The 5 Types Of People You Absolutely Need As References

career
Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Nichols, left, discusses fuel consumption with Tech. Sgt. Francisco Guerrero-Vasquez on the flight deck of a C-5B Galaxy on a Pacific channel mission. Both Air Force Reserve aviators are assigned to the 312th Airlift Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Nichols is a flight engineer evaluator and Guerrero-Vasquez is a flight engineer.
Photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

Successful careers and businesses are built through good relationships. Having credible references initiates some of those vital connections, by almost instantly helping you establish trust and validity. Your professional references should be strategically compiled with a diverse roster of contacts, ones whom you actually stay in touch with. Maintaining good references is evidence of good communication skills, and says that you’re a well respected and a likeable candidate.


I recommend choosing your references according to five vital categories: Mentors, bosses, clients, peers and friends. Be sure that all references in all categories are well informed of your endeavors, and are properly prepared to respond when you include them as a reference.

Related: How To Make Use Of The Veteran Network »

Here's the breakdown of why these five categories are essential, and of what each can offer.

The mentor

A mentor reference should be very familiar with your personal vision and career goals, and should be willing to provide you with a letter of recommendation upon request. Mentors guide and counsel you, and understand how you respond to coaching. My mentor references help validate my preparedness to take effective action in the roles that I compete for. They publicly emphasize my strengths, but privately coach me on my weaknesses. They point me in the direction of opportunity, and warn me away from potential threats. The best mentor references are savvy promoters and powerful connectors.

The former boss or direct supervisor

It is imperative to make an amicable departure from every professional situation. Do not burn your bridges. If you've burned some already, then start making repairs immediately. Why? Because, in almost every potential employment scenario, your last supervisor is a primary person of interest. They know your roles and responsibilities well since they managed the execution and fulfillment of them. Your last employer has a heavy influence on your professional pursuits. Even if you're released from a job based on unsatisfactory performance, this reference is still necessary and can still be used in your favor.

The client

Listing a client as a reference can provide a potential employer with testimony of your deliverables. Whatever outcomes result from your productivity (i.e., software code, website designs, photographs, sales revenue, manufactured products, project management, etc.), clients are probably the most reputable voice for feedback. The client is primarily concerned with the scope, quality, and timeliness of whatever it is that you do as a professional. I really lean on my clients for references because they are the best proof that I can produce satisfactory results on a consistent basis.

The peer

The peer reference is your character witness and should vouch for your interpersonal skills. This is someone who's been present during your day-to-day mode of operation. He or she can speak to your leadership potential, how you engage with others in the work environment, how you promote organizational culture, and how you function when under stress. My peer references speak of me as a team player, a motivator, and as someone that they enjoy working with on a regular basis.

The personal history buff, aka the old friend

This is the "true friend" reference, the person who knows your origins, how hard you work, and how far you've come already. My true friend references are able to share stories of trial and tribulation transformed into achievement and success. They know how I treat my wife, my kid, my mother, my siblings, and even my neighbors. They can attest to my continual progression. They might also share a funny story or two, just to lighten the atmosphere and give insight to who I am outside of work (in a positive, favorable light of course).

From a professional standpoint, mentors, bosses, clients, peers, and friends all have to be willing to speak for you in order for others to be able to trust what you say. Using this mix of references will certainly work in your favor because it's set up for answering any pertinent questions, while hopefully dispelling any doubts or concerns regarding who you are and what you can do.

Ed Mahoney/Kickstarter

In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.

The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.

A small group of veterans hopes to change that.

Read More Show Less
F-16 Fighting Falcon (Photo: US Air Force)

For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.

The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2019. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities said on Friday that a doctor who treated those injured in a mysterious accident this month had the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 in his body, but said it was probably put there by his diet.

The deadly accident at a military site in northern Russia took place on Aug. 8 and caused a brief spurt of radiation. Russian President Vladimir Putin later said it occurred during testing of what he called promising new weapons systems.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a fly-over as newly graduated cadets from the U. S. Air Force Academy toss their hats at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 23, 2018. Shortly after the event ceremony's commencement, the Thunderbirds put on an aerial demonstration show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

Groundwater at the Air Force Academy is contaminated with the same toxic chemicals polluting a southern El Paso County aquifer, expanding a problem that has cost tens of millions of dollars to address in the Pikes Peak region.

Plans are underway to begin testing drinking water wells south of the academy in the Woodmen Valley area after unsafe levels of the chemicals were found at four locations on base, the academy said Thursday.

Read More Show Less