“It’s a good idea to keep in touch with one’s network, especially if they’re an important career referral.”
Hirst says by remaining in contact, you not only make it more likely that they’ll help you if you need it, but is also good for wellbeing — yours and theirs.
“It creates a virtuous circle. When someone reaches out to a past or longstanding mentor to tell them how grateful they are for their help and how this formative experience has boosted their career and life, people feel pride about helping others.
“They are likely to see this person’s development as important to their own identity, and to be enthusiastic about supporting them further.”
Hirst says there’s no need to take what may seem like a rejection to heart or dwell on it. Instead, consider whether there are other people in your professional or wider network who can vouch for your expertise and experience.
“Look more broadly at other people — whether clients, teachers, academics or other business associates — who might offer a good reference.”
It’s also worth keeping in mind that hiring managers generally won’t be deterred by a current boss who’s hard to get hold of, Hirst says.
“If recruiters and prospective employers don’t get onto your boss immediately, they will often retry,” he said. “And it gives you a good reason to further connect with your potential employer; by suggesting alternatives, you’re demonstrating your responsiveness. You can show that you are proactive and interested in the role, turning a question mark into a positive about you.”
There are many possible reasons why your old employer said “no”. If you’re really curious (or worried) about why they’ve decided not to be your referee this time round, you might want to follow up. But I think the best course of action is not to worry about it. Put it behind you with no hard feelings and turn your mind to creating the best application you can, replete with referees you might not have considered before.
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