Help! I've lost touch with all my references and now I need them

Ask the Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all of your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email [email protected]

Dear Insider,

Since graduating college, I have been at the same job for three years. I recently decided to start applying for new opportunities.

But when it comes to finding references, I’m stuck. I can’t ask anyone at my current job because I don’t want them to know I’m applying other places.

I’ve long lost touch with professors and managers from my internships. I’d like to get in touch with them, but don’t know how to do so without it being obvious I need something.


Nervous About Finding References


Dear Nervous,

This is a case where it is worse to beat around the bush. Your motives are going to be clear whether you ask right away or send a few emails back and forth first.

First, email your potential references apologizing for falling out of touch. Provide an update with what you’ve been working on and what you hope to accomplish next in your career. Explain that you are applying for jobs and ask if they are willing to be a reference. If they’re local, offer to take them out to coffee.

I would guess your mentors will be happy to oblige and give you a free pass this time around. In case they don’t, you should also identify some new people who can advise you and build out your list of contacts. Maybe find a networking event or conference to attend.

You’ve learned a valuable lesson here — keep in touch with people even when you don’t need them. Putting in the effort will pay dividends later and help you avoid awkward situations.


Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all of your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to [email protected] for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.

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