With the economy slowly picking up steam, we are seeing an influx of new jobs and new companies popping up which gives many job-seekers hope for new horizons. But not everyone who is looking for a job is a superstar. Let's face it, some people (and we all know those folks) are just not the greatest at what they do. There is a dilemma that we all deal with when faced with helping someone we know get a job. We are forced into becoming judges of other human beings, and in fact being instrumental in that person's livelihood. Is it fair for one individual to say or do things that can affect another person's career, their ability to pay bills, and essentially afford to live?
Most people don't think twice about it. A buddy emails them asking for job leads or references. The common response is "Sure, no problem, what type of position is it for?" But what happens if you know that the person is not very good at his or her job? What if that person is lazy, incompetent or a brown-noser? Do you just ignore all of that and figure it's not your problem? If you do, you could be doing yourself more harm than you know.
Our references are an extension of our own career strengths and weaknesses. What people say about us reflects who we are as seen by those around us. Conversely, if we are a reference for someone who basically sucks at what they do, that "suckage" is reflected back to us as references. After all, if a worker is slow and problematic, who is the loser that referred him?... Oh yeah -- it was you.
When we are references for poorly performing people, how they perform reflects back to every person who referred them, for better or for worse. If the person is awesome, then you're awesome. But if the person is terrible, well, you'll regret helping that person out.
And it goes both ways. Workers are also responsible to be great actors for their references. After all, if I spent the time and effort to be your reference, the least you can do is to not make me into a liar.
At the end of the day, we try and help our friends and coworkers to navigate through their careers and land great jobs. But we have to be cognizant of the fact that who we support can affect our careers, as much as our decision to be their reference can affect theirs. It is a two way street. Just be careful about who you agree to be a reference for, and make sure that they say and do what they say they can.
... because the last thing you want to deal with in your own career, is fallout from referring a crappy employee. When that happens, then you both suck...