To get a great reference for accounting careers, you need to be mindful of whom you ask and how you ask them. Make sure you ask someone who you trust. Laws pertaining to what information a company can disclose about a former employee vary, but not all references may abide by these laws.

Ask people who know you well enough that they are able to provide details about what you can contribute professionally to an organization. Do not be offended if someone declines to offer you a reference. This can be a blessing in disguise because you do not want someone who is unable or unwilling to speak on your behalf giving a less than excellent report. When you ask someone to serve as a reference, consider doing so by e-mail. That way, if the person needs to decline, he or she will have time to craft a professional response. References can feel put on the spot if you request a recommendation in person.

Once someone has agreed to serve as a reference for you, you can then furnish him or her with information about the job or educational program you are applying to. This information is important for your reference to have, but do not include it in the original e-mail requesting a recommendation. When your reference reads the description of the job you are applying for, he or she will get a good idea of what qualities to stress in your recommendation. You can also discuss with your reference what you would like him or her to say. For example, you may ask one reference to talk primarily about your communication skills and another to talk primarily about your organizational skills. That way, you can be sure that both areas are covered.

If you list someone as a professional reference, you should be sure to let the person know beforehand that someone may contact him or her about you. Your reference will be more able to give a stellar recommendation for you if he or she has had time to think about what to say instead of being caught off guard.

Your supervisors are great people to ask to provide references for you; however, remember that your colleagues also can provide recommendations. Sometimes, it helps to maintain a file of written recommendations for use whenever you need them. A good time to ask supervisors or colleagues to write one for you is in your final weeks with an employer after you have given your resignation. That way, your request will not surprise anyone or spark rumors of your upcoming departure. Be prepared to write recommendations for your colleagues in return.

When you reach into your file of recommendations, make sure that all of the information about your references is still accurate. You can check with the human resources department of your former employers to make sure that your references’ names, titles, and contact information are up to date.

Be sure to thank all of your references after they provide recommendations for you, whether or not you got the new job or were accepted into school. Your references will likely want to know the outcome of their recommendations, so keep them up to date on what you are doing. It is helpful to maintain professional relationships with people you want to serve as your references again in the future. Sending a quick e-mail hello or holiday card reminds your references that you are thinking of them and makes them feel appreciated for helping you out.