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How to get a good reference letter even if you resigned from your job on bad terms

How to get a good reference letter even if you resigned from your job on bad terms
PHOTO: Pexels

We will always try to leave a job on good terms but sometimes, that's just not possible.

Perhaps you couldn't get along with your boss or you couldn't tolerate working in a toxic environment anymore and needed to get out.

You may find it awkward to ask your manager for a reference letter under such circumstances and end up leaving the company without one.

However, you don't have to short-change yourself.

See if this scenario resonates with you: When Selina* quit her job because of her manager, she was curious to find out what sort of reference letter she would receive.

But on her last day, she received nothing and was told that if she wanted a reference letter from her manager, she would have to ask him for one.

"That terrified me," recalls the 33-year-old communications executive.

"My manager was in a perpetual bad mood and he didn't like me very much-I had no idea how to even ask him for a reference letter without him blowing up at me or making some sarcastic remark, let alone ask for a positive one."

Selina ended up leaving the company without a letter and says that she now regrets not asking somebody-anybody-for one.

"I should've just approached another colleague or manager because I got along with everybody else," she shares.

"My manager was the only one I despised. It probably wouldn't have made a difference whom I got the letter from, but it's too late now because I left the company three years ago and everyone I know there has resigned too. I did some really good work during my four years there, but unfortunately there's no one who can officially vouch for my character and my contributions to the company anymore."


Getting a positive work reference letter shouldn't be so hard.

As long as you did a decent job during your time at a company-that is, you more-or-less did what you were paid to do and did not get into any serious trouble-then you deserve a letter that describes your role and your lists your achievements.

And yes, even if you're leaving your company on bad terms or just hate your boss, you can still leave with a good reference letter.


If you don't get along with your direct supervisor, approach another higher-up.

This can be a manager from another team or department, but she has to have worked directly with you on some level and also be aware of your contributions and skills.

Think back to projects or pitches you worked on that involved other teams or departments, and see if any of those supervisors can help you.


If your new boss is unapproachable or you just don't get along with her, or she happens to be the reason for your resignation, you can certainly ask her predecessor for a reference letter.

Your former manager should know you and your work well enough, of course, and ideally, she should've worked for the company for a reasonable amount of time.


Getting a reference letter from a client is probably not the best idea, because they don't supervise you and probably have no idea of your overall successes at the company.

But if you've done good work for them in the past and get along well with them, you can count on them to say something positive about you.

And, if they're a big-name client or customer, even better.


This would have to be someone you worked closely with, and who knows your skills and contributions.

She's probably not the most ideal person to ask for a letter, since she never supervised you, but if you have no other choice then go for it.

This article was first published in Her World Online.

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