A Failure Resume normalises routine failures and enables you to accept them as commonplace and necessary for success. Where a typical resume is a synopsis of your triumphs and achievements, your Failure Resume is its antithesis. It is otherwise known as an anti-resume reserved for your eyes only, and it’s an honest portrayal of your shortcomings whilst focussing on the process of failure. Focussing on what went wrong and why it did are key proponents of this process, enabling you to become introspective about your career and what areas you could improve. It is important not to include harmful or negative comments in this process by conceding your failures as detrimental to your career success. In fact, you should consider writing a Failure Resume as a source of motivation. Therein should lie specific actions you should have taken when the time arose, and how you can ultimately improve in the future. The idea for such a resume comes from Dr Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at The University of Edinburgh’s Medical School, when she published her own Failure Resume in response to the lack of discourse on failure within the academic community.
Before realising how the Failure Resume can function as a source of motivation, writing a Failure Resume requires an introspective mindset. Firstly, record your professional successes, acquired skills, and the personal achievements you have attained along your career path. Then, list in dot-point format all the jobs you didn’t get, perhaps all the times you didn’t feel confident going into a business presentation, or note the business goal you didn’t quite achieve. Once you have created an extensive list, the next step is to look at why you thought you failed in these instances, making notes under each dot-point. It’s important to be kind to yourself in the language used in the document in order to deter feelings of resentment, but still ensure you are honest and critical. Don’t dwell on how you felt when you received the news of a specific failure, only analyse and invent solutions to the reasons why you were perhaps ill-prepared. Some might find the process challenging; it’s easier to realise where and why you succeeded as opposed to where and why you failed. Similarly, it is easier to construct a narrative of success in your professional resume and neglect the alternate narrative of weaknesses and failures that many omit from their past experience. This alternate narrative that emerges from a Failure Resume forces us to face our setbacks head on whilst reminding us of what we have struggled through to get to where we are.
Finally, the Failure Resume document exists as a humble reminder of where you went wrong and ensures you don’t wind up in the same predicament with your next application or career move, thereby reducing the margin for error. The Failure Resume functions as a source of introspection, teaching us that failure is necessary and crucial in our individual career paths. You will be surprised that when you look back on your Failure Resume you will recognise those failures as an insightful morale booster and a ready reminder of your current success.