Celebrate Update Your References Week

No matter the week, revising your reference list can be done in a few steps.

Update Your References Week is the first full week of May. Even if it is not the first week of May, it is wise to take a few minutes to consider whether your reference list is helping or hurting you in your career search.

A reference list is a document listing three to five non-familial people who can speak about your skills and abilities to your potential employers. Its purpose is to allow a potential employer to learn more about your character, strengths and weaknesses through conversations with others who have interacted with you. To create your reference list from scratch or improve its set-up, Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has helpful suggestions on how to set up your reference list.

Consider the following questions.

Is your reference still relevant? Is this an individual who can best comment on your current skill set, work ethic and qualities? If it has been quite a few years since you have worked with them, their perspective might not be considered very valuable by the reference checker. Who might be a better fit based on more recent interactions, especially as related to the role for which you are currently applying?

Is the contact information accurate? Perhaps your reference has a new role or title, email or phone number. Make sure these details are accurate to avoid an issue when your potential employer attempts to contact your reference.

Does your reference know they are still a reference for you? Again, if some time has passed, reach out and remind your reference about the type of positions for which you are applying. Share your updated resume with your reference and give a brief synopsis on anything that has changed such as education, volunteer experience or other work roles you have had. Thank them again for being willing to share information about your skills and abilities with a potential employer.

Are your references appropriate for the role for which you are applying? Having an expanded list of references you can choose from allows you to create a list with references who know your qualities best in relation to that role. This is a good time to determine which references serve what need.

Having a well-planned reference list can positively impact your career opportunities. Take a few minutes to review it today!

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2015 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Careers and Employment.”

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