Kat Huang‍

Failure Resume

Not a comprehensive list :)

What’s a failure resume?

As its name suggests, a failure resume is a list of rejections and setbacks — the opposite of a normal resume. This concept seems to have originated in academia but can help improve one’s resilience and approach to challenges in any walk of life.

Why do you share your failure resume?

I think I started this in early 2019 and made it public a few months later. I saw the online presences of many of my peers — it was so easy to think they were perfect and never faced setbacks that actually, well, set them back. I wanted to contribute a more balanced potrayal of a visibly successful person’s journey.

Working on not comparing yourself to others, recognizing that everyone has depth and insecurity, and responding maturely to rejections are all internal skills developed with practice and time. There’s no way around it. But seeing things like this along the way might help, and from the messages I’ve gotten over the past few years, it has helped some people!

I’ve also wanted to dive into some of my recorded failures to reflect on them and see what I’ve learned. I haven’t done that yet, but this does exist for my future reference too.

*I do generally feel successful, but it’s the perception of me that matters here, which is why I say “visibly.”

Does this make you feel bad about yourself?

There are a few failures here that stung in the moment and for months afterwards. But for the most part, I’m not hung up on them. Starting around fall 2020, I noticed that I was longer interested many things I applied to previously.

Often, that shift happened quite quickly — I would get the rejection and mentally I had already moved on. I think these were periods of rapid personal growth, where I experimented and (relatively) quickly figured out what was un-exciting to me and where else my skills were best applied.

The worst reactions I feel are mild embarrassment about what I used to be into and disappointment that, in some cases, I hadn’t had access to learning about the best practices for applying to something. So the “worst” for me haven’t that bad at all.

On a related note, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about applying for specific opportunities if applicable. Often, people are qualified and a great fit but haven’t learned how to write good applications in general or face difficulty finding what a specific program is looking for.

Some of these don’t sound like failures?

What constitutes a “failure” here is based on my own judgement. People have said that a lot of these failures seem more like flexes, but I think it just reflects how much I put myself out there. If I try to achieve more impressive things, then my rejections are more “impressive” too, in a way.

How do I make my own failure resume?

There are no pre-requisites or rules. You can choose what counts as a failure, how many failures you want to include, who you want to share it with, and everything else — no permission needed.

Do it for yourself, and remember you don’t have to make one. If having a failure resume causes you to over-emphasize your shortcomings or otherwise just makes you feel lousy about yourself, you can let go of it! Even if you think it’s a neat idea in theory.

This concept, the failure resume, tends to come off as a lot more self-help-buzzword-y than what it actually means to me. By no means do I recommend that everyone keeps track of a failure resume. I don’t care either way if you do — maybe you think this is a waste of time, or weird — but I would prefer that you do what is most helpful for your well-being.