How failure supports your job search

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Aug 28

This past weekend, I attended a party where most of the people there had been laid off, like myself, from our former employer. There’s now been enough time and distance from the actual layoff to have a bit of perspective (“how could the company’s management blow it so badly?” is the common refrain…) and where people have moved on to different activities.

Those activities are working at different companies or working for themselves trying to build a business or looking for work and taking time to enjoy life in the moment. All of it good. Most interesting to me, though, were those striking out on their own to try and build something for themselves. Invariably, when told that most businesses will fail, their response is something like, “well, I might fail, but I will have learned a lot about myself and building something in the meantime.”

Failure supports your job search

While much in this economy is forcing people to try new things, the net result is better job skills and perspective from people who have tried going it alone. Here are some key takeaways from trying to build your own business:

  • You improve your job skills. Only done programming? Well, building a business means marketing your business. Working for a corporation again means you now understand a lot more about marketing than you did before. Never interacted with finance? Now you know a lot more about what it takes on the financial side of the business.
  • You improve your motivation for the work. When you strike out on your own, you quickly discover what you like doing and what you don’t like doing. Because running a business means wearing a dozen hats, you find out which hats fit you the best and what you like to do. This discovery can take years in a corporate environment; going back to a corporate environment after running a business enables you to focus on what you like.
  • You improve your ability to fit into the team. You can’t make it on your own only on your own. You need other people with complimentary skills and support to help you. Running your own shop, you quickly discover the type of people you like working with who can support you the best. And who you can best support as well. This translates directly into finding the right kind of manager and team that will best fit your working style.

Hiring managers need to celebrate the business experience

People who have tried going on their own offer a richness of experience traditional corporate employees don’t have. They have greater perspective on the different corporate functions, understand finance better, know about marketing and have thought through they type of people they like to work with. They have built persistence in the face of long odds and know what it means to continue to work through discouragement.

In short, people who have tried building their own business are richer for the experience and shouldn’t be missed by a hiring manager. After all, there are only three answers to interview questions — and people who have tried building their own business have better answers.