As we all know, references can make you or break you. References are your lifeline to more money and a better career opportunity!

No doubt your performance speaks for itself, but someone needs to back it up. In today’s workforce, you are permitted by federal guidelines only to retrieve dates of employment and salary verification from former employers. Not one person—HR or an employer—can go off on a tangent about you whether you were good or bad. But we all know if you were as good as you profess to be, then naturally everyone would be most happy to share that information. Yes, we know it can be tough out there and very competitive, but most often we find people are willing to share in one’s success.

Should you ever leave a position, it is most important that you retain some type of contact with that supervisor person, even if it is just a once-a-year card, note, or e-mail at the holidays. Of course, if at all possible upon exiting the company, request a letter of recommendation from your supervisor (make sure it is on letterhead company stationery and that the letter is signed). You chuckle, but you would be surprised at how many “letter of recommendation” emails we receive that were poorly created in Microsoft Word with a fake heading and no signature.

Keep track of who would be a good reference before you are in need of having to provide references. No prospective employer or recruiter in the Atlanta area wants to see you hem-n-haw over who you might be able to use for a reference—this only throws up red flags and questions your organizational ability.

Keep a little notebook or document:

  • List all of your jobs, with addresses and the titles of the position you held with the company.
  • Then list who all of your supervisors were and their titles, because you may have worked within different departments during your tenure with the company.
  • Add personal contact information as well—cell, email address, etc.—so that you may make contact when needed.
  • Most importantly, keep it updated as time goes by.

I can tell you the name of my first owner from 35 years ago! No joke. I have had some wonderful experiences during my career and have had the opportunity to work with some truly remarkable people. And, yes, people move, change jobs, and life goes on—but I have been very successful in keeping in touch through the years. Now, understand that you aren’t going to need a reference from 35 years ago—but the point is we should be able to retain a little information to make our job search go a great deal smoother.

In the business world, whether big or small, no matter what community you live in, everyone seems to know somebody in the industry. You want to make sure you have a clean slate as far as references and job performance go.

We hear day in and day out, “Well, it’s company policy that they are not permitted to provide references; everything must go through human resources!” Nonsense. Again, if you were as good as you profess to be, there is someone who is most willing to go out on a limb for you.

It brings us great joy when we have successfully obtained another glowing reference on one of our applicants. Sometimes your references prove more powerful than you think!


  • Keep track of your professional references in a notebook or document.
  • Track your past jobs, titles, and supervisors (name, address, phone number).
  • Keep it with your important papers or files.
  • Touch base either by phone, e-mail or card at least once a year.
  • Keep information updated.

So what are you waiting for? Get busy building those lifelines!