Getting Your First References

Posted by Rob Riggins

getting your first referencesWhen you were in high school and applied for part-time work, you could list your neighbor, your friend’s mom and other casual acquaintances as the references for your part-time jobs.

But once you’re a college graduate applying for professional jobs, you know those references aren’t professional. But whom can you offer as a reference if you’ve never had a professional job – or perhaps any job? Sure you had good grades and teachers seemed to like you, but you don’t necessarily want to use them as a reference. You’re stuck. Or are you? Here’s how to get great references when you’re just starting your cyber security career:

Internship supervisors and colleagues. Supervisors at both paid and nonpaid internships are some of the best references you can approach. They can vouch for your professionalism and your initiative. They can also explain how you acclimated to the professional work environment and established a solid rapport with colleagues. Don’t forget about other professionals that you interacted with in these positions. They are certainly networking targets and may be good references too.

Professors. Are there professors who were impressed with your passion for your professional studies? Who served as mentors? Who guided you on extracurricular or other professional projects? Who helped you secure internships or recommended you for professional positions? The professors with whom you bonded, especially those who taught in your major field of study, are ideal candidates to serve as your professional references.

Supervisors at volunteer positions. Any volunteer work – especially career related positions – looks impressive on your resume. Of course you’ll spell out your work experience at those assignments but don’t forget to ask the supervisors or conference leaders for references. Those people you meet and work with at cyber security conferences and workshops are great networking contacts and will likely be happy to serve as references and perhaps even mentors.

Mentors. Have you done informational interviews with cyber security professionals? Did you shadow someone when you decided what career to pursue? Those mentors are among your best potential references.

Alumni. Did you work with an alumni from your college when considering your major or career path in cyber security? Did you turn to an alumni for guidance on your major or career path? Those alumni are among the potential references you should approach.

Peers. Think about the other students you tutored or who you worked with on projects, or other exceptional experiences. Ask the student who supervised or led the project, the faculty adviser or even someone whom you mentored or taught to offer a reference.

Join LinkedIn. No, it’s not old school. It’s practical and professional. If you haven’t already, join LinkedIn and reach out to professors, college teachers, supervisors and other professionals with whom you interacted. That’s networking that you need to be doing, now. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn and for the person to serve as a professional reference as well. And don’t forget to return the favor and write recommendations on LinkedIn for anyone who asks, too. Your goal is to expand your circle of professional contacts.

Carefully select your references. References are a crucial part of your professional presentation. Don’t choose anyone who you don’t believe will give you less than an outstanding recommendation. And of course, ask permission before you use someone as a reference, and keep them posted with your job search progress.

Don’t be offended if someone declines the request to serve as a reference. They might be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. Also, try to only include references that are relevant to your career path. Your high school experiences, unless they were extraordinary such as serving as a Congressional page, are probably not relevant and too far in the past.

Establishing your career offers challenges. Reaching out to those who you’ve turned to for guidance, counsel and experience can boost your references and propel you on your professional path.



This entry was posted on Monday, March 06, 2017 6:43 am

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