The Surprising Benefits of Creating a 'Failure Resume'

iStock.com/Jane_Kelly
iStock.com/Jane_Kelly

You probably have a resume that you tweak from time to time, adding skills here or new job titles there. After all, it's important to keep your resume updated to reflect your growing set of abilities and accomplishments. But it might come as a surprise to hear that The New York Times recommends writing a second resume as a kind of self-help assignment. Except instead of highlighting your triumphs, you list your failures, mistakes, and struggles along the way.

This anti-resume goes by many names: failure resume, anti-portfolio, or "CV of failures," to name a few. The overarching idea is the same, though. By keeping track of your failures and reflecting on them in a way that's constructive, you can learn from your mistakes and achieve more in the future.

Here's how it works: In the format of your choice, make a running list of your failures, whether it's schools that rejected you, projects that flopped, or goals you didn't quite achieve. The key is not to dwell on these mistakes for hours, according to Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at Edinburgh Medical School who inspired several academics to create their own failure resumes a few years ago.

"If you dare—and can afford to—make it public. It will be six times as long as your normal CV. It will probably be utterly depressing at first sight," Stefan wrote in an article that originally appeared in the journal Nature. "But it will remind you of the missing truths, some of the essential parts of what it means to be a scientist—and it might inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and start again."

Scientists aren't the only ones who can benefit from mulling over their mistakes, either. J.K. Rowling, for instance, is one of the many wildly successful people who has spoken publicly about her failures. Researchers at Columbia University announced last year that they planned to interview Nobel laureates about their own failures in an attempt to better understand how personal and professional losses can foster learning.

On her own "CV of failures," Stefan writes, "Previous boss told me this would be the end of my academic career" [PDF]. Another bullet point under her education section reads, "Only PhD programme I was actually admitted to."

For more examples, check out Princeton University professor Johannes Haushofer's CV of failures [PDF]; management consultant Sara Rywe's CV of failures [PDF]; and the "rejections and failures" section toward the bottom of a CV made by neuroscientist Bradley Voytek of the University of California, San Diego [PDF].

[h/t The New York Times]

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America's Top 25 Colleges and Universities for 2021

Harvard University's Memorial Hall.
Harvard University's Memorial Hall.

Deciding what makes a certain college more desirable than another is highly subjective. Some prospective students might think a championship-winning football team and a massive student body are major selling points, while others prize a small, tightly knit community above all else.

To try to come as close as possible to identifying objectively great colleges and universities around the country, WalletHub analyzed a whopping 30 factors in seven categories, from student selectivity and cost to campus experience and career outcomes. These encompass basic metrics—admissions rate and average class size, for example—as well as more specific considerations, like study abroad programs, on-campus employment opportunities, and the median salaries of recent graduates.

Of all 1008 schools included in the study, the Ivy League ones continue to reign supreme. Harvard University ranked first, with a score of 78.6 across all 30 metrics, edging out Yale by just .03 points. Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown also made the top 25. With low acceptance rates and high graduation rates—not to mention huge endowments—these stately old institutions are rather difficult to compete with, but they’re definitely not the only esteemed places to get a four-year education.

As a testament to the continuing success of the tech industry, three technology institutes made WalletHub’s list: Massachusetts in third place, California in fifth, and Georgia in 11th. Those three schools ranked in the top five for return on educational investment, meaning that graduates make high starting salaries compared to how much their education actually cost.

Geographically, New England (and the East coast in general) is home to a majority of the top schools, though five from California alone did chart, too: Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; Pomona College; and Claremont McKenna College, in addition to the aforementioned California Institute of Technology.

Check out the top 25 below, and see where your alma mater ranks on WalletHub’s full list here.

  1. Harvard University // 78.6
  1. Yale University // 78.57
  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // 78.44
  1. Princeton University // 78.41
  1. California Institute of Technology // 77.65
  1. Stanford University // 77.12
  1. Rice University // 76.96
  1. Northwestern University // 75.4
  1. Duke University // 75.18
  1. University of Pennsylvania // 74.95
  1. Georgia Institute of Technology // 74.92
  1. Vanderbilt University // 74.66
  1. University of California, Berkeley // 74.54
  1. Columbia University // 74.51
  1. Johns Hopkins University // 74.37
  1. University of Chicago // 73.59
  1. Dartmouth College // 73.43
  1. Williams College // 73.19
  1. Brown University // 73.17
  1. Carnegie Mellon University // 73.11
  1. Washington and Lee University // 73.08
  1. Swarthmore College // 73.08
  1. Pomona College // 72.92
  1. Claremont McKenna College // 72.84
  1. Amherst College // 72.83