Q: I’m wondering if you could comment on using SLIS instructors as references in a job search. One of my instructors last semester invited students to contact her if we’d like a reference. In this case, if a job search won’t begin for a year or two, should we wait until then to ask the instructor for permission to give contact information to a potential employer? Would it be appropriate after such a time lag to ask an instructor to comment on a student’s skills/abilities etc.? Is it even reasonable to use academic references, or is it better to use only work references?
A: It is reasonable to use a past instructor as a reference. I like the idea of having references that know you in different capacities. It provides a well rounded view of your work style, personality, and job related capabilities. It does become an issue when using a reference that is not someone you currently have interaction with. So here is what I recommend.
Consider asking the instructor to write you a letter of recommendation. This way you have a document that is based on what the instructor remembers about you currently and this can be given to potential employers anytime. If you still choose to use this instructor as a reference in the future, the letter may help them to remember you more clearly. I also advise you to periodically keep this instructor up-to-date on your job search status through email updates or a quick phone call. As with any reference, make sure they have given their permission and coach them on the skills and qualities you’d like them to highlight about you when speaking to potential employers.
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