Whether you are looking for your first job out of college, are thinking about a lateral move or have been laid off during a downsizing at your firm or corporation, the old adage is true — references either can help you secure a new position, or they can prevent you from meeting your career goals.

The purpose of professional references is to provide prospective employers with credible insights into the type of employee you are likely to be and whether you are qualified for a specific position. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to give considerable thought to identifying those people who can best serve as your references. Generally speaking, most employers like to contact at least three professional references.

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