5 things you MUST ask when choosing references

Reference checks are now standard practice, so really everyone should have their reference people lined up WAY before the interview even happens. So how do you start? You’ll need to put together a list of possible candidates, and then from those candidates you must ask yourself who would best represent you. Remember you need to think like an employer!

1. Are they a work, character / personal, or volunteer reference?

It’s a good idea to have a few under each category, especially if you are going for several different positions or changing careers. Although more and more employers are requesting work related references only, you can include these other types if it isn’t specified and don’t forget about teachers or trainers!

2. What skills, attributes and experience can they speak to?

If they can’t say anything about you other then that you worked for them or they’re unclear on what you actually did, then they won’t be a good reference. However, if they’re a recent employer you may have no choice, in this case your other work references need to be stronger and able to speak to what this employer can’t. Consider supervisors or co-workers as additional options.

3. Can they even be a reference?

Be aware of company policies regarding references, for example those who work in sectors with vulnerable persons, such as children, victims of violence or other protected persons will find that confidentiality may be an issue.

4. Is distance an issue?

If your references are not local or are a great distance from HR, try to get their email or if possible a 1-800 number, few employers would be willing to incur extra costs unless they have a great long distance plan!

5. Reference letter vs. Reference call

Many employers prefer to give reference letters yet it’s often these same employers who won’t accept them when hiring new staff! To be honest this is perfectly understandable, wouldn’t you rather talk to a living, breathing person?

Lastly, even though most employers will ask for 3 reference people, always have at least 5 lined up. With vacations, sick or MAT leaves you don’t want to be down a person at the last second.

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Networking Tree

networking tree

Read our tips on how to cultivate your network!

Networking. What kind of image does this word conjure up for you? If you’re like me, you probably imagine having to schmooze with higher-ups in suits at stuffy after work functions. Not exactly fun! Now before you break into a cold sweat, I’ll let you in on a little known secret, networking is actually not that hard or scary.

It’s all in your approach. Just think of each part of the process as corresponding to the growth of a tree. First, you need to plant your seed, take care and nurture your tree, then through persistence you will be reaping the fruits of your labours!

1. Research (planting the seed)

2. Cultivation (tending your tree)

3. Persistence (harvesting your leads)

Planting the seed

Think of research as the beginning stages of growth. Take for example the field of medical administration. If you are interested in getting into that field, you will need to research medical establishments then find the administrators or HR persons’ contact information at those companies. Once you have collected several contacts, you will need to make a cold-call. This is the hardest part of networking, but fear not most contacts will appreciate your efforts and may even be flattered that you view them as leaders in their field. When you are ready to call keep the following in mind:

  1. Introduce yourself and explain why you are calling i.e. For advice regarding getting into the medical admin field. Make sure you are not interrupting your potential contact. If the person doesn’t have time ask when they may be available. Don’t push and always be respectful!
  2. If they are available to talk, make sure you have some well-researched questions ready to ask. You are making an impression so make it positive!
  3. If the conversation goes well and the contact is helpful thank them for their time. You can also send them an “official” thank you card or letter if you want.

Tending your networking tree

Now that your contact is no longer “cold” you’ll need to cultivate the relationship to keep it “hot.” This is accomplished through staying in touch. You need to remind your contacts that you are available and still looking for work. Do this through follow-up emails or calls for advice or answers to any follow-up questions you may have regarding the field. Be careful not to call too much…you don’t want to become bothersome!

Harvesting your leads

Contacts or leads may bear fruit through persistent cultivation. Even if a contact may not have job leads at their company, they may hear of positions opening up at other companies and let you know. When you have a positive relationship with your contact they may even be willing to be a reference person, which will prove very handy especially if you are a new grad or changing careers.

Whether your networking tree is a sapling or a mighty oak, it’s important to set aside your fears and start the growing process!

Elaine Logie is a student studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON. For more information about the Career Consultant Certificate Program, or how MCACES helps students with Employment Advisement, please contact Lidia Siino, Program Manager at lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.

What is a Green Job?

This blog is the first part in a 3 part series relating to Green Jobs.

Industry experts, educators and governments are all ‘talking-up’ the green economy. Has there been a single post-secondary educational institution in Ontario who hasn’t started, revised or expanded a certificate, diploma or degree in this field?

If you read the material presented by industry associations; the people who mow our grass, remove our trash or drive a bus all work at ‘green jobs’.

Political leaders across the western world point to this new economic sector in hopes that it will help alleviate the high levels of un-employment and under employment.

Peter Blanchard, the founder and publisher of the popular website Goodwork Canada (www.goodworkcanda.ca), has a simple definition. “A green job is any job or self-employment that genuinely contributes to a more sustainable world.”

There are some new occupations in the green economy.  Eco-energy auditors evaluate your home and help qualify you for government grants to improve energy efficiency. Carbon auditors help measure greenhouse gas emissions.  Solar panel installers are busy with people taking advantage of the Ontario government’s incentive program.

Many traditional jobs are changing to include green responsibilities.  Buyers may want to source green products for their firms.  Those in the hospitality industry may want to use local food. A household cleaning service will only use environmentally responsible products.  An administrative assistant may work in the office of a consulting firm who helps market green products.

If you are concerned about the environment and would like to make a difference, this may be one avenue to investigate.

Mike Fellowes is a Continuing Education Student currently studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACES offers a comprehensive Employment Advisement program for our students. For more information about Employment Advisement, please visit the MCACES website, www.mcaces.ca or contact Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist at Lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.