Steps of a Job Search- Step 1: Summarize your Experience

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Toolbox with media icons in speech bubblesSearching for a job can be overwhelming, and it is often hard to know where to start. There are many things you need to do to create a resume and search for a job, but you can break down the process into manageable steps.

Our “Steps of a Job Search” series highlights these steps. As we go through, follow along with Patricia and Nate (our fictitious examples) to see how it works.


Summarizing your experience

The first step in searching for a job is to summarize your experience. This summary will help you create a resume, decide who to ask to be a reference, and help you decide what jobs to apply for.

To get started, think about the following questions:


What is your work and volunteer experience?

A man using a wheelchair working at a grocery store

Make a list of your work, school, and volunteer experience, and how long or how many times you’ve done each. You might want to start from high school, or you might want to start with the last five years. If you can remember, write down the name of the person who was supervising, teaching, or managing you. Go back as far as you can.

This list is a way for you to jog your memory and think about what you have done, who you did it with, and what you liked doing.

After you’ve made your list, you’ll look it over and decide what to use on your resume and who to ask to be a reference. The most important part in this first step is to write down everything you can remember.


What degrees, certificates, awards, or recognition have you received? 

This is the “bragging” section, where you make a list of how awesome you are (otherwise known as all of your accomplishments).

Did you win a spelling bee in high school? Were you employee of the month? Did you graduate from school? Do you have a professional license? Were you “volunteer of the year” at your local humane society? Did you complete a training course and get a certificate? Were you acknowledged with an award?

a woman stands outside holding an award

Write down everything you can think of. Later, when you’re writing your resume, you can decide what accomplishments you should include.

Even if you decide you don’t want to mention all those blue ribbons you won at the state fair for your prize-winning pumpkin on your job resume, it’s good to have a list written down to help you remember. Things that may not be relevant for one job application may be perfect to put on another.


What are your skills?

Next, think about what other skills you have that aren’t covered in your list of work and volunteer experiences. What can you do that isn’t covered in your professional or educational background?

Are you good at sewing clothes? Cooking meals for large groups of people? Taking care of livestock or pets? Caregiving for your grandmother or little sister? Fixing cars and tractors? Chopping wood?


What are your hobbies or other interests?

You might not include hobbies on your resume, but having a list of your interests will be helpful in a few different ways:

  • If you don’t have very much professional experience, you might want to include some of your hobbies or interests on your resume.
  • Reviewing your list can help you think about potential types of jobs you hadn’t previously considered.
  • “What do you like to do in your spare time?” is a common interview question, so thinking about your interests now is a good idea. (It’s never too early to prep!)



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Examples: Patricia and Nate

Here are the lists Patricia and Nate made after they thought about the questions above.



Patricia’s work and volunteer experience

a person behind the counter at a cafe talks with a woman standing in front of the counter.

  • Babysitting (3 years)
    • The first item on her list is babysitting from when she was a teen. Even though she is not interested in babysitting again, mentioning she has experience with children may be good in a cover letter.
  • Seasonal work in a plant nursery (5 summers)
  • Waitressing (1 year)
    • She did this when she first graduated from high school. Although she does not want to waitress again, this position has some skills she can highlight like customer service.
  • Working in schools as a teacher’s aide (5 years)
  • Working in a bakery (10 years)
  • Volunteer at crisis pregnancy center (2 years)

Patricia’s degrees, certificates, awards, or recognition

  • High school diploma
  • 2 years of college but did not get a degree
  • Various trainings as a Teacher’s Aide
  • CPR certified (but her CPR certification is expired)
  • Certified as “Safe Food Handler” when employed at the bakery

Patricia’s skills

  • Patricia has baking skills, but that was covered in her list work experience.

Patricia’s hobbies and interests

  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Social work



Nate is a senior in high school so his experience list is short.

Nate’s work and volunteer experience

two men building fence

  • Babysitting (1 year)
  • Spent a summer mowing lawns for neighbors when 16.
  • Worked at McDonalds (6 months)
  • Volunteered at a pancake breakfast fundraiser with a friend

Nate’s degrees, certificates, awards, or recognition

  • High school diploma, expected 2019
    • Nate has not graduated from high school so he wrote down his anticipated graduation date
  • Enrolled in a carpentry class at the local community college
  • Certified as a “Safe Food Handler” when working at McDonald’s

Nate’s skills

  • Nate’s family spent the last 3 years building their home and he learned a lot about construction during that process.

Nate’s hobbies and interests

  • Skateboarding
  • Playing video games

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closeup picture of hands writing with a pen on a notepad

Next steps

Now that you have put together your list of experience, education, skills, and interests, the next steps are to use this information to:

  • Think about where you would like to look for a job and what types of jobs you want to apply for
  • Create a resume
  • Write a cover letter

Check out the rest of the blog posts in our Job Search series to learn more about these next steps.



All photographs from Healthy Community Living (

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