Chances are, you're a failure. Just like the rest of us.
Earlier this week, Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor of psychology and public affairs, posted a CV of his failures on Twitter, according to CNBC.com. It struck a nerve, to say the least.
The accomplished academic included categories for "awards and scholarships I did not get" (there are numerous) and "degree programs I did not get into." In the introduction to his résumé, he credits an article by University of Edinburgh lecturer Melanie I. Stefan with sparking the idea.
The idea is a provocative one — and it's catching on. #CVofFailures has taken off on Twitter, where people are posting brief, 140 character failures.
Stefan's original article, which chronicles her many fellowship rejections, made us want to know more. Below, she answered our questions via email about why it's important to share our professional failures — even if it's terrifying for many of us.
A Princeton professor has some high-profile failures, which is what makes this interesting. Have you seen others pick up on your idea?
Yes, since Johannes posted his CV, others have followed suit. I have received Twitter messages from people who have posted their own CV of failures. I admire them, because I still haven't gathered up the courage to share mine publicly!
In the U.S. we live in a culture that celebrates success, and we love stories about underdogs who triumph. But this narrative is misleading. Do you think it hurt job seekers?
Everyone loves an underdog. But the story is misleading in that the underdog overcomes initial setbacks to then triumph, and that's the end. In real life, you have triumphs and failures and bits in between where nothing much happens. Maybe this messier, nonlinear trajectory is harder for us to cope with.
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Lots of current job advice tells people to "define their narrative." But failure is often a part of the story. Any thoughts on how people can work their failures into interviews?
Failures can be opportunities either to learn or to reorient oneself and try something different. This can be a valuable experience and should be part of a career conversation. Failing repeatedly and trying again repeatedly can also be a sign of perseverance and grit. When I was working at Caltech, the men's basketball team had not won a single game in 26 years. That those kids (most of whom hadn't even been born the last time the team won) went out there game after game and tried again — there was something wonderful about it.
Sure, we can learn from failures, but this can be hard to remember when you're fresh off another failed job or fellowship application. Any tips for dealing with failure in the moment?
This is not easy, and I can't say I'm very good at it. What can work is to turn it into a sort of game. When I was applying for faculty positions, my mum said we should open a bottle of champagne and celebrate if I made it to 30 rejections. So, although it still sucked when I received a rejection letter, at least it counted towards the champagne party. So there was something to look forward to, in a way. Fortunately, I got my current job offer from the University of Edinburgh before that.