Get ready for a new eCorner experience!
Later this summer, eCorner will become part of the website for STVP, the Stanford Engineering Entrepreneurship Center. You'll be able to access all eCorner content at Existing links and bookmarks will redirect. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop!

Update Your Failure Resume

Matt Harvey, Stanford University October 19, 2010

STVP’s Executive Director, Tina Seelig, empowers her students to embrace all their experiences by creating a failure résumé.

Yes… a failure résumé.

This is a great way to appreciate the lessons you learn through experience. So while you’re busy polishing up a standard résumé, framing your most attractive qualities and accomplishments for others, you might want to take time out to build your failure résumé.

Here is Tina’s explanation of this powerful tool:

I require my students to write a failure résumé. That is, to craft a résumé that summarizes all their biggest screw ups — personal, professional, and academic. For every failure, each student must describe what he or she learned from that experience. Just imagine the looks of surprise this assignment inspires in students who are so used to showcasing their successes.

However, after they finish their résumé, they realize that viewing their experiences through the lens of failure forced them to come to terms with the mistakes they have made along the way and to extract important lessons from them. In fact, as the years go by, many former students continue to keep their failure résumé up-to-date, in parallel with their traditional résumé of successes.

A failure resume is a quick way to demonstrate that failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you’re stretching your abilities, doing things the first time, or taking risks. We hire people who have experience not just because of their successes but also because of their failures.

Failures increase the chance that you won’t make the same mistake again. Failures are also a sign that you have taken on challenges that expand your skills. In fact, many successful people believe that if you aren’t failing sometimes then you aren’t taking enough risks. Additionally, it is pretty clear that the ratio of our successes and failure is pretty constant. So, if you want more successes, you are going to have to tolerate more failure along the way.

You deserve to take credit for all that you have learned in life, so use this tool to do it. What are you waiting for? It’s a job each of us is perfectly qualified for.