Dear JT & Dale: A colleague told me she was looking for a new job and asked me to be a reference. I accepted because I am also thinking of leaving the company and I felt that she could be a reference for me. However, my company has a policy that only managers can give references, so if I get caught I could be in trouble. Well, I got a call from a potential employer, and they wanted to confirm all of the accomplishments she claimed were hers in her current role. She took a lot of liberties and a lot of credit for things she didn’t do on her own.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t want to contradict him, but at the same time, I’m not saying that she actually did those things when she didn’t. Basically, I put myself in a very bad position and I don’t know how to get out of it. Thoughts? —Kandace
JT: First, you need to know that there’s a reason companies set strict rules about who can give referrals. This is because a company can be sued for the reference it gives, so it trains its employees on what they can and cannot say. I knew of a company that had an employee who stole $10,000. They didn’t want their clients to know, so they just told him to find a new job. When a new employer asked for a reference check, the old company said they had no problem with it. Well guess what? She ended up stealing from her next employer. This employer ended up suing the former employer for lying. This is why you need to be very careful when checking references.
VALLEY: This also explains why many companies simply refuse to give references and only check dates of employment.
JT: Now at this point I think you should start looking for a new job immediately. Hopefully breaking the rules doesn’t come back to bite you. From now on, leave the reference check to management.
VALLEY: One more thing: be open-minded about the accomplishments your former co-worker listed that she “didn’t accomplish alone”; after all, if you’re on the team, you win.
Dear JT & Dale: I worked for the government for 20 years and am now about to retire with a pension. I want to find a whole new career path. Do you think I have to go back to college to do this? I currently do not have a university degree. —Brooks
VALLEY: Oh, it’s painful for me. My father was a university professor, as were two of my uncles. And, early in my career, I served on the adjunct faculty of two colleges. I like college. But your question forces me to confront the fact that I mostly like it as the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a safe place to get away from home and try out characters, which might help find a career path. And, oh yeah, you get to learn a bit of history, science, English, and math, and it also helps you know what you were meant to do and be. Looking at this list, not everything applies to you. And that brings us to what so many colleges are becoming: vocational training centers. The result is that the university becomes a decision whether or not a degree is required for what you want to do next.
JT: A college degree would be an expensive way to figure this out. So I would not immediately rush back to school. Often you will not see the return on this investment. I think you should first figure out what profession you want to go into by conducting informational interviews with people who have jobs that interest you. Many times you can learn how to enter a field without a college degree. There might be some kind of certification you can get that is much less expensive and takes less time.
Jeanine “JT” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab and the author of an HR novel, “The Weary Optimist”. Please visit them at jtanddale.comwhere you can email questions or write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.