How to frame your work experience


  1. I generally framed hof experience as something I learned growing up (family farm/garden/business) or something I learned through a friend of the family. For example, when I was applying to work at a stable, I stated that I grew up around horses and listed specific skills on my resume. I found that even of you can’t give them a specific place of employment for certain skills, you can still list what skills you are confident in (ex. With horses – grooming, tacking, feeding, stabling, exercising).
  2. I frame it as volunteer work: Volunteering at a stable, volunteering at a local organic community garden (lol, forced labor if there ever was any!), volunteering at a summer camp. More serious work I frame as apprenticeships: at a daycare or in a sign design company or building furniture. Framing it as volunteer work sometimes makes them less likely to request references, which is a snag I ran into at first, and then you don’t have to launch into the explanation of not getting paid and why. For teen stuff, I said it was volunteer work in exchange for room and board.
  3. You can give references of people on the hof who you have worked with (might stick with work distributer or other person in a position of authority) or you could use someone on the outside if they have worked with you previously on the hof. Someone who currently works in a child care field or comparable who can vouch for the baby house experience of a new leaver, or someone in construction or the like who can lend credence to the work experience of being in the shop. It doesn’t replace legitimate references, but it might help bolster someone’s experience translation.
  4. First, I gave them my educational background. I mentioned my art skills. I even went so far to say that Walt Disney corporation took an interest in my cartoons, which were published in a local newspaper. Then I added that, since 8th grade, I’d worked in a furniture-making shop part time and full time, and that I was on both home maintenance and a building crews. My primary skills were drywall hanging and taping. The employer did not ask for the name of the companies I’d worked for, and I did not offer names. I mentioned that I was trained to work hard and long hours did not faze me. Now comes the tricky part.

Employer: Have you ever installed aluminum siding before?

Me: Ah…never…but….I can do it! Just hire me and I’ll show you! And if I make a mistake, I’m going to correct it at my expense.

Employer: You have a job! 🙂

  1. I have just been honest: I grew up in a commune where we learned a lot of skills as a child. Which of the many jobs I worked over the course of my childhood I put on the resume depends on which job I am applying for. However, being honest about growing up on the hof may only be effective in Vermont where communes are common and widely admired.
  2. Honesty does not mean one has to name the place one comes from. I find it far easier to say that I come from and Amish-like environment. Most Americans can relate to that. I might add that formative years were spent in an ultra-conservative religious environment. Usually that is enough to give the casual inquirer an idea of where I come from. Sometimes I add: That was then and this is now.

Growing up queer

Posted for a friend:

My journey of self discovery as a queer person has been slow and arduous, hobbled by the shame and guilt drilled into all of us who grew up on the Hof. Bodies, sexual interest, exploring one’s self, I remember all of those things being taboo. Either completely ignored, or villainized. It took me years of mentally and physically punishing myself for having urges, or daring to act on them, before I could outrun all of that guilt, all of that shame. And I only experienced it for a relative few years of my life. But now that I’ve left all of that behind me, now that my brain has developed, now that I’ve left any semblance of organized religion in my past, I’ve been able, over the past 5 years, to figure out who I actually am. And wonderfully, I’ve learned that who I am is who I’m made to be, and that I’m worth loving.

I think I came to this place by very deliberately and very thoroughly pruning away what I grew up believing, one poisonous branch at a time. First went the belief that sexuality is something to fear. Then went the conviction that only married people should share their bodies. Then off came the gnarly, prickly branch that said that anything other than man and woman was abhorrent. I spent several years exploring my gender identity and expression, and finally managed to unwind the binary vine that was choking me to death. Ultimately, I established for myself that my body reflects my mind, but I freed myself in that process to grow and develop and evolve, which is what people do all through their lives.

Here I am, now, nearly 20 years gone from the Bruderhof, and finally able to love and accept myself for who I am: a queer woman, capable of loving people of any and all gender identities and expressions, choosing to share my life with a wonderful woman, leaving ourselves open to loving others as well. Here I am, able to demonstrate to my child that there is no “normal,” there is no “right way” to be a person, there is no “good” way to love. I don’t believe in God or gods. I don’t believe in souls. I don’t believe in any myths or mysticism. But love, in every expression, is sacred to me. Love is holy to me. Sharing your life, your heart, your hopes and fears and flaws and failures, cherishing those of others, that is love, and that is more powerful and meaningful to me than any sermon or scripture. So I’ve crawled out of a place of shame and self-loathing, and discovered that I can love myself, and out of that, I can love others infinitely.

It is painful, it is a huge challenge, it is exhausting to escape what was inflicted on us as children. It takes years, or decades, or a lifetime to leave those burdens behind, and to replace them with the things that you want to carry. But it is possible, and it is so worth the struggle.


Employee rights

Know Your Rights:

This may be a new concept to you – employees have rights!!!  When I was 20 a company had me travelling all over the country putting in 70-90 hours a week on salary.  When I calculated out my hourly rate based on what they were paying me it was below minimum wage.  The company was not pleased to have me bring this up but that’s a whole different problem.

It is a huge topic but here is a brief overview and a link to more info.

