Providing references is often a required step in a job or internship application. Asking someone to vouch for you and your work can be intimidating. A lot of times we feel like there isn’t anyone we can ask. However, developing references isn’t as hard as you think it is! Refer to the quick guide below to help you figure out who you can ask for references.
This is usually the most obvious choice. A previous or current boss always looks great as a reference, provided they have good things to say about you (this is one of many many reasons you should be a team player and avoid alienating bosses during the job or after you leave it). They can speak to your professional ethic and quality of work. But Emily, you might ask, how am I supposed to get a reference from my boss if I’ve never had a boss before? No problem! Just keep reading.
Most (if not all) professors on campus are happy to write letters of recommendations for students they have worked with. This means that in class, you should be participating. After class, go to office hours with meaningful questions. And of course, do well on their assignments and exams. If you’re working with a professor on their research project, they are also a great person to ask to be a reference. Don’t just think of professors as talking heads standing at the front of a lecture hall and reciting a 100 slide powerpoint. They are professionals in your field of interest with years and years of experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know them and expand your network.
Ideally, your references would come from a person who knows you in an academic or professional setting. However, sometimes that’s not possible. After you exhaust those two options, turn to personal references. These can be from an organization you volunteered with (if it relates to your major, that is even better) or a mentor you’ve worked with through extracurricular activities. Just be sure they can speak about your work ethic and your professional capabilities and growth.
When listing someone as a reference, always make sure to ask them first! It's never a good thing when your recommender is blindsided by a phone call or email. Check out our new 2018-2019 Career Guide for more information (page 36 will be especially helpful).