I often speak on using your past to create your future. Many people assume that only works if what you want to do next is a linear path from the work you have done already. But that is not the only way to use your past. If you think you might want to change careers or are transferring from federal/military employment to civilian, your past can be exploited to create a new future. This is also true if you seek a higher level position than you have held.

Here are some steps with specific exercises to help you assess your past effectively. Start with a ‘new page’ rather than your old job title. Think strategy now, tactics come later. You can check out our other articles and videos for translating these into keywords and marketing yourself once you know what you really want to do next.


Exercise: Create a list of 8-12 things which you get from your work (besides pay and benefits) which are important to you.
Examples: learn new technology, respect of peers, foreign travel, professional development , big fish in little pond, reputation of employer.

Exercise: Ask yourself these questions

  • What do you enjoy doing each day, are good at, and want to do next?
  • What really matters to you in your life, career, and finances?
  • What environment do you need to be successful and fulfilled?

Then consider:
What do these exercises tell you about the type of jobs and organization culture you need to succeed? Need help with types of jobs that match the skills and experiences on your idea list? Check out occupations at http://www.onetonline.org/


Exercise: Think about your past work successes. Identify at least 6-7 such times you felt great about an achievement and make notes about each. What was the situation/task you faced, what did you do, and what were the results?

Then, look for patterns in your successes.

  • What skills, knowledge, attitude did you use?
  • What can those successes tell you about your strengths?


Exercise: Think about how you see yourself and how that impacts your success.

  • When you meet someone new at work, what do you tell them about yourself?
  • What do you find exciting about your work? Your current/past jobs? Your life?
  • What five or six activities do you really love to actually DO in your work?
  • What would you hope other people would say to describe you to someone?
  • Who relies on you for information? Advice? Assistance? Support? Mentoring?

Once you have reviewed all the information you developed in answering these questions, take a blank page and describe your very best work ideas based on this data.

What type of work do you want to do next? What type of environment do you need to succeed? This might include the values and goals of an organization, its culture, and the types of careers which are most central to it.


Talk to people who know you well about your ideas and interests. See what they confirm. Ask for other ideas or suggestions.

Do the same with some people who know the careers which interest you. Do they see you as a viable candidate for the jobs you seek or do they have others to suggest?

Assess what you hear from each person you talk with.  Make adjustments as needed.

Use everything you have learned to plot your course. Then you can start actual job search activities and sell your product (you) more effectively.