Create a Career Notebook: Past

When you create a career notebook, the Past section is dedicated to the story of how you became the person you are at present. (However, if you want to first get a big picture of the notebook process, start with the Overview.)

The past part of the notebook is optional. You could skip this section entirely, if it doesn’t feel important to you.

Or you could explore any of the following:

1. Your family history

  • Occupations of family members
  • Significant past events that affected family attitudes toward work
  • Family expectations for your career (what you were supposed to do)


2. Your educational history

  •  Educational institutions and degrees
  •  Favorite subjects in school
  •  Areas in which you excelled as a student


3. Your work history

  • Significant jobs and what you liked and disliked about them
  • Volunteer work
  • Awards and recognition
  • Traumatic events


4. A timeline from the past to the present

  • Goals and aspirations
  • Places you lived
  • Major life events: marriage, birth of children, loss of loved ones
  • Stressors: divorce, significant health problems, loss of job, loss of status
  • Friends and mentors


5. Peak experiences—memories of strong positive feelings

  • Moments when you felt fully alive, a 10 out of 10
  • Events associated with inspiration, enlightenment, oceanic feelings
  • Times when you fell in love with something


6. Role models: people you admire and how you are like or unlike them

  • People you know personally
  • People you know about, living or dead
  • Fictional characters (including totem animals)


This part of the notebook is free form. You might: paint a self-portrait or make a collage; write an essay or short autobiography; draw a timeline studded with pictures of peak experiences; compose, sing, and record a ballad. There is no right or wrong way to do it. The goal is to externalize past influences—good and bad—and express what they mean to you now. If you gain some insight during the process, be sure to make a note of it somewhere in your notebook.