Why "Founder" might be the best thing on your resume

By Ray DePaul

Imagine your perfect job after graduating. Now imagine the hundreds or thousands of other people who would also consider it a perfect job. How are you going to stand out and have a chance at landing that dream job?

Consider the following resume item as your secret weapon:

Founder, The Next Big Thing Inc. 2017-2018

Created a company from virtually nothing

Discovered a massive customer problem and validated and launched a solution into the market

After two years of successes, failures, pivots, lessons, and personal growth, decided to shift my focus to helping existing companies rather than building my own.

As the hiring manager of your dream job is reviewing hundreds of resumes, my belief is that this resume item could be the differentiator that gets you placed in the Interview pile rather than the Rejection pile. Why? Well, put yourself in the manager's position. She knows that interviewing for entry level positions is frankly a bit of a grind. You have to go through dozens of underwhelming candidates hoping to find a diamond in the rough. Why not insert a genuinely interesting candidate into the mix? Worst case scenario, she breaks up the homogeneity of new grad interviews. She's also intrigued by the image that this founder experience conjures. Here's a candidate that had the creativity, the tenacity, and the vision to actually start their own company. Perhaps this is the hire that makes a big impact on her department and makes her boss notice her managerial skills (hiring superstars is a clear path to a promotion).

So you're one of the lucky ones to get an interview, now it's showtime. The manager uses the interview to dig into specifics and understand the real person behind the resume. She asks questions like, "tell me about the last time you had to work through a tough problem", or "you claim you're a leader, give me an example", or "describe a scenario where you had to deal with a difficult customer". There are lots of ways to build these experiences, but consider how unique and meaningful your answers will be when you dip into your founder experience. How many interviewees will be able to match the story of how you identified a problem and literally built every aspect of a company to solve it. Or the way you had to get three other students excited enough to jump in and help solve the problem with nothing more than the promise of being part of something special. Or the story about your first customer who didn't cut you any slack just because you were a student. These stories are pure gold in an interview.

If starting a company while still a student is such a great career step, why doesn't everyone do it? Perhaps you're too busy with classes and jobs. You don't have a good enough idea. You don't know where to begin. All legitimate concerns… until you realize how much support exists right under your nose at your university. Much of this support disappears when you graduate, so you better move quickly. You can get classes, mentorship, connections into the community, funding, and you might even be able to get paid to start your business and build your Founder resume item.

If you decide to try going down this path, the worst case is that you'll be telling riveting stories for years about that time you started a company in university. The best case is that it might just change your life.