Whether you’re planning on transitioning to a new job, are hoping to gain admission to a great school, are working on building up your résumé, or are eyeing a promotion, having references is key. Often, the very last stage of the application process requires a letter of recommendation or the contact information of a few references.

Providing these can sometimes be difficult. It’s easy to equate asking for a reference with asking for compliments—a practice that feels needy. We may think of it as saying, “Have I been doing good work? Really? Can you tell someone else?”

It’s easy to feel this way, but this isn’t what you’re doing. Rather, what you’re doing is having the confidence to pass information through your network. What you’re doing is allowing your future employer (or school or program) to learn about you. What you’re doing is displaying trust that your connections will represent you well, and that your past performance will, indeed, speak for itself.

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