Providing professional references can be a challenge

Q: I am looking to resign from my first job out of college. I
received an offer that said it was “contingent upon the satisfactory
completion of three professional references.” Who am I supposed to
give? I can’t give my current supervisor. I am stuck. Please help.

A: Congratulations on your offer of employment. Many job offers are
extended in this same manner. The new company wants to check
references but they don’t want to delay the process to wait until this
can be completed.

Three professional references should ideally include one supervisor.
Have you only had one supervisor? Is there another supervisor (who
maybe has left the company) who you could contact? Or has there been
someone who supervised your work but maybe wasn’t officially your
supervisor? Perhaps someone who trained you for a position or served as
your “go to” person when you were first hired. Or is there a senior
person at your current employer who would be willing to speak on your

Think about colleagues with whom you have shared a positive
relationship. Maybe they have left the company or maybe they are still
working at your company but understand the discretion involved.
Another option is providing the contact information of a supervisor
from a past internship or past summer job. Or a professor who may have
supervised a project or internship.

Most employers understand you cannot give your current supervisor as a
reference, or you may jeopardize your current employment situation. A
new employer hopes to contact at least one supervisor but that can be
challenging especially for those candidates with few roles in their
It is important to maintain strong professional relationships for
this reason. If you are struggling to find former contacts, sometimes
LinkedIn can help.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.