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.