Cultivate Your Network: Employment References
Creating your references list is an essential part of the job search that can also help you cultivate your professional network and prepare you for inter-views. Your list, comprising people with whom you’ve worked closely and who can attest to your skills, is a great way to review your accomplishments and look at your practice to date through the eyes of your clinical partners.
I suggest creating a reference list document that matches the font and overall style of your CV and cover letter and keeping it to one page. List your strongest and most recent references first and include their contract information and their professional relationship with you as well as how long you’ve known each other. Choose people with whom you’ve worked closely and can speak knowledgably (and positively!) about your work, accomplishments and character.
It’s key that you reach out to each reference and confirm their willingness to be contacted. You might also review some highlights of your work together and ask them what they consider to be your strongest points. Share an updated copy of your CV and some information about your current career goals. Ask them about their preferred method of contact by employers with whom you’ll be putting them in touch.
The assessments of physicians you partnered with are probably of greatest interest to prospective employers, but you might also include contact information for a few other individuals who can attest to your skills and great qualities. For recent graduates, these people might include professors/preceptors, established clinicians, other PAs and even a patient you’ve treated.
To cultivate your references and keep them a thriving resource, keep your professional network active by staying in touch with former col-leagues and bosses. A current relationship will improve the odds of a positive and pertinent response to a referral request. It’s also a great idea to share an updated version of your resume with them as well as information about the job you are applying to. Help them to be advocates for you!
Be sure to express your thanks for the time and effort they share to benefit your career (a thank you note is a good place to start; an invitation to coffee, if feasible, is a nice gesture and will nurture your network) and keep your references in the loop—let them know where your job search landed you.
How many references to provide? Three to six is a good number for most positions. When to share their information is also important: Rather than sharing your reference list with an employer with your cover letter and CV, wait until your interview to share the list. This gives you an opportunity to inform your references about the employer and some specifics of the position.
In summary, references are an aspect of the job search that highlight the quality of your working relationships. Everyone encounters some problematic ones as part of being a PA along with the great ones—and a negative referral need not be a career disaster. (More on that in PA Professional’s June-July issue.) Keeping your professional network alive is a key to career growth and this truth is never more apparent than during the job search. Build on your relationships to help land your next position, and help respected colleagues by doing the same for them!