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Ask Victoria | References for an Inexperienced Candidate?

A person typing  on a laptop and writing  in a notepad.

Hi Victoria,

I am currently attending college and working at my school as a student aide. I've been working here for almost a year now and I love my job, coworkers and boss, but I'd like to secure a full-time job as soon as possible. Considering this is my first job and it’s a temporary campus position, can I ask my current boss and coworkers to be my references? My current boss has also suggested in the past that I look for internship, that's why I thought they would make great references. I also have no contact with, nor do I remember supervisors' names in my past volunteer experiences. Your insight would be really helpful!

Thank you,


Hello Marina,

Thank you for your question, and how nice to hear that you’ve been making a positive impression on your supervisors and coworkers!

To answer your first question, it is absolutely acceptable to ask your supervisor to serve as a reference, especially since it is clearly known and understood that your position is temporary. When you’re in a full-time, permanent job, there are other factors at play when you consider asking a current supervisor to serve as a reference. In the situation you described, however, your supervisor is likely to be in 100% support of your professional development, and it sounds like you’re in a good position to receive a positive reference from them.

It’s also wise to get your request in motion before your job ends. As you have seen from your volunteer experiences, you can lose contact and forget names pretty quickly. You want your references to be able to remember you, along with anecdotes from their time working with you that present you in the most positive light. So plan- to the best of your abilities- to keep in touch with your supervisors and coworkers for all current and future work and volunteer experiences. I recommend instituting a system that helps you maintain relationships with key contacts in your network. This might include setting a reminder on your calendar every three months, keeping a spreadsheet of your contacts, or developing your own unique format to keep track.

Remember that the people you sustain relationships with can do more than provide reference letters. You may want to call upon them to facilitate an introduction, request an informational interview, or even help you figure out next steps. Check out our templates for ideas on how to reach out to people in (and beyond) your network.

So, how do you ask your supervisor to be a reference?

You can schedule an informal conversation with your supervisor. An email like this can help set your meeting in motion:

Hi Sharon,
I was hoping to have a few minutes to talk to you after I complete my shift on Wednesday. As my term as a campus aide is almost over, I’ve been thinking about next steps for my career. I appreciate you encouraging me to look for an internship, and while that is a consideration, I am also interested in full-time employment. I’d love to talk with you about my goals and potential next steps that would match my experiences and strengths I’ve gained while working with you. I’d also like to ask about your willingness to serve as a reference for future job opportunities. Thank you so much.
I look forward to our chat,

At your meeting, be sure to reiterate how much you’ve enjoyed working in the office, and with your supervisor specifically. Share an anecdote or two that demonstrates your accomplishments and the things you learned. Remember that this conversation is a great opportunity to have a brainstorming session to identify career paths that could be a good fit. And who knows? Your supervisor might know of a great job opening for you, or even be able to offer you a permanent position!

To your success,


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