Employee Rights Law encompasses the various rights that have arisen over time which employees are legally entitled to in the workplace, such as: limits on drug testing; freedom from discrimination when an employee is part of a protected class; rights related to wage and hour law; the rights of workers to return to their former jobs after serving in the military; taking unpaid leave for births or adoptions, or serious health conditions the employee or his/her immediate family member is dealing with; the right to unionize; freedom from disciplinary action or termination for serving on a jury; right of advance notice of plant closings or mass layoffs; health and safety rights in the workplace; rights of disabled workers; privacy in the workplace; workers’ compensation; unemployment benefits; and much more. This very broad legal area falls primarily under the large practice area of employment law.

These employee rights have been addressed on the federal and state levels and by various regulatory bodies, as well as via employee handbooks/manuals and collective bargaining agreements. Not all employees have the same rights. For example, private employees don’t have all the same constitutional rights that public employees, who work for the government, do. There are many regulatory bodies that administer and oversee employee rights laws.

Human resources law deals with many employee rights which are inherent in the hiring, firing, disciplining and training process for company personnel.

For more information on specific laws visit:

Workplace conduct

Good “Workplace conduct” is acting in ways consistent with what society and individuals typically think are good values. Ethical behavior tends to be good for business and involves demonstrating respect for key moral principles that include honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, diversity and individual rights.

Good ethical conduct in the workplace indicates that employees take pride in their company’s ethical standards and have respect for other employees, customers, suppliers and partners. Typically, a model for professional conduct consists of a set of rules that prescribe a baseline of legal ethics and professional responsibilities. At a minimum, companies usually expect employees to comply with applicable local laws and government regulations.

Model employees adhere to the company’s code of conduct, which reflects the company’s values. For example, employees do not discriminate against other people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or national origin. Harassment of any kind is not tolerated, and violations can lead to termination. Employees reject business gifts that may create the appearance of impropriety or unfair influence and conflict of interest.

Employees who respect their organization and coworkers tend to avoid padding expense accounts, taking office supplies home, using excessive sick time, using office machines for personal use or leaving personal belongings in work areas or common spaces. Lost time, supplies, equipment and productivity result in lower company profits. Employees who exemplify a model ethical code of conduct in the workplace treat other people and company property with respect to ensure the reputation of their company remains intact. People who act with integrity create an atmosphere of fairness and equality where job satisfaction is high, employee turnover is low and absenteeism is negligible.

Companies that do not tolerate questionable business practices typically have higher employee retention rates. Successful leaders demand that employees maintain high standards of ethical conduct in the workplace and do not blame others for missed deadlines, poor decisions or bad results. Managers resist the temptation to pad budgets in anticipation of cutbacks. Employees avoid compromising too much to win a customer’s sale, gain support for a controversial project or avoid a conflict on a volatile issues. Risks need to be discussed and handled responsibly to benefit all employees.

An effective leader ensures her subordinates get the training they need to exemplify model ethical conduct in the workplace. By running workshops and seminars, companies provide opportunities for their staff to examine case studies and common moral dilemmas. For example, employees are asked to treat company money as their own money. They reflect on if their decisions could result in controversy before choosing an option or alternative in problem solving. They are also asked how they would feel if news of their actions were to be published in the local newspaper. Anytime an action might result in anxiety, employees need to seek guidance before making such a decision.

Selling yourself

Your rĂ©sumĂ© and recommendations may be enough to land you an interview — but they won’t get you the job, it’s up to you to really sell yourself to the employer. To successfully sell yourself in a job interview, you’ll need to do these five things:

First you really need to “know your brand”. Think of Coca Cola, Dove, or Chipotle. The most successful brands know themselves: their purpose, mission and values. Likewise, employers are looking for people who know and live their ‘brand purpose,’ because with clarity comes passion.

Just as it is for brands, storytelling is crucial in an interview. Think of an interview as an opportunity to tell your personal brand story. Job seekers should present their attributes articulately, in a way that makes the most powerful statement. Be animated. Be enthusiastic. Above all, be authentic.

Know the company, the industry, and the person who’s interviewing you. Know their style and their culture. Know their most recent news, figure out their brand and how you fit into it. How you help them?

Use examples to illustrate the story you’re sharing. For example, it’s important to have a collaborative work style. But if you just say you’re collaborative, it sounds empty, like you’re dropping a buzzword to cover your bases. But if you say you were captain of your basketball team, or you were integral to the completion of a huge project, it says much more than the words ‘I’m collaborative’ on their own.

Knowing your personal brand is important when evaluating a position or company. Ask yourself: Does the job align with who I am on both an emotional and rational level? Do the role and the company sync with my strengths and beliefs? In a perfect world this is where you might keep looking if those values don’t match up. But if you need a job, you need a job. Take the offers you get and do the best you can, the luxury of finding a dream job and a perfect fit is not afforded to everyone.

This advice can be a challenge to follow for someone who grew up in the Community.  Being humble was so strongly valued that it may be difficult to even recognize your strengths.  It may take some deep digging to come up with examples of collaboration and leadership as a Bruderhof high schooler and then telling them in a way that others can understand without understanding the hof.  Turns out you can state facts humbly!!  While being a constant organizer and leader may not have happened a lot, being a good collaborator and team player is all we did!!  If you have examples of how you spun your story please share them below.