• December 21, 2014

The CV Doctor Is Back

Job Market Illustration Careers

Brian Taylor

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Brian Taylor

The first CV Doctor column was published 10 years ago in the fall of 1999. Over the years we have tried to look critically at the vitae submitted by readers and point out ways to make the documents more effective. This year, because state budget cuts have made this hiring season even more difficult than usual for Ph.D.'s, we decided to take a different approach to the CV Doctor.

Many of the doctoral students and postdocs we've talked with say they are pursuing dual job searches this year, looking for both academic and nonacademic positions. With that in mind, we decided to help two candidates prepare both strong academic CV's and résumés for nonacademic positions. We evaluated their documents and asked them to make changes. Here are the Before and After versions, with commentary.


CV's and résumés are very different documents. However, a good CV or résumé always has the following:

• It is tailored to the type of job you are applying for. For example, if you are focusing your search on liberal-arts colleges, you would not want your teaching experience to appear on the third page.

• It has consistent formatting, and its wording is clear and concise, with no spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

When turning a CV into a résumé, you should should be sensitive to a few things:

• Length: A CV often lists all or most of your academic achievements. A résumé geared to a nonacademic audience will generally not include long lists of honors and awards, or a lengthy education section.

• Language: Résumés are best written using bullet points, active verbs, and language that demonstrates your achievements.

• Numbers: Quantifying your achievements often helps in writing a strong résumé — "Raised $1,000 in funds for student group" or "Developed a procedure that increased lab efficiency by 15 percent."

• Translation: A good résumé will help translate your academic experience to a nonacademic audience. Some people in the "real world" will not understand what it means to be a teaching assistant, a postdoc, or a research assistant. Show them. Rather than write, "taught history," write "taught undergraduate courses on topics ranging from U.S. History to Europe in the 20th Century." And avoid using jargon that is specific to your field.

• Audience: Who is the audience for your nonacademic résumé? The answer to that question should guide you as you describe the work that you've done. You wouldn't want to use highly technical terms to describe your work if your audience is unlikely to understand them.

Both résumés and CV's are documents that constantly evolve. The final versions we show here are the result of a dialogue between us and the two readers. They listened to our advice and suggestions, incorporated them into their revised documents, and made the final decisions as to what they felt highlighted their qualifications most effectively. We hope that readers find these documents, and our comments, helpful in preparing their own materials.

Julie Miller Vick is senior associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jennifer S. Furlong is associate director of graduate-student career development at Columbia University's Center for Career Education. They are authors of "The Academic Job Search Handbook" (University of Pennsylvania Press). If you have questions for the Career Talk columnists, send them to careertalk@chronicle.com.

Comments

1. khouck - December 16, 2009 at 04:35 pm

This is a great article with excellent examples. I hope that all graduate students and postdocs take your advice, as well as work with their Career Offices to create a stellar CV and resume.

I agree that many doctorates and postdocs are applying to nonacademic positions. Those in that boat may want to check out www.alternativescicareers.com for alternative career opportunities and advice.

2. abailey - December 16, 2009 at 06:09 pm

Thank you for remembering that many PhDs will sooner or later have to apply for non-academic jobs and will need to compile a resume rather than a CV. I went through the transition from seeking academic employment to seeking non-academic employment a few years ago and learned a few things along the way. Academics are used to presenting their suitability for a position by displaying their achievements (lists of degrees, awards, publications, and courses taught). Non-academic employers will not particularly care about these achievements (sad but true)--they will want, instead, to know what your skills are. After many revisions, I ended up using a functional resume--which focusses on skills, not achievements or experience (which for some young academics will be very thin when it comes to non-academic experience). Learn how to think about your academic experience as a set of skills (communication skills, organizational skills, consultation skills, relationship-building, supervision, research, writing, and editing skills, etc). Then list your experiences and achievements under each main skill set heading (and match those headings to the skills that the job ad asks for). So, for example, don't list the title and journal of articles published; instead say "published writer of books, articles, and reviews". Instead of listing conference papers say "accomplished public speaker with experience preparing presentations in multiple formats and for a variety of audiences."

One last piece of advice: I found that very few people, who do not teach, have a good sense of all of the skills involved, so it is best not assume anything. Think carefully about all the skills involved and include them where appropriate on your resume, using the terminology that is current in the workplace or evident in the job ad.

3. violetnat - January 26, 2010 at 06:10 am

Thanks for the article.To tell the truth,you raised the vail. I've never realized that CV is very important for Doctors. I thought that their achievements speak loud and the do not have to apply for the job because there is always a demand for them. The things you've mentioned about the CV are very important not only for thr Doctors but also for all the rest. Besides, it is very important to make the best impression during the interview. When I prepared for it I used some books about different types of interviews. If I'm not mistaken I found them at the files search engine http://rapidpedia.com . It turns out that almost the same questions are asked, that is why it is possible to prepare for the interview. Besides, remember that bodylanguage means a lot.

4. violetnat - January 26, 2010 at 06:11 am

Thanks for the article.To tell the truth,you raised the vail. I've never realized that CV is very important for Doctors. I thought that their achievements speak loud and the do not have to apply for the job because there is always a demand for them. The things you've mentioned about the CV are very important not only for thr Doctors but also for all the rest. Besides, it is very important to make the best impression during the interview. When I prepared for it I used some books about different types of interviews. If I'm not mistaken I found them at the files search engine http://rapidpedia.com . It turns out that almost the same questions are asked, that is why it is possible to prepare for the interview. Besides, remember that bodylanguage means a lot.

5. gfloresedd - January 29, 2010 at 03:49 pm

Thank you! The information helped my update/improve my CV

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