
Many employers will raise an eyebrow when you tell them you don’t have any references. However, there are some ways to get around the issue.
Offer an Extended Probation or Work for Free
When you interview for a new position, employers only have your word as to how well you can work. That’s why they ask for references before committing to hire you. Even with fantastic references, many jobs come with a probation period, usually around three months. To assuage your prospective employer’s concerns, offer an extended probation of six months. That will give them plenty of time to decide if you’re right for their organisation.
If that’s not really an option, offer to complete a two week trial without pay. This will show that you’re extremely keen for the role, and willing to go the extra mile to get it. Of course, some shady employers might take advantage of you, but if they’re at the point that they’re asking for references, there’s a good chance that they want you to work there.
Smash the Interview
This isn’t a particularly reliable method, but it can work. Go into the interview fully prepared, knock it out of the park, and then be upfront about your situation. If you can clearly demonstrate you’ve got the skills and experience to do the job, and don’t illustrate any major attitude problems upfront, then the employer might just take a risk on you.
A very large number of new jobs come through networking rather than job boards. Developing a robust network is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for career success.
Go to industry events, talk to people and let your desire for a new job become known. Once you’ve run into the same people a few times and developed good relationships, you’ll be surprised at the number of job opportunities that start to arise.
Whether or not you need to get a new job immediately, networking is a great way to keep your options open and ensure that you hear about awesome opportunities when they open up.
If you’ve found your career calling, it pays to get qualified. If you have the necessary qualifications to do a job well, you may stand out over other candidates who can provide a list of references. It’s still not a perfect solution, however. In a competitive job market, many other candidates will have qualifications.
With a few qualifications under your belt, you can at least prove that you’re committed to the job and have taken extensive steps to get better at it. Employers want qualified candidates, and will be more willing to take a chance if you have the right qualifications than if you don’t.
If your line of work allows for it, do some freelancing or jobs on the side. This is a great way to illustrate that you can acquire and manage clients and perform all the tasks that are necessary to the role.
If you can get a decent suite of clients together and do a number of side gigs, you’ll gain plenty of additional experience that will be invaluable during a job search. If you’re good enough, you may never need to apply for a job again.
Just Get a Reference
Sometimes, none of the above works. So, without any work experience or past managers willing to act as a reference, what can you do?
Volunteering is an effective way of gaining work experience and, hopefully, a reference. It often doesn’t matter whether it’s strictly related to your preferred job. If you can prove yourself to be a good worker who’s willing to go the extra mile, that will often do the trick.
Don’t make it obvious that you’re volunteering just for the sake of a reference. Commit to your work and do a good job, and don’t ask for a reference straight away.
Reach out to people you know.
If there’s anyone you know with their own business, you may be able to get some part-time work and eventually earn a reference. Additionally, some people might be willing to act as a character reference for you, although most employers require a work reference.
Ask a teacher or professor.
While not strictly a work reference, teachers and professors can help you get your foot in the door. Provided you’re not a terrible student, most teachers will be willing to provide you with a reference. After all, they’ve spent a lot of time helping you develop into a productive human being. They’d be happy to see you find work.
Get a very entry level role.
If all else fails, you may need to set your sights lower. There are a number of roles out there that will hire without any work experience or references. These may not be particularly glamorous, and may not be the best pathway to your ideal job, but something is better than nothing.
If you work hard and commit to whatever you’re doing, you may be able to get your manager or boss to provide a reference that will help get you a step closer to the job you really want.
Improve your chances of getting that dream job. Call us today for a chat about your goals and we’ll help you develop a career plan to get there.