A year ago, I applied for a role as my fixed-term contract was about to expire. My then-manager gave me a good reference which helped me to get the position I applied for, also a contracted role.
Now that my current contract is about to expire, I am looking at other roles. I asked my old manager if they could be an alternative referee for my current employer (my current manager can be difficult to get hold of). The answer was no.
I am bewildered as I had left my previous role on good terms. Can you shed any light on the reasons behind my old manager’s about-face?
My first reaction to your question was much the same as yours: I was bemused. What would bring about such a sharp change in sentiment? But when I thought about it a little bit more, I realised I might have been jumping to conclusions — or at least only looking at the situation from one point of view.
From where you stand, it may appear that your old employer is turning their back on you and for no obvious reason. A year is a long time, however, and so much could have changed for your ex-manager during that period — in their career and their personal life. What may seem like a rude about-face or even reproval may not be meant that way at all. It may have little to do with you, in fact. Or there may be a fair reason why they’ve decided to say no this time.
I asked Giles Hirst from the Research School of Management at the Australian National University about his thoughts on why your previous manager had decided they no longer wanted to be your referee. His first question centred on whether you had kept in contact in the intervening 12 months.
“A common lament of managers, teachers and academics alike is, after having worked or invested in someone’s development, observing them go onto different jobs and continue to ask for references without keeping in touch,” he said.
“It’s a good idea to keep in touch with one’s network, especially if they’re an important career referral.”
Hirst says by remaining in contact, you not only make it more likely that they’ll help you if you need it, but is also good for wellbeing — yours and theirs.
“It creates a virtuous circle. When someone reaches out to a past or longstanding mentor to tell them how grateful they are for their help and how this formative experience has boosted their career and life, people feel pride about helping others.
“They are likely to see this person’s development as important to their own identity, and to be enthusiastic about supporting them further.”
Hirst says there’s no need to take what may seem like a rejection to heart or dwell on it. Instead, consider whether there are other people in your professional or wider network who can vouch for your expertise and experience.
“Look more broadly at other people — whether clients, teachers, academics or other business associates — who might offer a good reference.”
It’s also worth keeping in mind that hiring managers generally won’t be deterred by a current boss who’s hard to get hold of, Hirst says.
“If recruiters and prospective employers don’t get onto your boss immediately, they will often retry,” he said. “And it gives you a good reason to further connect with your potential employer; by suggesting alternatives, you’re demonstrating your responsiveness. You can show that you are proactive and interested in the role, turning a question mark into a positive about you.”
There are many possible reasons why your old employer said “no”. If you’re really curious (or worried) about why they’ve decided not to be your referee this time round, you might want to follow up. But I think the best course of action is not to worry about it. Put it behind you with no hard feelings and turn your mind to creating the best application you can, replete with referees you might not have considered before.
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Source: Thanks smh.com