The Workplace

Asking for references

By Colleen Sabatino

References are important! The letters validate and document your hard work as an intern. You’ll want at least one reference letter as well as verbal agreements to give their names and numbers as contact people for future references on internships or jobs. The sooner you get started on the reference process the better. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Meet with your supervisor. Make an appointment with your intern supervisor. Be sure to thank your intern supervisor for the guidance you received during your internship. Then, ask him/her to write you a general reference letter that you could use to get future internships or employment. If you have a specific position in mind, you may want to ask the intern supervisor to write you a reference for that posting. If graduate school is in your future, you may like to have a reference letter geared for the Admissions Committee at that school. Request permission to use your supervisor as a general reference, finding out the proper contact information for future use.
  2. Consider other appropriate references. Draw up a list of any other people at your internship who could be good resources for references, such as the team leader if you worked as part of a team, or different department heads if you moved from department to department. You may have found a mentor or advisor who informally helped you—he or she may be willing to write a reference letter for you, too. Sometimes, the human resources or personnel department can be called upon to provide a reference letter for you. You can never have too many reference letters.
  3. Consider timing. Consider when you should request reference letters. To make sure that you receive them before you leave the internship, start making your requests about two weeks before your internship ends, giving people enough time to write good letters. At the beginning of your last week, check in to see if anyone has completed his/her letter. Thank everyone in advance for taking the time to write you a reference letter. Mention the date of your last day and that you’ll be back to pick up the letter that day if not before. If you’re feeling uncertain about getting the letters, call your school career center counselor and ask for advice on speeding up the process. Your counselor may have already requested reference letters for you.