When you’re applying for a new job, securing a killer reference from your current boss is a surefire way to impress a future employer.

A reference from your current boss suggests strong interpersonal skills and shows you’re able to build open, respectful relationships.

It also gives your future employer direct access to a first-hand account of your skillset, your performance and what it’s been like to manage you.

Sounds great, right?

But asking your boss to be a reference for a new job can be more than a little awkward.

“Uh hi… It’s not you, it’s me. Please be my reference?”

So how DO we get our bosses on board? And what’s the right way to frame up the conversation?

Step Number One – Get comfortable talking about ‘career development’

Have a think about why you want the new job in the first place. What new thing are you looking to do? What skillset are you trying to grow?

Pitching a new job opportunity to your current boss will be a lot easier if it’s delivered as a career development opportunity.

Think about it.

“I’m interested in building my leadership skills” is a lot easier for your boss to digest than, “I’m bored and sick of working here.”

Once you figure out what this new role means in terms of career development, articulate it in a few dot points and have a go explaining it to family and friends.

Step Number Two – Organise a meeting

Touch base with your boss and organise a time for the two of you to sit down and talk about your career development.

Book time in your diaries so it doesn’t get forgotten about and organise to meet somewhere you will feel comfortable opening up (i.e. somewhere you can talk freely without being worried about disruptions or people listening in).

This might be their office. But sometimes a less formal environment can help make you feel more at ease. So consider meeting at a coffee shop or an outdoors work area.

Step Number Three – Prepare for the conversation

Literally write down a dot point list of what you’d like to say in the meeting.

Figure out exactly what you want to ask. Would you like to ask permission to include their contact details on your resume? Do you need them to prepare something written or reach out to someone in their network to put in a good word?

Make sure you include some questions about how to explore similar career development opportunities in your current workplace.

If this is the first time you’ve chatted to your boss about career development, there’s a chance they’ll find a way to get you the experience you need, without having to lose you to another company.

Exploring options in your current workplace can sometimes be a handy way to ease yourself into the conversation. Start with how to access opportunities in your current role, then transition into chatting about other roles you’d like to throw your hat into the ring for.

Step Number Four – Take a deep breath and ask your current boss for a reference!

There’s no easy way to tell your boss you’re thinking about leaving but you will gain their respect by being honest and transparent.

So take a deep breath, remember to be respectful, and dive on in!

Also please remember, exploring career development options with your boss doesn’t have to wait until you’re ready to move on to another job.

You can start to cultivate that type of relationship anytime you like!

It can work wonders for your career and help you and your boss navigate your KPIs and workload. There are tonnes of opportunities out there you’ll never know about until you put your hand up and ask!

So now it’s YOUR time to share! Have YOU ever asked your boss to be a reference for a new job? Or have you felt too afraid to ask? If you have, how did the experience go and what advice do you have for people considering doing the same?For more work related reads, head on over to the Career section of the blog, or read our latest post Three short steps for an effective meeting.

Until next time,
Madeleine xo