Paring down your CV…

In the past several months I’ve found myself in a new predicament: how to trim down my CV into a resume in order to apply for jobs outside of academia. For most of my graduate career, I was very focused on “bulking up” my CV with presentations, awards, outreach work… anything thing to elevate it from “wimpy” resume status to “impressive!” and “important!” CV status. If you’ve ever read one of your professor’s CVs you’ll know what I mean. But since my career interests lie outside of academia, I’ve had to reverse the process for many job applications… but without producing something that looks “wimpy” again.

Resumes don’t have to be wimpy at all. If you are selective about what you include, pay close attention to what traits and skills your potential employer is seeking, and format it carefully, your resume can be a powerful document. Here are some resources to get you started…

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education provides some excellent tips here.
  • More great advice from the University of Michigan here.
  • UCLA provides a sample resume adapted from a CV here.

Resume vs. Curriculum Vitae

Many graduate students enter graduate school with some experience in writing resumes for previous jobs or even to fulfill requirements in the graduate student application process. Regardless of prior experiences, most face the realization that they must immediately strengthen their current resume and/or upgrade to a curriculum vitae in preparation for grant and scholarship applications during the first year. Having a well-updated curriculum vitae is one of many essential components of academic life, and as a graduate student, could mean the difference between earning that sought-after research fellowship or yet another trip back to the drawing boards.

The expression curriculum vitae originate from the Latin expression curriculum vitæ which loosely translate as “course of life,” or more fluidly, “the course of my life.” A curriculum vitae, or as known colloquially as a CV, is meant to provide a complete overview of a person’s experiences and qualifications rather than an abridged overview of experiences as provided by a resume. A commonly accepted rule of thumb is that resumes are typically limited one sheet of paper (front and back) whereas curricula vitae will require several pages of information to fully articulate one’s accomplishments and experiences. Well-constructed curricula vitae will often minimally include: a cover statement or statement of research interest, educational background, publications, conference proceedings, research experiences, specialized training, teaching experience, service, and awards and honors. In addition, a curriculum vitae may also include sections on invited talks, publications in preparation, relevant work experience, and personal information that you feel will add to the organization or group that you are interested in working with. However, each field has slightly different expectations of content, formatting, and language, so be sure to consult with colleagues, professors, and mentors when constructing and refining your curriculum vitae.

Remember that one’s curriculum vitae is a dynamical piece of work that will need to change to reflect the purpose of its implementation. For example, when applying for a research position or a position in which research is emphasized, it is important to highlight your research experiences and publications right away on the first page. This seems obvious, but it is of the utmost importance that the reader understands how prolific of a scholar you are and on the way to becoming. Whereas applying to a position in which teaching is emphasized requires your teaching experiences to be placed at the beginning. Imagine an impatient reviewer making his or her rounds reviewing potential applicants. You would like to catch their attention immediately upon picking up your curriculum vitae instead of having them flip through many pages to get the essential information that may be critical to your success.

Your curriculum vitae is meant to be a detailed account of all your education, training, and experiences along the way as well as any recognition that you have earned to reflect the effectiveness of your training. Do elaborate fully on your experiences. When listing previous positions held also include a small description of duties carried forth and tools that you have used to accomplished your work. For example, a young astrophysicist whose work included reduction and analysis of spectral data would give a brief description on how the programming languages IDL and C++ were used to complete his or her task. This will not only give the reviewer an idea of your competency in a particular discipline but the tools that you have learned that may also be applicable in future work.

Tasteful verbosity is quite the gift to have in writing a curriculum vitae. Have close colleagues and friends critique your curriculum vitae often to ensure its fluidity. Know your audience and tailor the information that goes on your curriculum vitae to be in parallel with the reviewers’ objectives. Of course this goes without saying, but in light of recent cases of fallen CEOs due to falsification of information on their curriculum vitae, DO NOT attempt to embellish the information on your curriculum vitae as it may hurt you in the long run. Have fun and good luck. Feel free to message me if you have questions.