My feelings are inconsistent when I receive phone calls from potential employers asking me about students.
Normally I am happy to give my students a glowing review. I do, after all, have great students.
But occasionally I am disappointed when I receive a call about a student who didn’t ask me if they could list me as a reference.
Requesting to use someone as a reference is basically asking them to “sell” you to a potential employer.
I would hope that someone who isn’t confident in your abilities would refuse to represent you in that manner and would decline to be a reference.
If a less-than-stellar student asks me to be their reference, I usually remind them of the issues in our working relationship and then ask: “What would you like me to say about you to a potential employer?” By that point they usually have recognized that I’m not their best reference choice.
Putting someone on your reference list who hasn’t agreed to be “character witness” is basically playing Russian Roulette with your employment choices.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
What do you say if you’re called for a reference about someone who didn’t ask you first? Students, how do you choose your professional references?