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How to Ask Your Boss For a Recommendation

How Can I Ask My Boss For a Recommendation?

In an effort to keep their job searches confidential, most professionals ask past supervisors, mentors, and other colleagues to author letters of recommendation or provide references. Requesting an endorsement from your current boss, however, requires a delicate approach.

While there is value to keeping your search on the down-low, there are also certain situations that require a more transparent approach: perhaps your spouse or partner has accepted a position that means a move for your family or your company is downsizing and you know a layoff is on the horizon. In these cases, it may make sense to let your boss in on your future plans and to invite her recommendation.

Keep in mind, though, that you only want to proceed in this direction if you and your supervisor have a solid working relationship and you've openly discussed your career trajectory. Here's what to consider before navigating this request.

When It's OK to Ask

If you're moving because your spouse or partner secured a job in a new city, then clearly you have solid grounds to ask your boss for a recommendation. While your boss will probably be bummed to see you go, there's likely no way she can compete with this new development to enable you to retain your current role.

If you and your boss have been discussing your current role and have been unsuccessful in your dual efforts to help you achieve it in your current position, this may also make a good case for asking for her help in securing your next gig. If you both have tried to make your current role work to no avail, and you need a more accommodating position, then it might be appropriate to ask for your boss's support in securing your next job.

Nurture the Ask

Retention is a major challenge for managers. It's hard to keep teams staffed, and it's expensive and time-consuming to recruit and train new team members. If you and your boss have discussed your professional ambitions, then this bodes well for your professional relationship. It also sets the stage for you to request her endorsement in your next endeavour.

If you're a stellar recruit, your manager probably wants to do what she can to keep you on board. So don't blindside her by popping this question out of the blue. She can't rave about you if she's flustered and unprepared. Nurture this ask by recognizing the conflict that it presents for her and give her plenty of time to get used to the idea and shape her thoughts.

Seed Your Future Ask

If you've found a new job, and you're wrapping up your final days with your former employer, it's a good time to reflect on your experience with your soon-to-be former employer. You will probably have an exit interview and can talk with your boss about your experience under her leadership.

If you've had a positive relationship with her, this would be a perfect time to ask her if you can count on her for a future endorsement. That way, the next time you find yourself in this position, you will know exactly where to turn.

When NOT to Ask

If you're relatively happy in your role and you and your boss haven't discussed your future plans but an opportunity unexpectedly presented itself, then you might consider asking another professional in your network to champion your candidacy. You don't want to take your boss by surprise with your request and risk having her say something unfavourable about you. In that case, consider asking a mentor, senior colleague, or former professor for an endorsement.

Prospective employers understand candidates' need for discretion in their job searches. It won't reflect unfavourably if your reference list doesn't include your current manager.

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