Being an employment reference for a current employee

In the past, I’ve had anywhere from seven to 30 employees reporting directly or indirectly to me. And in each case, my expectations for them are simple.

While they’re working for me, I expect them to push themselves, their peers and me to do high quality and innovative work every chance they get. My goal is for each of them to see the opportunity in front of them as a chance to build their skills, enhance their resume and move on to something even greater than the work they do for me.

In a creative environment with writers and designers, I try to be realistic about the people with whom I work. Writers and designers rarely stay in one place for too long, and the only way I’m going to get them to stay with me is to give them as many opportunities as possible to improve themselves and do new things.

But after a few cycles (years) in any job, things will tend to start repeating themselves. When that happens, I try to be realistic about the fact that they’ll start looking elsewhere and eventually leave.

So I look at it as my responsibility to prepare them for their next opportunity and ensure that they go on to something even greater than they did for me.

I’m very honest with my employees about this, and I try to make it clear that they should take advantage of the opportunity with me and only leave if they’re going on to something better. If they leave me for a lateral move or something with lesser pay, I take that as a sign that I didn’t do my job as a manager.

But if I’m doing my job right, my employees will tell me when they’re starting to look and even use me as a reference. This recently happened, and I couldn’t feel better about it.

I worked with a Senior Designer who was excellent in every way. Aside from being a talented designer and a great strategist, she is also a natural leader who brings calm, composure and professionalism to everything she does.

She told me she had an opportunity and asked me to be a reference. When I saw that the opportunity was a big step up for her, I couldn’t have been happier to oblige, and I like to think my reference call, as well as the work she did for our group, helped contribute in some way to her advancement.

When my people go on to greater things, I take it as a badge of honor. It’s a sign I did my job right and they took advantage of what was there in front of them.

I don’t look forward to my good people leaving, but I know it’s natural. Many times people fight natural evolution. I choose to embrace it. Hopefully, this makes me a solid manager.

– My name is Jon Friesch, and who knows… maybe we’ll work together some day.

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