Getting References Beyond Your Boss by Therese Droste

“My previous boss is going to give me a bad reference.  I was at the company for five years but had only worked for him the last seven months.  Although I gave two weeks’ notice, I was so angry with my boss that I did not follow through and work those last two weeks.  I contacted two other managers in the company before I resigned, and they promised to give me good references, but that was before things hit the fan and I walked off the job.  The only other company I’ve ever worked at since graduating college is out of business.  Who should I use as a reference?  I don’t want to toss away five years on a job because of a lame boss who hated me.”

WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS:  Relax.  Call the managers who said they would give you good references and explain why you left before the end of your notice period.  And be honest: Tell them that you were at the end of your rope with your new boss and you thought it would be best for both of you if you left as soon as possible.  You’re not the first person to do this.  Obviously, the managers who offered references know your work record, since you were with the company for a long period before the new boss came on board.

Do some homework before you go out on interviews.  Write out everything you accomplished in the five years you spent at your old job.  Did you receive any promotions during your tenure?  Any special recognition?  Were any employees placed under your management?  It is important that you use this information and present it positively to an interviewer.

Then tackle how you will answer interview questions about why you left the company.  Diplomatically, say that although you like the job, your new boss and you had different approaches to handling problems.  Tell the interviewer you felt it was best to leave and spend your energy on finding new employment rather than spin your wheels and hope the new boss and you would find common ground to work on.

Also, step back and reassess what type of job you really want.  Although you did not get along with the new boss, your dissatisfaction with him actually could have been based on boredom that crept over you as you performed the same tasks every day over five years.  If this is the case, you need to figure out what you really want to do, and what will challenge you and hold your interest for the next few years.

If you agree that you need to explore the possibility of searching for a different type of position, then pick up What Color is Your Parachute? 2011 A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles.  This is the classic career searcher’s bible.  The exercises will help you pinpoint the type of job or career that suits your interests.

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