The “Stuff I’ve Started” Section of Your Resume

It’s time to revise your resume. I don’t mean you need to add your latest job or a new bullet point outlining your most recent responsibilities. No, I’m actually suggesting that you add an entirely new section to your resume, one that doesn’t outline your education, your past and current jobs or your skills and talents. Your resume should include a fourth heading: Stuff I’ve Started.

What should you put in this section?  I’m not talking just about businesses you have gotten off the ground. “Stuff I’ve Started” should include anything you have taken from a fledgling idea to concrete action.  It could be the app you designed that’s now available in the iTunes store or the after-school tutoring program you spearheaded at your local library. You should stress not only your success in this venture, but you should also outline what skills you used to make the venture a success.

I view what a potential employee has started as a great indicator of their resourcefulness and resilience — the two most important traits for someone who is going to join a startup team.  I want to know what you did when the going got tough—how you re-energized your team when the first attempt didn’t work,  how you struck a deal with a distribution partner when your own efforts at sales proved too time-consuming, or how you changed your mindset deep into the game.

Too often people I am interviewing focus on the tasks they have completed for their managers or the skills they picked up at business school. However, great entrepreneurs aren’t marked by their MBAs. Even when young, they have a knack for identifying opportunity and turning ideas into reality.

As a high-school sophomore, Warren Buffett made enough of a profit from his paper route to buy a 44-acre farm in Nebraska.  Honest Tea Co-Founder Seth Goldman resold abandoned golf balls when he was in elementary school.  And Louisiana’s populist Governor Huey P. Long honed his charm as a successful traveling salesman before going on to create perhaps one of the South’s most lasting political legacies. None of these leaders needed to know the specifics of their original businesses for the ventures they later headed, but they did rely on the character and moxie it took to get those businesses off the ground.

If you want to demonstrate your ability to move mountains, emphasize what you have started and spend less time on the static skills you have picked up during your educational and business career.

And for the employers and recruiters reading this—stop being so concerned with questions like “What do you know?” and “What can you do?” You are neglecting to ask the most fundamental of all questions: “What have you started?” The answer to this question will tell you almost everything you need to know.

This article was originally published on The Wall Street Journal on February 3, 2014.

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