By Janice Burch, Career Coach, Co-Owner at Pro Resume Center, LLC

You are at the burnout stage of your career, ready to seek a new challenge or
just get out from under a negative situation.

As a career coach, I ask questions about my client's work history and job performance in order to best prepare them for the job search, career transition, promotion, or a tough interview.

One question I ask of those clearly at their breakpoint in a current position to help them get in front of a potential bad reference:

Based on what you did over the last week at work, WOULD YOU HIRE YOURSELF?

Why is this important? As you prepare to change jobs, if you are in a slump and falling down on your responsibilities, you may still have time for some emergency triage to preserve that job reference.

For these clients,  we develop strategies to help quickly improve their odds for a positive performance, which can equal an improved reference, more opportunities and confidence as they step forward into a job search and new career.

Keep Bringing Your “A” Game
My father held executive positions in the engineering industry and before that, played high school and college basketball.  When I would complain to him about one of my first jobs in high school, one of which was cleaning animal poo from cages at a veterinary hospital, he would tell me I should always bring my “A” game to any job, no matter what it was, and no matter how others around me might behave or perform. Wise man, he was.

But this is hard to do when bottoming out in the slump stage in the workplace, right? And it becomes easy to obsess over all the reasons you dislike your job – maybe it’s a micromanaging boss, less than glamorous tasks, a devious colleague taking credit for your work, unreasonable last-minute client requests, a lack of adequate pay or support, etc. We often do this, instead of taking a hard look at ourselves.

Don't read this wrong – these are definitely reasons to look elsewhere, especially if you have exhausted all channels to rectify the situation. But you still want to set yourself up as best you can to get a decent reference from the employer, especially if you have spent significant time in this job.

The pride we take in our work reflects in how we view ourselves and that reflection
shines onto others and impacts how they too, view our value in the workplace. 

Burning bridges by slacking off during a pre-exit slump could come back to bite you in a big way. At worst – an early termination and at best – a poor job reference. And employers are checking. Many companies hire third-party agencies that only do candidate background checks, including contacting your listed references. A lukewarm or outright negative response or slip in the tone of voice from a reference – “Oh, yeah, her….ummm,” can tank your chances for a job in today's competitive job market.

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself regarding your current situation as you begin your search for a new position. If you answer “no” to any of these, do some job reference triage now – for your own sake. It will be worth the effort:

  • Are you doing what you can to meet the needs of your clients?
  • Are you honestly trying to live the mission statement and company message in your responsibilities?
  • How often are you delivering value to your team and helping the group reach goals?
  • Are you hitting the quotas set by your team or management? If not, are you seeking help for this issue or just riding it out?
  • Are you still willing to help out your boss or supervisors, asking if you can take a load off of their plate after completing your own tasks?
  • As a manager, are you truly treating your staff and direct reports in the manner in which you would want to be treated, helping them develop the skills they need to help guide the company's success?

The best time to go is when you are at the top of your game.happy team 300x199

Even though you may be on the way out,  try your best to rack up accomplishments and responsibilities for your resume and play out your last weeks or months on the job as if it were an interview for your next job. Do try to show your value right up until the very end.

I promise — you'll be happy you did.

Lastly, be sure to consider these points regarding your references:

  • Do not list references on your resume. This should be a separate coordinating page so that you can share it with your interviewer onsite, or send later as requested with a follow-up letter.
  • Be sure to check in with the references you want to use – call and ask. This is especially important with any older references you may have. You don't want the hiring manager calling them only to hear this: “Who? I don't know who that it is. Remind me again?” Or worse.
  • Treat your references page with as much respect as your resume. Cultivate it throughout your career, be sure it is accurate and work smart to ensure you leave your jobs with employers, colleagues, clients and vendors wishing you would stay.

If you need help mapping out an exit strategy, new career goals, gearing up for a job search or prepping to ace your next interview, contact us for services and rates at or (800) 603-6623.

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