Job references can be tricky. Not everyone is an overachiever who became fast, easy confidants with everyone they’ve met professionally. However, you still likely need them for any job you apply for today; be certain that your employer will ask for them. If you find yourself at a loss for who to ask, I invite you to consider the following suggestions if your professional relationships with these individuals are still viable and you can trust that they would vouch for you. Remember, however, before you list them to actually ask them formally to be a job reference for you! You would not believe how many references are shocked to receive phone calls from employers asking them about an applicant they once worked with. Trust me, this will not reflect well for you.
Now that this is clear, here are five people you should definitely choose for job references and five to steer clear from.
In 2017, FFA alumna Beverley Flatt accepted a position as the content creation manager for Bayer Animal Health. She took a sabbatical from her 170-acre family farm in Nashville, TN, and moved to Monheim, Germany, for the role. Here, Flatt explains how FFA led her to a job with one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world and how you can pursue similar opportunities, too.
How did you become interested in agriculture?
I didn’t grow up in a farming family; my parents were high school teachers. In middle school, I babysat for a man who created spice mixtures for fast-food companies, and I thought it was the coolest job. He said that if I wanted a job like his, I needed to study food science. I signed up for agricultural education and was hooked.
How did your involvement in FFA shape your career path?
In college, I attended the State Presidents’ Conference in Washington, D.C. We had an audience in the White House, and I was selected to ask President George W. Bush a question. I asked, if he were in our position, what question would he ask? He said in seven years as president, he had never been asked that specific question and that great leaders ask great questions. After that, I thought about what careers would let me ask a lot of questions and ended up majoring in agricultural journalism.
When applying online, it’s difficult to determine who you’re communicating with, and therefore, addressing your cover letter is difficult as well. Most job postings on AgCareers.com do not list the employer’s contact person.
You’re tempted to just say forget it and skip the cover letter altogether. However, this can be a mistake. Even though the electronic systems and recruiters may not evaluate the cover letter, the hiring managers will take notice. Addressing it to the wrong person is an even bigger snafu.
Is Contact Information Available?
Even though most jobs do not list a contact, read over the posting again to make sure. You don’t want to miss that little detail if it lists an actual contact name.
If you don’t see a contact on the posting, you can call the company, or search online, the company website, or LinkedIn.
When you find a contact, use the full, formal name, such as Ms. Johnson or Bonnie Johnson. Address it to Mr. for men and Ms. for women (skip the Mrs. or Miss unless specified). If you are unsure of the gender, use the full name (first, last/family name) with no title. If the contact has a professional title, use it out of respect, such as Dr. or Professor. Most importantly, double-check spelling.