If you took a chance on starting your own company or moving to a different industry or handling a project outside your normal skill set—and failed or were fired—you have to focus on recovery, both in life and in your resume. In the course of my own career, I have found myself working at incompatible companies and I have made major changes in career goals. I know failure is hard.
How do you handle failure on your resume?
First, focus on that good news. You started your own company and kept your skills fresh. You took a chance when others wouldn’t. You tried something new. That shows initiative, courage and accountability. Or maybe you were fired because you took chances you should not have taken or failed to follow through. The fact that a lesson was learned is also valuable.
Second and most important, you likely had some successes even if you currently think you failed. If you started your own company, did you earn some income, set up the corporate governance, set up a website, hire staff, develop a new product, or have some other successes? If let go or fired from a company, did you succeed for years, was the “failure” a change of culture or management, did you have an outside event that caused you not to succeed?
Third, keep in mind that several of the current candidates for President of the United States suffered failure during their careers, including bankruptcy, firing and dismissal. You are not alone. Consider your moment of failure an opportunity to evaluate where you want to go in your career. When you set a goal and work toward it, failure becomes a minor blip in the road. Most people who are successful first fail. Failure is just a step toward learning what you need to do next.
Fourth, give a professional resume writer a chance to work with your resume. Maybe you need a section that highlights your past achievements before delving into your present lack of a job. Maybe you need to reframe a layoff with a brief explanation such as “company closed” or “multiple rounds of downsizing.” Professional resume writers have strategies for dealing with awkward career facts.
Fifth, take a good look at your resume before the failure. Remind yourself of past achievements and accomplishments. You are greater than your current situation.
Sixth, view your failure as a success. By failing, you are now no longer in the situation that probably was causing you stress and angst. In many cases, being forced to leave a situation can put you on the path towards success – just the boost you needed to move forward in your life and your career. Instead of looking it as a failure, do a paradigm shift and look at this as the next stepping stone in your career.