When you're looking for your first job, it can be hard to know who to use as a reference. After all, you don't have a current or past supervisor or co-workers to ask. Think about people you know who have a good idea of how you'd perform in a workplace environment. With that in mind, use these suggestions to brainstorm who you can use as a reference for your first job.
Teachers From School
Teachers are a good option when you need a job reference, as they have insight into how organized you are, how well you follow instructions, whether you apply yourself to your work, and if you get along well with others. When deciding which teacher to ask, choose someone who has taught you fairly recently, and in whose class you performed really well.
A guidance counselor can be an ideal reference for high school students or recent graduates who are seeking their first job. Your guidance counselor will have access to your school records, as well as firsthand experience interacting directly with you. As a result, guidance counselors typically have the type of information that employers are looking for when they check references.
If you're in college or are a recent graduate, you probably have an academic advisor rather than a guidance counselor. Someone in this role has interacted directly with you in relation to your studies and career goals. This makes academic advisors a fitting reference for students or recent graduates who don't have enough non-school references to provide to potential employers.
Service Project Organizer
If you're at the point in life where you are looking for your first job, chances are you've either chosen or been required to complete some service hours or work on a service project. If so, ask the adult who oversaw a project you worked on to be a reference for you. Someone in that role will know if you honored your commitments, and they can vouch for the quality of your work.
School Club Advisor
If you're involved in any school clubs or activities, ask the faculty member who advises the group to provide a reference for you. That person has direct knowledge about you regarding traits that employers are interested in, such as your enthusiasm, communication skills, reliability, and knowledge related to the topic or focus of the group.
If you are a member of any non-school activities, ask the leader of that activity, or another adult with whom you regularly interact, to provide a reference for you. For example, you could ask your dance teacher, church youth group leader, music teacher, scouting troop leader, or similar to provide you with a reference.
If you participate in sports, whether at school or in the community, ask a coach with whom you have a good relationship if they'll be willing to provide you with a job reference. Someone who has coached you should have a good idea of what it will be like to manage you, so prospective employers are surely interested to hear what that person has to say.
Someone With Experience in the Field
Another option is to choose someone you know who has experience in the type of job you are trying to get. For example, if you want to work at a shoe store and you have a neighbor, aunt, uncle, or older sibling who works in the same type of job, ask them to provide you with a reference. Ask them to focus on why they think you have the skills that are necessary to succeed in the field, since they have firsthand knowledge of what is required.
A Friend's Parent
If you haven't been able to come up with enough references from reviewing the list above, ask the parent of one of your best friends to be a reference. Choose someone that you have spent a lot of time with, so they'll be able to speak to your communication style, trustworthiness, dependability, and other character traits in which employers are interested.
Choosing Strong References
Don't just use someone as a reference without asking first. Whoever you choose, let them know you're seeking your first job, and ask if they'll be willing to provide a recommendation for you. Ask if they are willing to be contacted directly by employers who are checking your references. You may also want to ask for a recommendation letter that you can share with employers. Be sure to explain the types of jobs you're applying for, so they can plan ahead on what to say when contacted by an employer or background screening company. Choosing good references will go a long way toward helping you land that all-important first job.