Reference Planning

How to Prepare when Working on Projects Requiring Non-Disclosure Agreements


Completing a project under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) often implies that the nature of the work is sensitive and confidential. While the focus is rightly on delivering high-quality results, it is equally important to consider the future implications of the project, especially when it comes to references. In this article, we will explore the need for careful planning and organization of references in NDA-bound projects, and the strategic inclusion of reference requests in the initial project proposal.

The Significance of References

References play a crucial role in professional growth, acting as a testament to an individual’s skills, expertise, and successful project completion. However, when work is done under an NDA, the freedom to openly discuss the specifics of the project is restricted. This poses a challenge when one seeks to leverage the experience gained for future opportunities or wishes to showcase the project on a resume.

Strategic Reference Planning

Planning references for NDA-bound projects requires foresight and a well-thought-out strategy. Professionals involved in such projects should consider including a clause in the initial project proposal that addresses the issue of references upon project completion.

This clause can stipulate the possibility of requesting a letter of reference, allowing the individual to use the experience in their professional portfolio.

Including Reference Requests in the Initial Proposal

By integrating reference requests into the initial project proposal, all parties involved can openly discuss and agree on the terms before embarking on the project. This proactive approach ensures that expectations are aligned from the beginning, preventing any potential conflicts regarding reference requests after the project is completed. It also provides an opportunity for the client to express any concerns or constraints related to references.

Navigating Cleared Work for Government and Military

I had a friend in Washington, DC who had worked as a programmer for ten years before he decided to leave government employment. He was stymied by finding that he could not put *any* of the details of his work in his resume. He wound up going back to school and switching careers. He had to walk away from a decade of significant success and professional growth in his chosen profession.

Working on projects involving government or military contracts adds an additional layer of complexity to reference planning. Individuals engaged in cleared work are often bound by strict security protocols, making it challenging to discuss the specifics of their contributions openly. In such cases, it becomes even more vital to establish clear communication channels regarding reference possibilities at the outset of the project.

What we can say

One of the options we can pursue, at least to start a conversation, is include a general line item. Then during the in-person interview it is possible to expand on a technical capability or how lessons learned in the privileged enviroment could be beneficially applied in the hiring organziation. e.g.:

  • Analyzed pivotal information essential to the success of a classified initiative within a leading industry firm (governed by a non-disclosure agreement; additional specifics cannot be disclosed).
  • Oversaw a multimillion-dollar budget for a classified project (subject to NDA, with no additional details accessible) within a Fortune 100 enterprise.

Next Steps

Effectively managing references in NDA-bound projects requires foresight, open communication, and a proactive approach. By incorporating reference requests into the initial project proposal, professionals can ensure that the fruits of their labor can be appropriately acknowledged and showcased in their future endeavors.

Part of creating a healthy employment environment is career planning for all team members – even in a privileged environment.

When you are ready to add this key component to your HR system, Architectural Art can help!

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