CV of Failures — R Voice

CV of Failures

Shruti Turner
Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

How often do we go to talks or hear about people's careers and they look PERFECT and stress free with no setbacks?

This idea was started a few years ago after a publication in Nature and has caught on. Personally, I love that this is a thing - too often people like to shine a light on the positives but actually this can be demotivating for others when we don't hear about the reality.

This is something I feel passionately about, I think it contributes to poor mental health and Imposter Syndrome. I feel we need to break down the perception that people who succeed are perfect and have suffered no failures or rejections. It's not a bad thing to have tried and been unsuccessful. It doesn't feel great, but we learn and build up our resilience...what do you think?


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  • Asli Telli
    Asli Telli Member Posts: 36 ✭✭✭

    Thanks, @Shruti Turner for sharing these brave texts. I`m not sure if I would put together my failures in cv format, but I would and already do recite such personal stories to peers, students at all levels with whom I have some kind of connection. Keeping personal failures as record is surely a tough piece of cake, but keeping some filed, if not all, would certainly help. I was also struck by the humbling side of sharing/hearing failures in the cited text. During the experiment explained in the text, the second and third group of researchers who receive stories of failure are humbled and outperform those hearing only success stories. Right there, one should be careful about the threshold of imposter syndrome of course since such experiments could go both ways. Building too much resilience could also mean burn-outs and imposter syndrome for inexperienced researchers under too much stress. I think getting support should be key, then, but also being honest and sharing hardships with peers to create a trustworthy environment of care. One way of doing this could be sharing failures before they keep adding up to attack us at the back.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner great article! Thanks for sharing it. Reminded me of a "wall of (journal article) rejections" trend that was quite popular on Twitter a while ago. I thought that was genius too!

    I think sharing experiences of failure is very important, especially in academia. The only thing I disagree with here is sharing failures as a means to make people more resilient. Instead of this, I feel like we should normalize stories of failure because it is part of life and everyone goes through it at some point or another. So there shouldn't be anything to hide. I feel like such stories are a great reminder that there's an actual person behind the experiences being evaluated. I also think it's good to have a balance of success and failure stories because it shows how everyone's journey can be different and that there's no set way to do one thing or a specific road you have to take to reach a goal.

    One thing though - I find it ironic that although I do have fear of failure, I'm not as afraid of talking about my own experiences of failure. Not sure why that is. Can anyone relate to this?

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    I think I agree with you there, @Asli Telli - I too am not sure that I would want to create my own "CV of failures" but do feel it is important to share these personal stories with those we feel comfortable around.

    You've highlighted such a vital point from the experiment, about the success of those based on the stories they hear. I wish I had a psychology background and was able to really delve into why that is! My own personal view is that it is related to motivation and the willingness to overcome barriers because of the potential gains. But, there I am just speculating.

    I totally agree that support is 100% key.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    Ooh - I feel like I remember this Twitter trend vaguely but I don't think I truly recognised it for the benefits it had.

    I completely agree with the normalisation of "failure" or set-backs. I think in hind sight I perhaps used the word "resilience" incorrectly. I think I wanted to convey what you have - I just didn't do it so eloquently! Removing the stigma of encountering set backs, I feel will help people to go for things more without so much fear of what happens if unsuccessful?

    I just want to highlight when you say "I also think it's good to have a balance of success and failure stories because it shows how everyone's journey can be different and that there's no set way to do one thing or a specific road you have to take to reach a goal." This is so vitally important, but something that I think isn't really shared across academia in particular. I feel like there is still an impression that you are the smartest undergrad, go onto a top class masters, complete a PhD with a bunch of papers published and jump from post-doc straight into a fellowship and then BHAM you're on tenure track and life is good. Obviously, many of us know that is not the reality and also we should remember that those who may have done that did so in a different time. I think the absence of the sharing of failures creates such unattainable expectations and pressure to follow a set path.

    I can totally relate to what you say about the fear of failure but being happy to share. I feel like my fear can hold me back, but I also know how much I hate it and how it affects my mental health. I feel like I want to share my experiences so the next person has a better experience than I did. I think it part, @Andrea Hayward , it is because rationally we know there isn't shame in "failing" but we know that it doesn't feel good to experience it? Maybe I am speaking out of turn, and it is something totally different for you?

