Who Can I Use As A Reference For My First Job?

When being considered for a new job, you’ll be asked for a reference from a previous employer.

This is important for the potential employer, as they use any references that you can give them to fact-check against your interview.

It also allows them to find out whether the impression you are giving them of yourself is actually how you are as an employee.

Even those that have had plenty of experience working can sometimes struggle with their references and often, the references people will use are not past employers, but people with some credibility to their name.

Having a reference gives your potential employer further reassurance that they can trust you, and what you are saying about your ability to handle the job role.

We’ve put together a list of potential references you could use when giving a reference to a potential employer.

If you’re someone that hasn’t had a job yet, and you need help finding someone to use as a reference, there is sure to be someone on this list that you can use as a reference.

Use An Educator For Your Reference – Teacher Or Professor

Any teachers that you have had, as well as any professors or other high-standing figures in education, will be able to act as a reference for you. This is, of course, provided that they have gotten to know you a bit whilst working with you in a professional environment.

Educators are actually brilliant references, as some teachers will have known you for a great deal of your life, and a good reference from these teachers will demonstrate a long-standing history of good work ethic and credibility.

Professors, in particular, are great for this. If you have had a good working relationship with a professor—for example, if you worked particularly hard on a thesis with their support—they would be a great option for a reference.

Educators are asked to be used as references for employment all the time and provided that they know you well, they would be able to write you a reference that really sells you as a person.

Family And Friends – People You Know That You’ve Done Work For

An easy option might be a family member or a friend that you’ve worked with before.

My uncle used to have a company that was pretty successful in the local area. He would hire my brother for odd jobs over the summers because he knew he could do with earning the money.

To this day almost five years later and my uncle’s contact details are still on my brother’s reference.

You don’t need to be in full-time employment with someone to get a valid reference. Any time you’ve been paid for work in the past could be a place to look to find a reference, just try not to have a reference that’s so old it’s irrelevant.

Getting a reference for your newspaper round job when you were 16, isn’t going to count for much when you’re 42 and applying for a senior role.

A Senior Student That You’ve Shared A Class With

Turns out that networking with your classmates can have future advantages, the same person from that class landed me my first job thanks to his reference.

Think back to your education days, was there anyone that you worked with or connected with?

If there was, and you think they would be able to speak well about your capabilities and intellect and in general be a good reference, be sure to include them.

You might consider sending a sample of your work to them before you ask for them to be a reference for you. They might remember you from chem class with Professor Smith, but they might not remember your academic capabilities.

If this is the case you could send them a copy of your best assignment and tell them about the areas of work you’ll be looking into.

For a lot of people, it’s very likely that this is the first time anyone has been asked to give someone a reference. Give them something to work with in case an employer contacts them to find out more about you.

A Past Leader – Groups And Communities

Ever in the scouts, church choir, or youth group? Or even chess club in school?

Any group that you’ve been a part of with a leader or president could be a good idea for a reference.

People in positions of leadership are great references as they can be seen as someone who is respected by the community and for that reason, they will give a more honest answer.

It may have been a fair few years ago that you last saw or spoke with them, but you can always look them up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram and try to rebuild a relationship.

Just send them a message talking about your time together, how it shaped you and how that might relate to where you are looking to go next.

If it was a genuine connection you had all those years ago, it should seem natural for you to be reaching out at this time.

Remember that if you do get in contact, and they are willing to give you a reference, you’ll want to catch them up with what you’ve been doing since you last spoke and where you are planning to go next.

Final Thoughts

The most important things to think about when making a list of potential references are to first, make sure they only have nice things to say about you. If you left a previous job on bad terms, it might do you more harm than good to put them down as a reference.

Secondly, you will want to think carefully about how much they would have to say about you. Potential employers might ask questions about you broadly, so having someone that knows a lot about you and your background would be beneficial.

If there really isn’t anyone that can do this for you, it might mean providing them with some background information about you as well as examples of your work.


Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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