CIO Development

Blog Managing your career – how to get a good reference

Unless you are one of the few technology leaders who stays with one firm forever, there comes a point when it’s time to leave. Hopefully, this will be your choice, but either way, it’s important to plan your last days in role and do your utmost to secure a good reference which could have a major impact on securing your next role. Any good headhunter/firm will take thorough references so best be prepared.

If it’s is your decision to leave, even if you have had a long and successful career at the firm, how you handle your departure may influence what your referees say about you. A good analogy is divorcing after a long and happy marriage – if you think your spouse will still think fondly of you after your fling with your tennis coach simply because you were faithful for thirty years, sadly it doesn’t work like that. Your resignation (possibly also viewed as an infidelity)  may thrust your manager into a state of shock; who will replace you/manage that critical programme/lead your devoted teams? You must take the time to reassure them that you won’t leave them in the lurch and that your teams will step up (after all – you developed them so they could – didn’t you?). Once they have calmed down, take them through the plan step by step and show them you care about the firm and people you are leaving behind.

If you are made redundant or are not leaving by choice, it’s you who might be in a state of shock. Take time to process what’s happening and do not respond emotionally. You are now in damage-limitation mode and must focus on the next role – thus you need a good reference. Never leave a firm without knowing exactly what happened. I am often surprised that so many people are willing to accept reasons which are clearly “made-up” to make an unpleasant process easier for both sides, but they do owe you the truth, no matter how unpalatable. Unless you are going to dispute the decision, bow out gracefully (and hopefully with some invaluable feedback and a stack of cash). Think reference.

Whoever made the decision, always ask your manager what they will tell the headhunter/firm taking a reference; this will ensure they understand their choice of words will have real consequences on a real person. They will thus be more likely to give a balanced view and less likely to exaggerate any of your faults and blame you for the separation. Whatever they are going to say, good or bad, better to know than not to know. At the very least, if you know what’s coming you can pre-warn the headhunter and get your defence in beforehand.
#technology #career #references
Most people don’t want to damage their former employees’ chances of success, but we are all human and if you want someone to say good things about you, treat them well, ask them to be balanced and move onwards and upwards.

Original Post by Cathy Holley