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Failed Startup? 3 Reasons it deserves to be in Your CV

Should you include a failed startup in your CV?


I’ve been asked the question about including a failed startup or project on a CV or Resume on Quora not once but twice.

Both times, I’ve endorsed its inclusion because I believe it shows a lot about the calibre and qualities of the professional in question that might not otherwise be noticed including leadership skills and the willingness to pursue an idea.

For the professional who took on the adventure of a startup dreaming he would be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or even Jeff Bezos, worked the hours and then found certain things did not go the way he or she had expected and instead of an Entrepreneur of the Year Award, found they were saddled with a startup that had gone belly up, it is painful.

If you’ve been a successful employee and a star performer before your startup endeavour, having a pet project failing hits our sense of self-esteem, confidence and fear of lost credibility.

Nobody likes to be a failure – I don’t.

But at the same time, an initial failure can lead to a future success.

The prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison was expelled from school because he was considered unteachable and if his mother had not believed in him, perhaps we would not have had the various inventions that provide essentials in our modern life or it would have taken longer.

If you think Edison got the light bulb to work on his first attempt, then guess again. It took lots more than a hundred. In spite of all of his failures, Edison was a prolific inventor who had amassed several patents by the time he died, including the light bulb and the movie projector.

It’s all about the mindset, robust planning, getting help when required and having a mentor or coach who can guide you through the uncharted waters of a startup.


Business Mindset Assessment


Not every startup is a success and many fail despite a successful launch. That’s the way it is.

According to an article in FastCompany, “Why Most Venture Backed Companies Fail,” 75% of venture-backed startups fail with 30 to 40 percent of those liquidating assets where investors lose all of their money.

In a more recent article, I read that according to Forbes, 90% of startups fail.

There are often various factors at play in a successful startup as well as in its failure. Some of these factors could be related to you while others are not your fault.

Predicting the success or failure of a startup is difficult even for seasoned Venture Capitalists so why should a budding entrepreneur take the full fall for failure?

I remember back in the early 2000s, when a number of highly respected colleagues who had years of experience in the banking and finance sector and enviable credentials lost money during the dotcom bubble.

It took them some time to recover the losses but the wealth of experience they acquired helped them bounce back with bigger and better ventures.

In case you were too young to remember the dot com bubble, here is a short 1 minute video about it.



Sure, it’s great if you were successful, but even an unsuccessful startups shows initiative, a variety of experience, and many other positive traits.

It’s not just a mildly positive thing to list; if you position it properly, it can become the best part of your resume and a point that might intrigue the interviewer to ask you about it giving you a chance to showcase your true experience and qualities that can be transferred to the job you’re applying for.

The same goes for professionals who start a business but find they cannot make it work and want to go back to a regular job with a steady income.

Here are 3 good reasons for including your failed startup in your Resume or CV.


Reason 1 – You have gained experience that you otherwise would not have gotten in a job

Let me explain, the experience in itself is a small success because you now know what works and what doesn’t and you would have a better idea of where things went wrong and what you could have done differently.


Startups involve putting an idea into action. Success depends on other factors


It could have been a good idea, perhaps even a great idea which sounded good enough on paper for a venture capitalist to invest seed money but the market might have changed or the product/service might have been ahead of its time.

Think objectively about the reasons why your venture failed.

Then consider and make a list of all that you learned and what you would do differently.

After that, decide how you will present this information in covering letter, curriculum vitae and interview. The latter is important because this question will definitely come up in an interview.

Make the most of the opportunity to shine.


Reason 2 – Employers are looking for accomplishments

Accomplishments matter more than the job description because they indicate you calibre rather than what you have been trained to do.


Create your accomplishment statement


Even in the days when I was in the corporate world, my CV highlighted what I had achieved in a particular position. The interviewer already has an idea about what the previous job would have entailed and they are looking to see if you added value to the previous organization.

For example being able to say that you had reduced the debtor cycle from 180 to 45 days means you improved the cash flow of the company which adds more value than saying you managed the debtor list.

Likewise, in the case of the failed venture, not everything would have been a failure.  Focus on what you did achieve.

For example, the number of clients you acquired and closed successfully, training and employment you provided during the startup or even the amount of investment capital or funding you raised in the market.


Reason 3 – Those soft skills are valuable to your future employer

Employers want measurable skills but in today’s world, soft skills matter as you rise up the corporate ladder.

The best way to demonstrate them is to incorporate them into your CV along with tangible facts or better yet, include them while wording your hard skills.

Let me put it into perspective.

The Davos Forum, also known as World Economic Forum, is held every year in Switzerland to discuss and analyze the main issues of international concern. This meeting is attended by the most important leaders worldwide.

The topic for 2016 was key competencies and skills that companies will demand in 2020. Based on a study carried out in 15 countries 10 top soft skills were identified.


Skills and competencies professionals will require by 2020


These skills are relevant to any professional who wants to stay in the job market and get ahead in their career.

While formulating your CV or Resume, consider these skills and look for instances where you can demonstrate the skills while documenting your accomplishment statement (which is what we did in Reason 2).

For example, you could write about your skills of cross-functional co-ordination where you worked across departments to ensure that all contracts complied with business requirements.

The wording you use can incorporate soft skills like people management and co-ordination with others.


Final words…..

If I haven’t already convinced you that it is fine to include your failed project in your CV, then here is a statement of fact that you need to consider.

Your startup might have failed but, and this is an important but, you had the courage to step out of your comfort zone and take initiative on an idea and you worked to make it happen or at least hit some milestones. Your investors liked your idea enough to invest money in it.

You have already proven that you are a leader and can not only think of creative solutions but are able to do the critical thinking to plan and implement those solutions.

Startups have chaotic environments that often require on the feet thinking and you have done it and survived.

When you position this information properly, you are going to demonstrate many traits that employers would find valuable.

Besides that’s the kind of hands on experience worth sharing proudly, right?


PS. Want to polish up your CV? Click below to pick up my 19 tips with my compliments.


19 Simple Tips to improve your Curriculum Vitae



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Meet your coach

I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

I work with driven, passionate, talented and ambitious professionals who’ve hit a speed breaker in their business or career create their desired breakthrough reclaiming control of their situation with customized strategies and tactics that deliver results.

When my clients first reach out to me, they are not in a very happy place, needing clarity about themselves, their desires, chosen vocation and what will give them peace of mind. They are drawn to me for the very reasons that I highlight in Who Is Karmic Ally Coaching.

Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

I really get it, because I’ve experienced that dark night of the Soul. I know firsthand the outcome of getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to other aspects of my life.

I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, corporate politics, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

I adhere to the Certified Coaches Alliance Code of Ethics and Standards. A copy is available on request.
1st place BCB 2012
Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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