Why Do You Want a Reference?
Not all recommendations serve the same purpose. Are you looking for new clients? A new job? Changing careers?
Before you ask for the recommendation, think about your future goals! This will impact who you ask and how you will direct them.
A new job requires stellar references from coworkers or management. Sourcing out new clients means asking for current clients. Transitioning to a new career means asking someone who sees and acknowledges your transferable skills.
Pick That Person Carefully
Make sure you choose someone who you’ve worked with for at least six months and they have benefited in some way from your work. The last reference you want to read is “I only knew Angela for one month, but she sure seemed to work hard…” or even worse: “Jim works in another department from me, but I’ve never heard a complaint about him”. Pick your person intentionally.
What Would You Like Them to Highlight
“John is great to work with!” doesn’t explain if you like his attitude, his work ethic, his ideas, or just the fact that he brings doughnuts in every Friday. To make certain you get the kind of informed feedback that will help you in the future, ask this person nicely with specifics:
“I’m really proud of the work we did on the company presentation regarding privacy laws. Could you write a bit about that and what our collaboration and results were like?”
Offer Something in Exchange
The odds of you getting what you ask for increase dramatically when you offer them something first. Before sending your email, be sure to send that person that would be helpful for them. Something like an interesting blog post, a webinar invite, or a referral in exchange is always appreciated.