References are a vital part of the job search process. When faced with tough hiring decisions, employers like to be able to obtain input from people who are already familiar with your qualifications for a particular job.
Who Should I Ask to Be a Reference?
Choosing your employment references can be a tricky task, although it is helpful to keep in mind that the best references are individuals who are respected in their profession and can honestly say positive things about your talents and skills. Some examples of good references include:
- Your supervisor at your music therapy internship
- Your favorite instructor from music school
- The director of your church choir
- The instructor for your private music lessons
- The owner of the restaurant where you sometimes sing
Poor choices for references are people who have little or no knowledge of your musical ability and work ethic. Even if they like you as a person, their opinion isn’t going to carry much weight with a potential employer. Some examples of inappropriate references would include:
- Your parents
- Your older siblings
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend
- Your best friend from high school
Regardless of who you choose as a reference, always ask before providing contact information to an employer. Although most people are happy to help young music school graduates land their first jobs, it is possible that your reference might not be as confident in your abilities as you expect. If your reference can’t provide an enthusiastic recommendation, it is better to choose someone else.
You do not need to ask a reference to prepare a written letter of recommendation unless a potential employer requests it. Most employers will want the chance to ask your references questions that are specific to the position you are applying for.
Sometimes people list references directly on their resume. However, many career counselors recommend keeping your reference list on a separate sheet of paper that you provide upon request. References won’t generally be checked until the last steps of the hiring process, so you’ll have plenty of time to provide this information when it is needed.
When listing someone as a reference for a music job, you’ll typically be asked to provide the following information:
- Position title
- Mailing address
- Phone number, including cell phone
- Email address
- Website (if applicable)
- Relationship to you
- How long you’ve known this person
Once you’ve accepted a position, it is customary to send a short note to your references describing your new job and thanking them for their assistance. Some people also send a small gift, such as flowers or chocolates. However, since this practice is discouraged in many companies, a sincere expression of your gratitude is sufficient.