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 225 admin
    edited October 19


    Good one @Shruti Turner - I've always found myself unable to grasp the importance of a CV and here's why. I struggle to create mine. I wonder what I should include in it. Option 1 - the daily struggles, some of those days I felt like giving up, that project that almost crashed because I made a mistake, those conversations where I found myself unable to tolerate the noise of the chat, how my heart sank when I stared rejection in the face, and so on. Option 2 - the things I really know, strengths that have helped me stand tall both in life and at work, what makes me feel motivated, how many lives I have touched, what I know I can do really well, and so on. And here's why I wonder. I see such amazing descriptions of everyone on their CVs and start biting my nails because I feel like "whoa - this person is insanely gifted and I am nothing in comparison!" What I'm trying to say is that creating a CV of failures is a great idea and it is something we should all do for ourselves before we do so for anyone else. It takes guts to admit that we made a mistake and that is what the perception of failure should be about. Admitting our shortcomings to ourselves first matters. If I were to speak for myself, this will help me face my fears, learn to feel a little small only so that I can work on myself to improve. Having said this, I am not competitive and don't really think about how failure is defined universally. Failure, like success, is personal - so if I feel that I failed at something, it is possible that the rest of world has the opposite view. It has a lot to do with my expectations from myself and my understanding of what constitutes success for me in a given situation. Which is why creating a CV of failures will help me refresh my own expectations in life. :-)

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner oh I don't think I was talking about your usage of the word "resilience". My comments were on how it was used in the article. Don't worry about it! I know we're on the same page most of the time 😃

    I completely agree with what you've added to a need for balance between success and failure stories in academia. This came up during one of my Zoom calls yesterday and we were chatting about how only BIG end goals are valued in academia. For instance, if you're in graduate school, you've only made it or succeeded AFTER you've defended. And at the surface it might sound fine but it's just not realistic, right? You've spent years doing your PhD and you've crossed so many milestones along the way, learning new skills, and overcoming new challenges. But none of these steps are celebrated or acknowledged. Another thing that we need more conversation about.

    Thank you so much for putting into words what I couldn't about why I don't mind talking about my failure experiences. "I feel like I want to share my experiences so the next person has a better experience than I did." - This makes so much sense!

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    Ah yes, that makes sense!

    I TOTALLY AGREE!! Especially the example you've just given resonates so much with me. It really does add to the mix driving the feelings of Imposter Syndrome (at least for me). I didn't feel like I was worth anything in the academic world until I had defended my PhD, got my corrections in and approved. I just felt like I was the bottom of the pile wherever I went and tbh, I felt that outside of my work environment too. I was "just a student" whilst friends were excelling through life and getting promotions at work and really kicking off their careers. I get that the lack of understanding outside academia is a different issue, but not having the confidence in yourself because of these unrealistic BIG milestones that have to be reached really didn't help me.

    I agree that there should be so much more made of the skills and milestones made along the way during a PhD/junior research role. Maybe we have a webinar idea in the making?!

    Ahh, I'm glad I wasn't speaking out of turn. I think it's something a lot of people will have different reasons for. Sending all good vibes this Monday morning.

  • I think that this post is perfecto for me, sometimes is a little hard to live with the impostor syndrome, I hate to fail, is something that I know that I have to work and make a better work

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin
    edited October 26

    @Juan Carlos Torres-Galván what you've said here reminded me or something very inspiring @chris leonard said during one of our meetings. He said failure is not necessarily a negative experience. Because if you've failed, at least you know you tried something new. And even if it didn't work out, it still taught you something. It also showed you one way to not do something so you've got that out of the way 🙂

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner oh yes! The lack of understanding outside of academia is probably something that's more difficult to address, given how niche our industry is. But I feel like there should and could be so much more awareness and acknowledgement of this within academia. Especially since every single person has had to experience this to some degree. If people have to wait 5 or 6 years before they truly feel like they've accomplished something, then the reward system and the way success is perceived in academia definitely need a re-think!

    A webinar around this would be so insightful! Maybe a discussion with experiences coming from folks who've been through it and now know better?

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    @chris leonard I love this perspective! It's such a rational and level headed approach. Also, it totally makes sense. I have to say, I try to live with this mentality, and I do if I'm talking about anyone else's experiences..but applying this mentality to myself is tough....

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    AGREED! The problems from in and out of academia are slightly different but related. I do feel that addressing issues from the inside is more controllable by the people in and can perhaps lead to bigger and more tangible change.

    Yes! I think a discussion would be great, or maybe something like the recorded series you did for academic mental health. A mix of experiences I think would be good to show...right from PhD students through postdocs and seniors/PIs. I think everyone needs someone to relate to :)

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner ooo another recorded series! Now you've really got me thinking! I'll go back to the team and see if and when this is possible. Thanks Shruti! 😊

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    @Andrea Hayward - please do give me a shout if I can help!

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner if this idea takes off in any way, you'll be the first person I contact 🙂