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Ask a Supervisor for a Job Reference

If you haven't left your current job yet, approaching your supervisor for a job reference can be tricky. It's an age-old dilemma: how do you ask a for a job reference without letting on that you're looking for a new job? The simple answer is that you can't. However, you may want to consider asking for that job reference before you hit the job market.

Examine the reasons for your hesitation to ask for a job reference. Fear of upsetting a boss with the news that you're leaving a job isn't a good reason not to ask for a reference--he'll be upset when you give notice anyway. A boss who doesn't want you to leave is likely to have positive things to say about you. If your concern is that he'll say bad things about your job performance, asking for his reference probably isn't worth it.

Evaluate your relationship with your supervisor honestly. An open and communicative relationship easily lends itself to approaching your boss for a job reference. Ongoing discord, however, should make you question whether her reference would be more harm than help. In such cases consider approaching another supervisor or a colleague with more tenure for a reference.

Keep your employer informed of your long-term career goals, as well as your plans and timetable for meeting those goals. In many companies this is already part of the annual review process. A supervisor who knows your ambitions is less likely to be surprised when you take a job to further them.

Ask for a letter of reference prior to needing it. During your annual review, ask your supervisor to provide a letter reiterating the positive aspects of your conversation. You can also ask for an updated copy of your job description with a letter outlining how your accomplishments meet the duties. Just be sure not to use the letter as a reference without your supervisor's knowledge.

Speak candidly with your supervisor about why you are looking to leave your current position. People leave jobs all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with job satisfaction. Furthering a career, making use of a new degree or moving are all reasons a supervisor is bound to understand.



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