How to ask for a job recommendation without blowing your cover

With inflation eroding people’s paychecks, more and more workers are looking for better-paying jobs — an endeavor that usually requires references from people who can vouch for your skills and character.

Employers often require that professional job references come from a person’s manager or supervisor, rather than a friend or colleague. And while your line manager is probably more familiar with your skills than anyone else, in most cases they’re not the best person to ask for a reference. At best, such a request can lead to an awkward conversation. At worst, it could result in lasting consequences if things go wrong and give your employer a hint that you want to leave.

For one, at a time when some big employers are planning large-scale layoffs to cut costs while the economy slows, it might not be wise to let your boss know you’re considering a move. This can leave job seekers in a quandary: How do you secure a reference without alerting your employer that you’re considering a change, especially at a time when your boss is eyeing job cuts?

Below, experts outline how best to get a positive recommendation without jeopardizing your job.

Find a good mentor

It is important that every employee seek a mentor who can guide them on issues ranging from managing conflict in the workplace to formulating aspirations and achieving personal career goals.

Consider skipping a level and asking a workplace contact one rank above your line manager who may be less interested in you meeting immediate deadlines and more willing to guide you on long-term goals.

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Start building a relationship with a mentor before exploring new opportunities, executive coach Brooks Scott told CBS MoneyWatch.

“A lot of people wait for that kind of serious conversation, and the first time they reach out to their mentor is to ask them for a recommendation, but the first time they go to their mentor to talk about their Talking about career development shouldn’t be asking for a reference,” Scott said. “Talk about growing your career and things you can do professionally to gain experience and make yourself marketable.

Who should I ask?

Asking your line manager to be your mentor — and the person you go to for a reference — is risky, career experts say.

“I don’t think someone’s manager is a good person to ask for a mentor because they’re more focused on getting you done,” Scott said. “I always try to find mentors from a different department or at a higher level than my manager in the same department. These people will be less interested in your genuine desire to stay with your business and more willing to help you. “

Other career coaches say it’s best to turn to peers or industry contacts when looking for a reference, rather than a manager at your current company.

“Ask someone within the company who you work closely with,” says Yolanda Owens, a careers coach at The Muse, a careers website for job seekers. “It can be a colleague or even a client who knows your job well and who you trust so they don’t go back to your boss and tell them you’re out there fishing.”

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If a prospective employer insists the recommendation comes from your line manager, say you will give one – assuming you get an offer, Owens added.

Should the reference be in writing?

There’s no harm in keeping contacts from previous jobs or companies up to date just in case You are fired and suddenly you are looking for a new job.

Try to keep in touch with old bosses and make sure you have their most recent contact information in case you are asked to provide such details in an application.

“In today’s market where job security is not a given, it’s good to have a contingency plan,” said Owens.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a written recommendation, although an old-fashioned letter of reference is usually no longer necessary.

“The general reference letter from a few years ago may not be as relevant as we think. Now it’s more about nurturing that relationship. It’s better than having a piece of paper on file,” Scott said.

Hiring managers also know that candidates only ask for recommendations from bosses they can rely on to commend them, which diminishes their importance.

Instead, HR managers like to practice so-called “backchanneling”.

“You look at people you connect with on LinkedIn social channels who have worked with you professionally and ask if they can talk to you and get feedback on your performance and demeanor at work,” he said Scott Dobroski of Indeed job board.

He added, “In this whole world of reviews we live in, you’re more likely to trust a review from someone who is authentic and not just saying good things about you.”

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