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How to Get a Reference Letter After Getting Fired

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A reference letter can be useful in recommending you as a viable candidate for the next job you apply to. If you were fired from your job, that could present a problem in obtaining a reference letter from your employer. Getting fired generally means that the resulting loss of employment was due to some mistake, error or fault on your part. However, that’s when you need to think outside the box and figure out creative ways to get a reference. This article will address how you can obtain one after getting fired.

See Also: 5 Indications That You Might Get Fired

1. Ask a Previous Supervisor at the Company

Depending on the specific circumstances of your firing, it is possible that you may still be able to obtain a reference letter if you ask a previous supervisor you worked for at the company. If you were fired for stealing money, a violent offense or some other severe behavioral issue, then it’s possible that even your previous supervisor won’t give you a reference. However, if you were fired for a less serious issue, such as irreconcilable differences with your current manager, you can venture to ask your previous manager for a reference. This individual may be happy to give you a reference if your work performance was good and you never had any issues with this manager.


Make sure that if you are going to ask a previous manager for a reference letter that you take steps immediately to contact this person. You don’t want any time to pass before asking for the letter because in the interim period, upper management may have contacted your previous managers to forbid them from providing you any references. Since time is of the essence, you can even have some key points or ideas for the previous manager to include in the letter to ensure that the process moves along smoothly. Even though your request may be denied by this previous manager you worked for, you’ll never know unless you ask and you could be pleasantly surprised with a positive recommendation from this person.

2. Ask Colleagues From the Company

Another option for obtaining a reference letter is to ask some of your colleagues that worked with you at the company. Technically, these can be considered personal references. However, you need to ensure that the general focus of the letter will be solely based on your work performance, not necessarily your character as in a personal reference letter. Again, depending on the severity level of the reasons for your firing, management may have issued an order that no employees can speak to you or provide you with any type of references as you are whisked away out of the office, barely grabbing your personal belongings.

However, if the firing circumstances were not that severe and you haven’t been blacklisted, consider speaking to some of your work colleagues to ask them for a reference letter. Think wisely about who you are going to ask. You don’t want someone who is simply your work friend. Asking a friend is good. However, you need this letter to have genuine substance with regard to the content. You can only get that by having a positive reference letter from someone who worked with you on a team project or was involved in the daily operations of your department where they saw you in action each day. Remember, to secure this reference letter immediately, before too much time passes or you may have lost your chance; especially if management gets wind of your plan and is not pleased with it.

3. Seek a Reference From a Company Client

If you deal with various clients on a daily basis, it is likely that you have formed a friendly professional relationship with some of them. The company cannot inform the client that you were fired and this person may not even know anything about what happened. When deciding which client to ask for a reference, make sure that you ask someone who has experienced positive results from your work. For example, you don’t want this client to simply say that you’re a nice person whom they enjoyed working with. Remember, there needs to be significant content to this recommendation for it to be a viable reference letter worth submitting to a new employer.

You need to make sure that you ask this client for the reference immediately as well because once you’re out the door, you have no control over what is said about you to the client. Your managers and fellow coworkers should not tell these clients that you were fired or any details regarding the circumstances. However, they can say that you no longer work for the company, if it ever comes up in conversation or if the client asks for you specifically by name. Due to those circumstances, you don’t want to waste any time in contacting one or two of your clients to secure a reference letter right away.

4. Contact a Previous Employer for a Reference

If all else fails, you can contact one of your previous employers to obtain a reference letter, presuming that you hadn’t already received one from them when leaving that job. It would be best to contact one of your most recent previous employers so that your employment history is more relevant and you are still somewhat fresh in your manager’s mind. There is no point to contacting an employer from ten or fifteen years ago, because that work history is most likely not relevant and any new employer may think it odd that you are providing a reference letter from a job that you worked at so long ago.

When contacting this employer, try to remain professional and do not mention the fact that you just got fired. You don’t want to bring any negativity to the conversation. You want your previous employer to only remember the positives of your employment and why he was so disappointed to see you leave for the new job. Don’t impulsively contact the first employer on your list. Make sure that you take some time to remember if there were any negative issues when you left their employment. Contacting a previous employer, who didn’t like you too much and was happy to see you go, will not benefit you in obtaining a positive reference letter.

5. Get Creative With Finding a Reference

You may be in a tough situation where you got fired and your chances of getting a reference letter are extremely slim. For example, you never had a previous manager at the current company and were only working for the one who fired you. Maybe you did not work closely with any other colleagues on team projects and were not even very close friends with other employees. When you considered previous employers, you wanted to run and hide because all of these individuals were not entirely pleased with your work as well.

Such circumstances call for you to get more creative with your reference letter. While you’re looking for a new job, which can take some time, consider doing freelance work in your field of expertise. This doesn’t mean that you are putting stakes in the ground and setting up shop with a new business. However, it’s simply a means to an end. If you can secure some clients for temporary freelance jobs, you have the perfect opportunity to obtain reference letters from these clients. Focus on doing some short-term projects and working to the best of your ability so that you can get positive feedback from these clients and use that for your advantage in securing reference letters for your continued job search.

See Also: How to Deal with a Bad Reference

Getting fired is not an easy situation to handle and overcome. However, you need to keep working, and securing a positive reference letter can be the one silver lining that comes out of this negative experience. If you find yourself fired and needing a reference letter, go through the five steps discussed and you should be able to secure a positive recommendation from one of these sources in your professional life.

Have you ever experienced getting fired and needed to obtain a reference letter? How did you handle the situation? Share your experiences in the comments section below.