Failed Startups and Resume Gaps: The Career Path of a Product Manager
25 February, 2020
Product managers are notorious for their entrepreneurial spirit. They try to build their own products and they often fail. They are uncomfortable talking about it because they perceive these attempts only as failures. This distorted perception is reflected in their resumes; these attempts often appear as resume gaps. Not only that I value my experience of founding and running a startup, but I also value other people’s similar experiences -- successful or not. I encourage prospective candidates to talk about these experiences since that allows me to learn more about their skills and competencies. Instead of excusing themselves I tried something but it didn’t work, I would like them to embrace the experience of trying and failing and have them understand how much it could be valuable in their new job.
When I was in college I set up a website that was selling stars; you could buy a star and give it away as a gift. We sold around 200 stars but eventually, I spent more money on just making the promo video than I made as gross revenue. However, it was a valuable and empowering experience as I had to think about the design, do a video script, set up a payment process, think about user experience, etc. I was able to see different aspects of what it meant to build a product.
I try to encourage people to share their experiences, including their failed attempts. There was a person who was interested in transitioning to product management from industrial engineering. He laterally mentioned that he had built an open-source social network for people interested in boats and sailing. It turned out not only that his project was successful but I learned a great deal about him -- that he was able to set up something, to run it and even make some money.
- Many of our experiences are valuable depending on the perspective from which they are perceived. These experiences don’t have to be a great success to have an inherent value. Our failed attempts can be equally valuable.
- You have to be able to learn from your own experience and that requires discipline. Regardless of the final outcome of any experience in terms of success and/or failure, you can always end up learning something if that is what you choose to do.
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