A Resume that Reflects Lessons Learned

By Deirdre Jones '01, '02

Whether you are preparing to search for a new role at your current employer, looking to join a new organization or simply reflecting on your career, a failure resume should be part of your process.

(Yes, a failure resume!)

Failure resumes are a way to document your setbacks and lessons learned. The reframing of “failure” reminds us that missteps are not fatal and gives us the confidence to learn new skills, approaches and try new roles. The important thing about failure is that you learned from it and grew, because that fuels healthy careers and relationships.

Below are a few personal examples from different times in my life to help get you started on your own failure resume journey:

Scenario 1: SB Construction

  • Setback: Placed cameras too high in one of the Huntington Sales Lab role play rooms and had a poor angle to see faces. Had to bring AV integrator back in to re-hang the camera and cover hole in wall.
  • Lesson Learned: Have extra people on hand to assist with simulating use cases.

Scenario 2: Big Sale

  • Setback: Lost control of the sale, and the sale itself, in part by shying away from asking questions to the customer and our consultants about financial, manufacturing and technical issues that I didn’t know enough about.
  • Lesson Learned: Embrace curiosity; be vulnerable; leverage experts; don’t assume you are the only one who doesn’t know or understand.

Scenario 3: BUAD 2070 Stats II Final

  • Setback: Blanked on how to use the theorems even though we could use notes. Flunked the exam.
  • Lesson Learned: Get proper amount of sleep.

Scenario 4: Ave Maria Audition

  • Setback: Choked when the accompanist played the wrong keys.
  • Lesson Learned: Prepare for imperfect conditions and do more visualization.

Failure resumes are meant to be a personal document; however, it is also pragmatic to be ready with a response for the common interview question, “Tell me about a time you failed.” The act of creating and maintaining a failure resume is vital to conditioning yourself to be resilient. 

Deirdre Jones
Director, Edward Schmidt School of Professional Sales (ESSPS)
The University of Toledo – John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business & Innovation

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