Posts by JudyP

Getting the Most from Your Job References

Getting the Most from Your Job References

References are Often an Afterthought

by Stephanie Legatos / Career and Job Coach

You know you need a list of references, and every potential employer expects you to have this. However, many people use – and have used – the same people over and over. I think about references as parallel to 360⁰ assessments: use a variety of people who can support your candidacy from different perspectives. You’re probably already doing the basics – you have a References document, with your name and contact information in the same format as your resume, and you list 3-4 people who know your work pretty well. That’s a great start! But, there’s so much more to think about. So, who are you using – and who can you consider using – as a reference? Although this article focuses on a Reference List, with the exponential expansion of and focus on social media visibility, you can apply these strategies and tips to building, expanding, and creating the best network contacts that align with your goals. The most typical reference is a current/former manager, supervisor, and/or co-worker. Not to diminish their importance – these types of references are critical to your job search. I often hear that people let these connections lapse. If your job search is longer than you anticipated, you might not have kept in touch with these people for a variety of reasons. Or, you may have left the organization on less than the best of circumstances. It is important to reconnect if you can. There are potentially lots of other people who you can use as a reference. Here are some examples you might consider, if you haven’t already.


A manager, supervisor, project manager, or team leader who you reported to cross-functionally on a specific project. They would be able to focus on specific skills, attributes, or ways of working that you contributed to the project’s success – especially if you don’t use these skills on a regular basis in your role.


A customer of the company/organization – someone who you interacted with consistently. An external customer has a unique perspective – not only the quality of your work, but also the quality of the interactions and the relationship. Customers can describe you as a person behind the work – your “soft” skills. By the way, more than 70% of employers still state that they hire for soft skills as other job-related skills can be taught. On the other side, maybe your work with a particular customer helped retain the customer? Or generated referrals and new business? Don’t overlook customers!


A vendor of the company/organization who you placed orders with or identified as a new vendor that represented cost-savings or a higher quality product or service. This is another way you are/were a face of the company to the external world. (And, these people represent potential networking resources!)


A client – someone who you worked with long-term or in-depth who can talk about your skills, your personality, and how what you did impacted their goal attainment and success. We all can relate to, and want to hear, these human stories!


If you work(ed) in a nonprofit organization; city, municipal, state, or federal agency; or a school or in academia – consider asking an employee of a partner organization for a reference. It could be an organization with whom your organization partnered on a grant, an initiative, or a project. Again, they have a unique perspective because they saw your work, how you work, ideas and/or resources you shared, and how you maintained the reputation of the organization you worked for. A client of mine had been facilitating quarterly meetings with community organizations for two years; she never thought of asking a manager or employee from one of those organizations to be a reference.


Volunteer work – You can consider another asking another volunteer, or the person who you supervised your work, someone who can talk about your role and contributions. I recently talked with a client who hadn’t thought about this angle. She was on a fundraising committee at her son’s school. When I asked her what she did that no one else did, she could easily and confidently say, “I came up with a new idea for business contributions and implemented it, raising more money than the school ever raised before through two specific events!” For someone who had a series of short-term jobs in the past four years, the teacher who headed this committee would be an excellent reference.

Watch for Part 2 of this article, focusing on maximizing the value of your references.

Click here to learn more about Operation ABLE’S Job Coaching and Counseling program.

Over 45, Ready and ABLE

ABLE in the NEWS

June 12, 2018 –, By Nancy Schneider, Co-Founder |

We at Dress for Success Boston are proud of our roster of partnering agencies. Numbering almost 500 job training and social service providers, we take special pride in our history with Operation A.B.L.E. This agency sends us about 100 clients annually, over 45 years of age, who are retrained and anxious to return to self- sufficiency.

“Recently I asked Shirley Fickett, Manager of the Skills 2 Work Program at Operation ABLE if a visit to Dress for Success Boston made a meaningful difference for her clients”

“Absolutely!” she responded without hesitation. “It is an very important addition to what we do,” she went on. She described shaky confidence as one of the biggest obstacles that her clients face. She also went into detail telling me about the “mini fashion shows” that clients provide her when they return from their appointments at the Dress for Success Boutique.

She believes that confidence enhances the skills they have acquired and encourages them to dream bigger and bigger dreams.

Read the entire article here.

WBZ Cares: Operation ABLE helps mid-lifers get back to work

WBZ Cares

BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, WBZ Cares highlights a worthy non-profit organization, and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month’s organization, “Operation A.B.L.E.,” a Boston-based organization that that provides job training and employment services for workers 45 and older.

The organization has one mission, and one mission only according to its president Joan Cirillo,” Very simply, getting job seekers 45 and older back to work. That’s what we do. We’re laser focused on it,” she said.

Cirillo said job seekers mid-life and older often have a hard time getting back into the workforce after they’ve been out for a while, due to the changing pace of technology.

“You might not know about social media, you might not be able to put a resume together, that is acceptable today. If you have been out for a while, and you want to get back in and you want to be competitive you have to get up to speed.”

They offer job seekers a number of classes and training programs to help them do just that, get up to speed.

“One individual just might need a little career coaching and they are on their way. Another person might need someone to look at their resume and how to put a cover letter together. Somebody else has never worked with social media particularly LinkedIn, they need a course in social media. But many of our candidates need support with computer skills. Some need total new skilling of what they used to do. Doesn’t mean that somebody didn’t have a rich career, our candidates all have all worked but over the years, whatever they did is no longer relevant, it’s obsolete, they need to re-skill.” she said.

They also provide internships, job fairs and professional networking events. Dozens of Boston area companies hire workers through Operation A.B.L.E.

Cirillo says, she never gets tired of hearing that one of their students is back to work.

“I still get thrilled when a job-seeker stops at my doorway and says, ‘Joan I got a job.’”

The organization has helped 35,000 people find work in their 35-year history.

Original content found here.