Write a Failure Resume to Feel More Career Satisfaction

  • Writing a failure résumé can help people feel more satisfied about their career, said Daniel Pink.
  • The author surveyed 19,000 people about their regrets, including about work, for his latest book.
  • Not being ‘bold enough’ was one of the most common career regrets, Pink told Bloomberg.

If you want to feel more satisfied with your career path, consider writing a “failure résumé” that highlights when things have gone wrong, the author of a new book about regret advises.

Daniel Pink is famous for his studies of motivation, including the New York Times bestseller “Drive,” which argued that having a greater sense of autonomy and purpose often leads a person to feel more satisfied at work.

For his latest book, “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward,” Pink surveyed 19,000 people about the life events that had caused them the most remorse.

He told Bloomberg that the things people most often regret about their career include a failure to be “bold enough” — for example, by not leaving a lackluster job or starting a business — as well as “not speaking up” at work.

Overall, more people regret being risk-averse and playing it safe compared to those who took a risk, Pink said.

One way to make your career regrets “less fearsome” is by talking to people about them, Pink said. Doing so will help you articulate the lessons you’ve learned.

Pink said he is also a “huge fan of the failure résumé.”

Unlike a traditional résumé, which shows off our achievements, a failure résumé lists the times when things have not gone to plan; for example when you didn’t land a role, or you messed up a project.

“I think that everybody should do a failure résumé, where you list your setbacks and screw ups, the lessons you learned from them, and what you’re going to do about it,” Pink told Bloomberg.

Learning from mistakes is important if you want to build a successful company

The concept of failure résumés — or a “CV of failures” — emerged among academics in the late 2000’s as a way of reminding people that careers are not one smooth transition, but, in fact, full of setbacks and false starts which can provide important lessons.

High profile business people such as Jeff Bezos and Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right hand man, have also credited an ability to learn from failure as one of the key drivers for success.

In a 2013 Insider piece, leadership consultant Matt Hunt provided a template for writing a failure résumé. Hunt suggested using the “five whys” technique as a way of getting to the root cause of what went wrong.

It’s important to know the distinction between a failure and a mistake, Hunt wrote. “A failure is a lack of success, whereas a mistake is an incorrect action. Failure doesn’t necessarily have to stem from a mistake.”

In his Bloomberg interview, Pink revealed that people’s regrets about their lives usually fall into four main categories: financial instability, relationships, moral regrets for actions they took or didn’t, and a feeling that they didn’t take enough risk.

Wishing things had gone differently in your career is one of the most common kinds of regret a person can have, Pink said. For those suffering from these misgivings, he counseled compassion rather than contempt.

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