9 Tips for Choosing the Right Professional Referees
November 5, 2020
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By Helen Green 

Referees are key to job search success. In a competitive job market adversely impacted by COVID-19, it pays to ensure the referees you’re putting forward are the most appropriate for the job you are applying for.

Be strategic when putting forward someone to speak about your work, achievements, skills, and cultural fit for the job you are in the running for. Here are just a few tips that may help. 

 1. Choose your referees carefully  

Referees need to know your character and your work contributions. How well do they know you? Your referees should be able to speak about your achievements, strengths, and areas in which you may need further developing — in the context of their work relationship with you. If they cannot speak about these adequately, the referee phone call may become uncomfortable for them, which ultimately reflects poorly on you as the candidate. 

When putting forward a former manager, you should be very confident they would respond positively to the question ‘would you rehire this person?’ If you have any concerns about this, think carefully about asking them to be a referee. 

2. Compiling your referee list 

Aim for at least three people who might be able to support your job application. This helps you match the referee to the job and avoids over-reliance on the same person, which can be challenging if you are on the shortlist for several positions. Some recruiters now want to speak to your referees before starting the recruiting process, which is a practice proving difficult for many candidates and their well-meaning referees. Referee fatigue is real. 

3. Other people you could consider as a referee 

The challenge is made more difficult for young people with limited work experience, those who have lost contact with their former referees or their referees are long retired, people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period, the self-employed, or those whose last job/relationship with their manager did not end well. Think broadly.  

Some of the following suggestions may work for you: 

  • Current supervisor (if appropriate)
  • Former supervisor with current employer or previous employer
  • Manager of an adjoining internal division who knows your work well
  • Long-standing former client(s) or external stakeholder you maintained a strong relationship with and provided a service relevant to the job you are applying for
  • Person you mentored or managed who really benefited from your leadership
  • Former colleague with whom you worked closely who has now been promoted internally or externally
  • Colleague in another section of your company who you helped/provided specialist advice to on several occasions, resulting in a specific outcome
  • Chair of a committee or internal working group you contributed to substantially
  • Representative of an organisation you volunteered with who knows you well
  • Chair of the school council when you were an active parent representative
  • Sporting coach, teacher, academic, trainer – particularly for young job candidates

4. Match the referee to the job 

This is important. Consider the key selection criteria for the job and the organisation’s profile. A recent client was shortlisted for a position as a senior client relationship manager. She included a supervisor and we discussed the possibility of adding a former long-term client she had collaborated closely with on a key project, to give his perspective as a client. He was delighted to help — this impressed the recruiter and she was successful. 

5. Is your most senior referee essential? 

Often, though not always. There is little point listing the company CEO, as opposed to your supervisor, unless they are briefed appropriately and it is clear they know you and your work. Putting forward both is ideal, as they can offer different perspectives. 

Context matters too. If you are a candidate for a senior leadership role, consider putting forward someone you have managed or professionally mentored as a referee, as evidence of your leadership style. 

6. Communication is key 

Maintain contact with your referees and brief them. Apart from reflecting poorly on you, you cannot expect your referee to do a good job selling you if they have not heard from you in years and have no idea what job you have applied for. Make sure to reconnect and aim to keep your referees as current and relevant as possible. 

Some suggestions: 

  • Provide your referee with an updated copy of your CV, highlighting anything important.
  • Brief them about the job you have been shortlisted for and why you have applied. Do not assume they will know why you are changing careers or jobs.
  • Remind them of your key contributions during the time you worked or volunteered together – especially as they relate to the job you are applying for.
  • Update them about anything significant that may have happened since you worked together; e.g. if you won an award, worked on a high-profile project, were absent from the workforce for several years.

7. Avoid listing referees on your CV 

It is widely understood that candidates will need to put forward referees, so it’s unnecessary to include them. It can also be counterproductive, as a recruiter may call your referees at any time during the recruitment process before you can brief them about the job. Better that you control the selection of your referees and put forward their contact details when requested. Of course, if you have a very high-profile and relevant referee you would love to flag on your CV, perhaps include a brief testimonial from them on page one of your CV. 

