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The Undeniable Impact of Unfinished Goals on Resumes

Many job seekers view unfinished goals as a blemish on their resumes that could impact their job search process. However, it’s important to realize that unfinished goals have both psychological and professional effects that could shape an individual’s career trajectory. Re-framing these goals as opportunities for growth and development may change the way job seekers think about themselves and their resumes.

The Potential Negatives of Unfinished Goals

For many hiring managers, unfinished goals could signal a lack of commitment or follow-through. When a job seeker lists an unfinished goal on their resume, they could imply that they didn’t have the skills or motivation to complete the task. In some cases, this could be a turnoff for employers who want someone who can effectively and efficiently accomplish the company’s goals.

Additionally, job seekers may struggle to explain their reasoning for leaving an unfinished goal on their resume. An employer may ask about the goal, its significance, and why it remains uncompleted. If a job seeker fails to provide a meaningful explanation, the employer may wonder if the candidate is hiding something or simply lacks the discipline to accomplish what they set out to do.

The Psychological Effects of Unfinished Goals

Unfinished goals can have more serious psychological effects on job seekers than just harming their resume. According to Laura Empson, a professor in the management of professional service firms at Cass Business School, “failure to achieve goals can elicit feelings of failure, inferiority, and depression.”

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As a result, many job seekers may begin to doubt their abilities, lose confidence, or question their decision to pursue a certain career. These negative feelings could demotivate individuals and steer them away from pursuing new opportunities, ultimately impacting their overall career trajectory.

Reframing Unfinished Goals as Opportunities for Growth

Instead of viewing unfinished goals as failures, job seekers can reframe these experiences as opportunities for learning and development. By focusing on the skills and experiences gained from the goal, job seekers can turn unfinished objectives into talking points that showcase their motivations and strengths.

When listing an unfinished goal on a resume, it’s important to be transparent about why it remains unfinished. A job seeker could explain how that experience provided them with valuable skills, insights, or challenges that have prepared them for the new role they’re seeking. Focusing on the progress made and how that experience shaped their professional development could create a compelling narrative that leaves a lasting impression on potential employers.

Successful Career Stories with Unfinished Goals

Many successful individuals started with unfinished goals that later shaped their careers. Bill Gates, for example, dropped out of Harvard without attaining a degree, but he still pursued his passion for technology, co-founding Microsoft and building one of the most successful software companies of all time.

Similarly, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, but used that experience to innovate and start successful ventures such as Pixar and NeXT, which later led to his triumphant return to Apple.

These stories demonstrate that unfinished goals can lead to success. Instead of being roadblocks, these experiences can be great motivators for growth, innovation, and change.

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Key Takeaways

  • Unfinished goals can have potential negative effects on resumes and job searches
  • These goals can have psychological effects on an individual’s career trajectory, influencing their motivation and confidence levels
  • Reframing unfinished goals as opportunities for growth and development can enhance one’s story
  • Focusing on the progress made and how the experience shaped one’s professional development can make the candidate memorable and stand out
  • Unfinished goals can sometimes lead to successful careers in unexpected ways


Q: Should I leave unfinished goals on my resume?

A: It depends on the situation. If you can provide a meaningful explanation for why the goal remains unfinished, and how it has helped you grow, then it could add value to your resume. However, if you can’t provide an explanation, it might be best to leave it off.

Q: How do I reframe unfinished goals as opportunities when talking about them in an interview?

A: Focus on the skills, challenges, and insights you gained from the experience, and how that prepared you for the role you’re seeking. Emphasize the progress you made, rather than the fact that the goal remains unfinished.

Q: Can unfinished goals really lead to successful careers?

A: Absolutely, unfinished goals can lead to unexpected opportunities and innovations. The stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, among others, prove that unfinished goals aren’t always roadblocks, but can instead be motivating factors for growth and success.

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