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I spent about one year - my first job out of college - at a quasi-startup company, which went bust soon after I left.

I believe my contributions were negligible and had no major influence on the company's success. I worked on the bare minimum one would expect from someone in my function/profession and added no immediate monetary value to the company.

If I really added no value to the company, what should I mention on the CV/resume?

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7 Answers 7

Whether your contributions had an influence on the company's success or not, you can still list what you contributed. Redesigning their database is a valid achievement even if they never migrated to the new database, for example.

If you can't think of anything that you actually accomplished, it's probably better to avoid trying to to so and just list "Developer on whatever-it-was" (or whatever's appropriate).

If you never did anything at all... I dunno what to tell you; it's hard to make a positive out of that.

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It's a common piece of advice that your résumé looks better if you can list some actual accomplishments, in real business terms.

But that's to make your résumé stand out amongst the crowd that just reel off a list of duties. Or in the case of tech people, just a list of programming languages and frameworks.

If you're in the situation where you really can't brag about any actual accomplishments, then sadly, you're going to need to just relate a bland list of duties that your job involved.

Obviously this is less impressive than glorious achievements which catapulted this startup company into the realms of success. But two important things to remember:

  1. It was your first job out of college! Not many people achieve great things in their first job out of college! I know I didn't!
  2. A boring job looks a lot better on your résumé than a one year gap!
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Adding to #2: a boring job in your desired field is better than acing the job of sweeping the floor at a hair salon (unless that's your desired field). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 1 at 8:22

What did you expect, given your work experience and skills set? You weren't paid to run the company. You weren't paid to do nothing either. So list your tasks, trivial and menial as they may be and be done with it.

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Focus on what you did and ignore the business result.

No matter what the results and succes of your work becomes, you gained some experience by doing it. Those are valuable regardless of the value of the result produced by the work.

In fact, even when things turn out to be a complete failure, that is still a valuable lesson.

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+1 "Learned X skill" is a valid accomplishment (especially in a first job after college), even if it did nothing to stop a doomed company going under. If you didn't learn hard skills, think about the soft skills people learn in their first job e.g. team working, dealing with challenging problems, adapting to change, etc etc –  user568458 Sep 1 at 16:25

Instead of looking what you have achieved for the company, you can explain what you've learned from that period. Recruiters/HRM are not solely interested in what you've achieved, but also how you became a better person from a certain situation.

As such, carefully explain the situation in a few words and take an advantage by describing what you've learned. Words like "Even though the company failed in achieving it's goals, I've learned to persevere when the outlook looked grim" might give you precedence over those that actually just graduated.

Any experience in corporate live is often preferred against none, especially if there is no difference in salary.

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Your example sounds like the hypothetical employee gained/improved a personal quality, rather than a professional one. Could you provide an example where one learns something more related to the actual duties? –  user1306322 Sep 1 at 11:13
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cultures are different, sometimes explaining how one evolved personally directly impacts the professional work environment. Having perseverance is often seen as beneficial to the work environment. –  Luceos Sep 1 at 11:36
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Readers aren't interested in what value you added to a defunct startup, they're interested in how you'd add value to THEIR company. Working in a start-up (like) environment is very different from an established company. What did you learn about that, and about yourself? Especially if you interview at another start-up, they will be very interested in that - they don't hire 'skillsets'. Not if they have brain one. –  Spike0xff Sep 2 at 14:17

You can state, by example, that you've learned the importance of careful planning in a startup environment, and how to usefully manage limited resources. Of course, in an interview, they will ask you what do you mean by that - and there you have a chance to explain how that failure helped you have a more realistic understanding of businesses.

I spent the first 8 months of my career trying to develop, all by myself, a military grade surveillance system. I have learned the importance of senior people in a project. Also, I've learned that estimates, in both time and money, are an important tool for the job. I learned that being realistic is more important than being smart.

You look like you've seen, the hard way, how not to manage a business. That's a valuable lesson. Embrace it.

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As of now, this does not answer the question. Could you edit your answer to make it more helpful? –  prockel Sep 1 at 9:03
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Putting "I learned how not to run a business" on your resume sounds pretty scary to me :D –  user1306322 Sep 1 at 11:16
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Well, there are ways to state that in a positive way - see my edit above. I think that's a pretty valuable lesson, and any seasoned dev/hiring manager would be happy to hire someone who learned it on someone else's money. Of course, you have to convince them that you actually learned something... –  vasile Sep 1 at 11:42

Don't underestimate doing what you're told and getting things done on time. This is what would stick out in the mind of someone at this company and that person could make a great reference.

Skill sets and getting along with others are key attributes for recent graduates/those with no experience, but once you've been employed for a year, it's important to have people who can vouch for your previous experience.

It's not perfect, but prior behaviors tend to be the best future predictors.

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