WorkWise Q&A: What can I do when a reference isn't enthusiastic enough?

culp@workwise.netSeptember 8, 2013 


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I was up for a job I thought I’d get. I was highly qualified for it and even had an extra skill they could have used. My credit history passed and I passed the tests they gave me.

All of my references were fine, too, with one exception. My boss from two years ago didn’t sound “enthusiastic,” the new employer told me. I don’t know whether that was a result of his having a bad day or what. What can I do?


A: Dear Surprised, Did you get him to agree to serve as a reference for this job hunt or did you just put his name down, because he’d helped before? Did he have any idea what kind of job you were seeking? Any chance that you went to the well too many times?

The only way you’re going to know what went wrong is to call or, preferably, meet. Applicants puts references on the spot when they don’t help channel their remarks. It’s difficult to know what to say if you haven’t told them about the type of job and what you’d like them to mention.



Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I fought hard to get this job and I’ve fought a year to keep it. Yes, I can do the work, and I’ve done it. I’m just not enjoying it.

I want to look for another job in the company, but I’m afraid people will think that if I didn’t know myself well enough this time, I might make a similar mistake again. Can you help?


A: Dear Upset, You might have goofed on the specific job, but it sounds as if you didn’t make a mistake in choosing the company. That’s more important than anything. People outgrow their positions and positions change all of the time.

Your main problem isn’t that you can’t do the work. It’s that you don’t find it as satisfying as you’d anticipated. Develop a list of accomplishments.

Meanwhile, test drive some other types of jobs. Volunteer in areas where you think you might like to work and get on as many committees as you can. How do you feel in the process of doing the work and when it ends?

Keep doing your current job while building up new in-house credentials. Good luck!


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