Create a Failure Resume

The other day, I picked up Daniel Pink’s new book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.

I’ve not finished it yet, but already I have gleaned valuable insights into how acknowledging our regrets—something most people never do—can lead to a more purposeful life.

One strategy Pink suggests is creating a “failure” resume.  

Most of us don’t bother to reflect on our past and how we became the person we are. Or, if we do, we fool ourselves by only focusing on the good parts of the story—not on the failures and setbacks we experienced over the years.

That’s why writing a “failure” resume can be helpful. Your “regular” resume shows off your best side if you are like everyone else. But, of course, that’s what you want to do when applying for jobs.

But what about your failures?

If you are like most people, you keep them hidden because they are often a source of shame or embarrassment.

But as Pink explains, your failures most likely have played a role in getting you to where you are now. For some people, they may have played an even more significant role than your experience and education.

Try this:

Make a copy of your regular resume and go through it, section by section. But instead of the usual items most people include on a resume, start listing things that didn’t work out the way you had hoped or something that did not have a favourable result.

Under Education, perhaps you:

– Applied but did not get into the school you wanted.

– Failed a course that prevented you from getting a scholarship.

– Bombed a class presentation because you didn’t prepare properly.

Under Work Experience, perhaps you:

– Got fired once because you didn’t manage the relationship with your boss well.

– Lost a big sale because you didn’t return your telephone calls on a timely basis.

– Missed out on a great job opportunity because you were ill-prepared for the interview.

Daniel Pink would classify these “failures” as regrets. But instead of feeling bad about yourself, take a step back and analyze what went wrong. For example, did you misread a situation? Did you not prepare fully? Were you avoiding conflict? Were you too arrogant?

Then ask yourself: “If I had the chance to do things over again, what would I do differently?”

The learning lies in your answers. That’s the value of acknowledging your regrets.

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A final note: “Tell us your greatest failure and what you learned from that failure” is a common interview question. So, be prepared. Saying you’ve had no failures will not be well received because everyone will know you’re lying.