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Ideas for Professional References

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Providing a professional reference is typically a requirement when applying for jobs or higher education, such as a graduate degree program. Professional references differ from personal references, as this type of reference is based solely on your professional performance within past jobs or involvement in organizations. If you’re required to place a professional reference within an application, you may draw upon references from places outside of past employers.

Employer References

Traditionally, professional references consist of previous employers. When adding this reference to your application, place the names and contact information for managers, supervisors or owners only, never for fellow employees. As you’re organizing your list of previous employer references, include the names of supervisors or the like who directly oversaw your daily performance. Do not include the name of a manager/supervisor who did not have regular interaction with you.

Volunteer References

Professional references do not need to be from paying employers. If you engaged in volunteer work, you may use this as a professional reference. When outlining the names and contact information for such a reference, use the contact information for the head organizer of the organization. Do not use fellow volunteers for a professional reference.

Training Coach References

If you underwent professional training, you may use the training coach as a professional reference. Your training coach worked with you one-on-one and is able to fully gauge your talent and ability to perform a specific task, which makes this type of reference suitable for a job or grad school application. Make sure to include the dates you were trained by this professional within the reference portion of your resume or application.

College Professor References

Those who do not have professional references from previous employers, volunteer organizations or training coaches may use a previous, or current, educational professor. When using a college-level professor as a reference, make sure to state the institution where the professor works, the course name and the dates you took the course.


Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.