8. Make sure contact details for your referees are up to date 

Providing the wrong contact details or outdated information about your referee’s current position is a red flag for hiring managers. Ask your referees how they would like to be contacted and the best time to contact them saves time for the recruiter and makes you look efficient. 

9. If you left your last job on difficult terms 

This can be tricky. If asked, be honest, positive and provide alternatives. Most people have experienced a situation where, for various reasons, a working relationship does not work. A client had worked for an organisation for several years, and for the previous 12 months experienced a difficult working relationship with his line supervisor, who was new to supervising. His position was made redundant. Short-listed for a role, he had been asked for the contact details of his most recent supervisor. We discussed how best to present an appropriate and honest explanation as to why his former supervisor and a senior manager from another division would be able to provide more substantive information relevant to the position he was in consideration for. He was successful. 

Finally 

Check your referees are happy to remain on your list — this is crucial. Most importantly, thank them for their time and belief in you. 

Helen is a qualified careers practitioner and director of Career Confident in Melbourne. Previously, Helen worked in senior education and career program management roles, primarily at the University of Melbourne.

YOU can read the original version of this article here.

How Can Parents and Carers Support their Children with Career Decisions?
December 18, 2019
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By Zoe Hendricks (RCDP MCDI, MA CEd & C) is a masters qualified career coach and an associate careers and employability practitioner at Ideas4Careers.

group of parents

As a parent, you are likely to be the first port of call for your child when they want to talk about careers. Naturally, you will want to give them the very best advice and support possible. However, it can be tricky to understand current options and choices. So, what can you do to help?

Will school do this for you?

Schools and colleges do their very best to help your child make good career choices. However, available resources may limit the extent of personal careers advice and guidance your child receives. Check if your child is given one-to-one, personal career guidance from a qualified career guidance professional. If so, discuss this with them and offer your support. For example, by taking your son or daughter to explore open days at colleges or universities or helping them to complete applications for courses or apprenticeships. Whether they receive effective careers support at school or not, you can still help them to take responsibility for making good career decisions.

Choosing a career

Some young people know exactly what career they are aiming for, but many do not. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t know what they want to do, this is normal! Even if they have some ideas, these may change as they get older. You can help them to start thinking about the type of work that might suit them through discussing their strengths and interests.

To help them do this, explore free tools and websites such as the iCould Buzz Quiz or Start Profile which offer quizzes and questionnaires that suggest career areas of interest based on their preferences. This can be a useful exercise to spark ideas and career discussions, but by no means should they feel they need to follow the suggestions. The National Careers Service ‘Explore Careers’ is also a trustworthy website for learning more about different jobs and what qualifications and skills are needed to get into them.

Work experiences 

Having personal experiences of different work environments can be a great way of discovering what kind of work may suit – or perhaps more importantly, rule out what doesn’t! As well as supporting your child with work experience placements organised through school, encourage your child to participate in opportunities or initiatives such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or the National Citizenship Service. Volunteering is also good experience and will help them to develop employability skills. Additionally, these types of activities can help your child to make effective applications for work, college or university, by incorporating them on their CV, on application forms or discussed during interviews. Find out more about volunteering in your area at Do-it.

What to study?

Broadly speaking, your child will have the opportunity to study towards academic qualifications such as A levels, or vocational qualifications such as a BTEC. Vocational study can keep the door open for university equally to A-Levels and can be undertaken through full-time education in sixth form, college or an apprenticeship. New qualifications – T-Levels which are being rolled out from September 2020 – are a mix of both and gradually becoming more available across the UK. Most importantly, your child should feel happy in what they do and have the best chance of success in their chosen route. For more information about choices after 16, visit Career Pilot.

What if it doesn’t work out?

Although you may want your child to make the right decision straight away, if it doesn’t work out – don’t stress. Learning resilience and overcoming difficulty are essential skills for your child to develop. This may mean working through their issues and staying with their chosen path, or maybe they need to explore something new and make an unplanned change. If you notice your son or daughter is not thriving or is unhappy, the sooner you address worry and concern, the better. There will always be other options available. Speak to your school or college or contact a careers adviser at the National Careers Service for advice.

A career is a journey full of twists and turns

Finally, it’s important to recognise that career choice is likely to change as your child develops. As careers advisers, we want the next generation to encounter meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding careers. We also know this is unlikely to be a straight-forward path! Every bump and obstacle your child encounters on their journey are opportunities for development. In turn, these experiences will help them to build the skills they need to positively manage future career decisions, as they move into adulthood.

