Providing professional references can be a challenge

Q: I am looking to resign from my first job out of college. I received an offer that said it was “contingent upon the satisfactory completion of three professional references.” Who am I supposed to give? I can’t give my current supervisor. I am stuck. Please help.

A: Congratulations on your offer of employment. Many job offers are extended in this same manner. The new company wants to check references but they don’t want to delay the process to wait until this can be completed.

Three professional references should ideally include one supervisor. Have you only had one supervisor? Is there another supervisor (who maybe has left the company) who you could contact? Or has there been someone who supervised your work but maybe wasn’t officially your supervisor? Perhaps someone who trained you for a position or served as your “go to” person when you were first hired. Or is there a senior person at your current employer who would be willing to speak on your behalf?


Think about colleagues with whom you have shared a positive relationship. Maybe they have left the company or maybe they are still working at your company but understand the discretion involved.

Another option is providing the contact information of a supervisor from a past internship or past summer job. Or a professor who may have supervised a project or internship.

Most employers understand you cannot give your current supervisor as a reference, or you may jeopardize your current employment situation. A new employer hopes to contact at least one supervisor but that can be challenging especially for those candidates with few roles in their career.


It is important to maintain strong professional relationships for this reason. If you are struggling to find former contacts, sometimes LinkedIn can help.

by Pattie Hunt Sinacole, First Beacon Group LLC

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