This Princeton professor made a ‘CV of Failures’—here’s why you should too

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Oprah’s former boss told her she was too emotional to make it in television. And, you’ve probably heard that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.

What are we getting at? We love a good comeback story; and, actually, hearing about the past failures of successful people is inspiring.

But, most of the time these anecdotes are relegated to those who are in the public eye. Very rarely do we talk about the jobs that turned us down after the final round of interviews or the colleges that sent us rejection letters. Instead, LinkedIn profiles are updated with promotions and resumes are a long list of accomplishments.

But, Johannes Haushofer, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton, is challenging that social norm. He created a CV of his failures, which has gone viral. It includes the degree programs he didn’t get into, the fellowships he wasn’t granted, the scholarships he didn’t get, the academic journals that rejected him and the research funding he didn’t secure. The most recent update to his CV is a “meta-failure,” and he writes: “This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work.”

Johannes Haushofer

But Haushofer, on the CV, explains he created it because failures are often invisible while successes are visible. “I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me,” he writes on the CV. “As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots and selection committees and referees have bad days.”

Haushofer was inspired by Melanie I. Stefan, a lecturer in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, who encourages others to make a CV of failures. It could help colleagues shake off rejection, she concludes, and fill in the blanks of career trajectories.

In fact, reading about other’s failures could boost your own performance. A study published by the American Psychological Association in 2016 revealed that high school students could improve their science grades if they learned about the failed experiments and personal struggles of scientists like Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.

The lesson here? If at first you don’t succeed, put it on your CV.

[h/t: Science Alert]