For more information and resources visit Links4Careers

About the author

Zoe Hendricks

Zoe Hendricks (RCDP MCDI, MA CEd & C) is a masters qualified career coach and an associate careers and employability practitioner at Ideas4Careers. Zoe combines over 25 years of experience in training, coaching, recruitment and commerce with her drive to help individuals create fulfilling and rewarding careers. Her careers advice and guidance work in schools enable young people to make well-informed career and educational decisions at critical points in their life.

National Careers Service | Discover Your Skills and Careers
April 15, 2019
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This is a new BETA service provided by the National Careers Service.

Take this assessment to find out what types of jobs might suit you, for example, “retail and sales”.

Answer a few more questions to find out what specific job roles might suit you, for example, “florist”.

This could take 5 to 10 minutes. It will take longer if you’re using assistive technologies, for example, a screen reader or screen magnifier.

You can save your assessment if you want to complete it later, or look at your results again another time.

Start The Assessment Here

AOC Response to Ofsted’s Comments
November 26, 2018
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The boss of the Association of Colleges has told his members Ofsted is “quite right” after the inspectorate found some colleges risk giving students “false hope” by putting them on courses where there are slim job prospects.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, drew gasps from delegates at the AoC conference this week when she questioned whether some colleges are chasing income over students’ best interests

She was referring to the inspectorate’s new report on level-two qualifications which found some subjects, namely arts and media, “stand out” as areas where there is a “mismatch between the numbers of students taking courses and their future employment in the industry”.

“Some students get a bit deflated and lose that momentum they built when they discover it is an impossible dream for most of them,” she said.

There was push back from the audience during a question-and-answer session, in which Grimsby Institute principal Debra Gray pointed out that the arts and creative industries contribute “£92 billion to the UK economy, two million people work directly in creative industries and three million work in allied professions where people are creative in non-creative businesses”.

“That doesn’t sound like an impossible dream to me, and it isn’t one that we sell to our students,” she told the chief inspector, before receiving a round of applause from the audience.

AoC chief executive David Hughes stepped in on the debate and said that colleges need to “face up to the fact”. Read more

Careers Advice Beyond #Resultsday2018 by Dr Deirdre Hughes

Many young people will be opening their exam results with some breathing a sense of relief or others taking a sharp intake of breath knowing their results fall short of expectations.

At this time of the year, schools, colleges and universitiesDr Deirdre Hughes OBE Chair, National Careers Council, England 2012 – 2014 and former Commissioner UKCES 2011 -2015work extremely hard to ensure good support systems are in place for those most in need. But what happens when the next academic year begins in September and young people’s course choice or career decisions remain unclear? Worried parents or carers need to know where their children can turn to for careers support during a period of uncertainty. At best the current state of play for young school leavers in England can be characterised (in post-August 2018) as a ‘do-it
yourself’ approach.

England has its own unique careers experiment for young people[1]. Firstly, schools and colleges have a statutory responsibility[2] for ensuring independent and impartial career guidance – without any direct funds received from government. During exams results time, many will rise to this challenge by supporting anxious students through careers information, advice and guidance offered by teachers and careers advisers. Secondly, SERCO delivers an all-age National Careers Service telephone helpline 0800 100 900 on behalf of the Education & Skills Funding Agency. This means young people (and adults) can access careers information and advice as they choose, when they choose. In addition, they can also combine the channels they prefer, for example, combining this and social media (SMS, Facebook, Twitter etc). They can do it from places and spaces convenient to them at a time that suits them best.

Sounds great – but adults over the age of 19 will be able to access face-to-face careers support at a local level, delivered by an Ofsted rated careers service provider. The National Careers Service website is currently being redeveloped, in line with the government’s Careers Strategy (December 2017) and this current bland site site is unlikely to inspire and motivate many teenagers into action (albeit this contains some excellent hidden gems in the form of careers information and self-assessment tools). The Careers and Enterprise Company with government funding of circa £60m (2015 – 2018) focuses on supporting strategy and evidence rather than directly delivering careers guidance to young people, particularly those most in need. Read more