Post Academic

The Post Academic CV series: Getting started

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 1, 2010
Tags: ,

"Delphi Stadium Starting Line" by David Monniaux (Creative Commons license)

Caroline is offering great advice for Post Academics trying to convert their CVs into resumes, but I thought it might also be helpful to provide some tips on how to put together a CV, especially for younger scholars who don’t have one yet and need one to apply for fellowships and/or are about to venture onto the job market for the first time.  Or also, if you’re not quite ready to let go of the psychological baggage of your CV and, particularly your publications.  Just think of the blog like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie I never saw, which follows her character on 2 different life paths, signified by her having different hair styles–except in our cases, it’s with resumes and CVs!

Now, I have to start with a disclaimer that my CV never garnered me a tenure-track position, but I can say this for myself: It probably did play a role in getting some plum interviews and, if nothing else, it looked good.  While, of course, the actual qualifications matter the most, how you organize the CV and how you highlight your strengths do make a difference.  This is especially true when you don’t have a lot of material to work with, mostly because you just haven’t been in academia for a long time.  Here are some tips on how to get started

The Basics: There are some categories that every CV needs, even if you aren’t quite able to fill something in under every heading.  We can discuss how you can do that later, but here are the basics that you should cover…

Education: This should be an easy way to start, listing your degrees and potential degrees, starting with the most current one first.  It gets tricky if you have to include a proposed date for finishing your Ph.D.: Just be realistic about it, in case you’re asked to talk about it in an interview or if your recommenders have to vouch for you.

Publications: I list publications next, because I now have some.  If you don’t, try to get that essay you’ve been working on forever out to a journal, so you can list something as “under review”.  I’ve been told that’s a little bit important, if for no other reason than it shows you are productive, even when no decision on it has been made.

Awards and Fellowships: For younger scholars who have won awards and have a fellowship, you could place this category ahead of publications, especially if you have some impressive lines here.  Again, reverse chronological order here.

More basics below the fold…

Conferences and Papers: Pretty self-explanatory, but be sure to list any upcoming conferences for which you have papers accepted, too.  I have some pet peeves here, such as listing your class lectures, but you can start by listing whatever kind of paper you’ve given, and adjust according to space and discretion later.

Teaching Experience: This section might be take more work than you’d expect, especially if you’ve taught in different departments at different schools during different times.  You could go with a strict reverse choronological format, if that’s easier for you.  I’ve found that breaking things up according to department/discipline can be a helpful way to organize things.  It also makes things more flexible, because you can highlight and prioritize certain teaching experience ahead of others.  Say, if you’re applying for an English job, put that block on TA’ing for lecture classes first.  If it’s a comp position, list your comp and writing experience section at the top.

One way to provide more info about yourself, particularly the breadth of your teaching experience and your research interests beyond your dissertation, is to offer a short one- or two-sentence description of each class.  That way, you can show your expertise and practical skills beyond what your specialized field is.

The last page: Here, you should include any combination of the following that apply or fits the space…

* Relevant Work Experience — You probably don’t want to list every part-time job you’ve had, just anything that might be connected to your academic profile.

* Academic Service — Probably not necessary, but it’s a way to list that you were a grad rep for some committee.  If nothing else, it shows you’re interested in how your dept functions.

* Professional Memberships — Again, no biggie, but it shows you’re involved in your profession.

* References — Just be sure to double-check with your recommenders that you can list them on your CV.  I only include the reference’s title and email address, because that’s likely the easiest and quickest way to contact folks these days.

Look Around: Once you’ve come up with a rough draft of your CV–or maybe even before you start–take a look around at some samples for inspiration and a template to help you finetune your own.  A lot of faculty post their CVs online these days, so it’s worth a look just to see what a real CV looks like and to familiarize yourself with its conventions, from formatting to the kind of shorthand lingo that’s being used.  Sometimes, you might not even know how to list all the info you include, like whether to include class codes and if you were a TA or a grad student instructor.  Just looking at various models will give you a better sense of how to describe yourself.  Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t fixate too much on the actual content, lest you feel intimidated by comparing yourself to a tenured prof.

Do It: The best way to get started is to get started.  It’s all too easy to be paralyzed and not put digital ink to digital paper.  Begin with something easy, like your contact info and your degrees.  If you don’t have any publications, skip ahead to conferences and teaching–just fill whatever you can whenever you can to get going.  And keep in mind that there really isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how you put together your CV, so long as you include (most of) the basics outlined above.  Mix some of the headings around based on what your strengths are, the kind of job you are applying for, or even what will fit on a page so that the formatting looks as good as possible.  Say, if you’re applying for a teaching intensive position, it might serve you better to start with your teaching experience than beginning with your research agenda of publications and conferences.

Just remember that nothing is set in stone, either in terms of h0w CVs should be formatted or with what you include about yourself.  You’ll probably go through many, many drafts before you come up with something you’re happy with, so don’t stymie yourself before even getting started.

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