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Reference Portfolio: The Secret Weapon of Successful Career Change

By Jay Block

The reference portfolio is a resume tool that deviates from traditional ways to find jobs. But the truth is, the reference portfolio could be the most powerful tool you'll have in your career change arsenal. So what, exactly, is a reference portfolio? Grab a few books you have around the house, and turn them over to look on their back covers. Chances are you'll see a number of testimonials, most of which are only two or three sentences in length. But each testimonial sings the praises of the book, and entices potential readers to want to read the book. A reference portfolio serves the same purpose. A reference portfolio is a simple, one page resume tool containing four to six recommendation examples that sing your praises, in order to entice HR managers to want to meet and hire you – especially in the case of a career change.

In troubled economies and during times of high unemployment, many job applicants will embellish, exaggerate or even outright lie on their resumes. HR managers and executive recruiters are well aware of this. In fact, they expect it! In favorable economies with low unemployment, most HR managers read resumes with a healthy skepticism anyway. But in tough economic times, where many people are in survival mode, hiring authorities read resumes with a great deal of skepticism. A reference portfolio of recommendation examples is an effective tool to eliminate the negative manner in which most HR managers will read your resume!

The portfolio is made up of professional recommendation examples that will help to confirm that the achievements and contributions listed on your resume are accurate. If you're a new college grad, are looking for a job after a layoff or just have little work experience, you'll want to identify the professional or personal references who can attest to the fact that you're a valuable job applicant, able to produce results and contribute to business goals. Once you've lined up four to six people to endorse you, here is a trick to help make sure you get the recommendations you need: Write the reference statements yourself!

Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Suzanne Somers and other celebrities don't write the advertisements for the products and services they endorse. And your recommendation examples shouldn't have to write advertisements for you, either! Instead, write your own recommendation examples, and then send them to your references so they can review it and make any necessary edits. Once the job reference is complete, they should keep a copy in their files so when a prospective employer calls them to do a job reference check, they can easily refer to their specific recommendation.

Once you have your reference portfolio, email it to employers along with your cover letter and resume by including it as the last page of your resume. You want to attach only one file to an email, so the cover letter, resume and reference portfolio should all be grouped together. One of the many advantages to having a portfolio of recommendation examples is that you don't need to have numerous reference letters on company letterhead. If you have a boss that will provide a reference but can't do it on company letterhead or on company time, they may be willing to do so via a personal email address.

Finally, once you have a reference portfolio, you can point it out to HR managers by adding a P.S. at the bottom of your cover letter. And I suggest you bold it, so that the P.S. is a focal point of the cover letter. By doing this, HR managers reading your resume will do so with confidence that the recommendation examples you have listed are accurate and truthful.

View a Sample Reference Portfolio Template


Jay Block is President of the The Jay Block Companies, LLC. He is an employment specialist, speaker and best-selling author for McGraw-Hill. You can visit his website at www.jayblock.com.

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