Q&A: How To Handle A Bad Job Reference


office2I need to find a better job, but I’m stuck. I don’t want to use anyone at my current job as a reference because I don’t want them to know I’m looking. My supervisor from my previous job didn’t like me. I think that former boss is saying bad things about me to other employers. How can I get a good reference from my past job?


Your current or past boss is not the only person you can use as a reference.

Think about other people who:1) know what kind of work you do or 2) know you are a good employee.

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In addition to direct supervisors, others you can use for a work reference include:

  • Past coworkers
  • Current coworkers (if confidentiality is not an issue)
  • Heads of other departments at your company
  • Current or former customers or clients (if confidentiality is not an issue)
  • Your former college professors
  • Your college or professional development classmates
  • Supervisors and coworkers from volunteer projects

Most importantly, you need to make professional contacts outside of your job. Your Career Identity is most then your current job. Likewise, your Professional Community should include people with whom you do not work with everyday.

peoplecircleIf fact, most people’s Professional Communities, or network, include people who work in different industries and people who are at higher and lower positions than themselves.

You want a Professional Community with different types of people because you never know where your next work opportunity will come from. Plus, the more people who know that you are a good worker or have strong skills, the less you need to depend on your supervisors for references.

Join professional organizations or other groups where people working in your career field can get to know you. When someone, like a hiring manager, knows you personally and professionally, he or she is not just taking someone else’s word about what you are like — they have more information about you than what a reference can give.

You can control over your next career move, not your former supervisor. Instead of worrying about one negative reference, build your Professional Community and focus on all of the people who might give you positive references.

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