Post Academic


Real-life academic examples of CV fudging

Posted in Absurdities,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on October 5, 2010
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So writing that Christine O’Donnell post the other day made me think about some examples of CV fudging and credentials padding I’ve seen over the years.  We’ve actually written quite a lot about CVs and resumes, and we’d like to think it was practical, helpful, only semi-bitter advice we were giving here and here and here.

"Variety of fudge at a shop" by benjgibbs (Creative Commons license)

But today we’re going to totally snark out and focus on some of our pet peeves with what people try to do with their CVs.  Alright, I’m not above admitting that I’ve partaken in a little CV fact stretching myself, although it was done in all sincerity and with the best intentions that what I was embellishing was going to really, really come to fruition — like most everyone else!  Really, I’m not impugning anyone here, because the CV arms race, like everything pertaining to the academic job search, can really get out of hand, forcing first-few-time jobseekers to put undue pressure on themselves to come up with unreasonable expectations of what they need on a vita, especially when it comes to publications.

Here are a few cases of CV padding that walk a fine line, even though they can seem totally legit once you find a way to justify them.  And if you can get it past a search committee’s BS sensor, more power to you!

Ph.D. expected: There are probably degrees of fudging here, from absolute fantasy to fairly possible possibility, depending a lot on when you dip your toe in the shark-infested job market.  I should know, because this applied to me in the 2 years I applied for jobs before finishing my degree.  The first time was a just a shot in the dark, the idea being that I would actually complete my diss when I claimed I would if I got a job — hey, it worked for some of my friends, so why not give it a try?  No matter that the “finished” product would be crappy, and I had no idea how strongly my committee would vouch that I could do it in their recs.

Later, though, I really could’ve gotten everything done under the flexible degree expected deadline, which made me more antsy to land a t/t position, because I started worrying that a finished diss was diss whose expiration date was coming closer and closer.  Now with a 3+ year old Ph.D., I wish I could reverse date fudge and somehow make my degree look newer and fresher!

More fudging pet peeves below the fold…

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CV vs. Resume: The Grudge Match!

Posted in Process Stories,Transfer Your Skills by Arnold Pan on June 4, 2010
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"Fight on Snow" by su neko (Creative Commons license)

So it’s not quite Alien vs. Predator, but we figured we could end our respective serieses (plural of series?) with a little compare-and-contrast.  You can think of the comparison between a CV and a resume along the lines of my posts vs. Caroline’s this week: the latter are longer and (overly) detailed, while the former are short and sweet and to the point.  We understand that it can be hard to make the conversion from a CV to a resume, since it’s not just a matter of translating your skills and reformatting the way you describe them.  There’s also some emotional baggage attached to the CV, as if cutting loose your publications and conference papers is the same as making them disappear forever.  Don’t worry–they’re still there and they’re still significant accomplishments.

But if you really want to make a full conversion, just try starting over and seeing what you come up with.  That CV is always saved to your hard drive, so you can always go back to it when you want.  And take solace if you can’t cut the cord quite yet, because you have lots and lots of good company.  To paraphrase Susan Basalla of So What Are You Going to Do with That? fame, the worst thing to prepare you for the hamster world job market is being on the academic job market.  So think of the exercise of putting together a resume as a process of unlearning and relearning the rhetorical skills you obviously possess and can command.

Read below the fold for some key points to compare and contrast in our CV vs. resume battle royale…

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The Post Academic CV series: Finishing touches

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 3, 2010
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So while Caroline has been helping you get in the right mindset to compose a resume, I’ve been running on a parallel track, offering some tips on finetuning your CV.  I’m not sure I’m really an expert on the matter beyond having some hands-on experience with my own CV, but I have seen a lot of CVs and figured bringing together all that I’ve learned about ’em might be helpful for folks trying to seek out some starting points on putting one together.

Now that our hypothetical CV has incorporated all the basic elements and has been given a little dork bling to help it stand out, here are some final tips to help you maximize the utility of the CV you’ve come up with.  A lot of what I discuss today has to do with editing, although, if you followed the earlier steps, you hopefully already have a clean, crisp CV to work with.

"Shoulder Pads" by TimmyTruck (Creative Commons license)

To Pad or Not to Pad: I’ve mentioned this before, and the decision you make on what and how much to put on your CV depends a lot on what you have to work with.  If you’re, say, a younger grad student and you just haven’t had the experience and time to accrue many achievements, go for broke and include whatever you have.  Think of the CV as a learning experience that’s end in itself, rather than means to something else.

If you’re not, I’d suggest erring on the side of concision and discretion–but that might be because I didn’t have a lot of things to pad with and I’m of a mind that winning some undergrad award doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things.  To put it another way, if you’ve made it to a grad program and are ABD, your CV audience can take it for granted that you’re reasonably smart, so that best-paper-written-by-a-sophomore award is probably overkill.  Here’s another blunter way to put it: If you don’t have the goods after just starting the first chapter of your diss to be a competitive candidate for a tenure-track position against someone who’s almost done and has publications, there’s no amount of embellishing your CV that’s going to give you a realistic shot at things–unless there are somehow more jobs than people who work in that field or you don’t mind flat-out lying!

More “padding” below the fold…

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The Post Academic CV series: How to stand out

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 2, 2010
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"Stand Out Fit In" by The Basics (Public Domain)

Yesterday, we discussed the basics that every CV should include, mostly as a service to younger academics who haven’t put one together yet, but also as a refresher course for any folks who might be looking to give the one they already have a makeover.  This time, I’ll discuss what it takes to package up the info you have to help it stand out a little more in a stack of a couple hundred CVs.  Again, the best thing to make a CV a great one is, of course, awesome content, like lots of publications, awards, and conference papers.  But that doesn’t mean folks with fewer achievements can’t come up with a strong CV that can stand out, whether that’s in form or content or–hopefully–both.

Highlight Your Strengths: I mentioned this yesterday when discussing how to organize the basic sections of your CV, suggesting that there’s no set-in-stone way put it all together.  Another way to think about the order of things on your CV is to foreground your best assets, while not completely doing away with those elements of your background you might not consider as strong.  For, say, a relatively new grad student who hasn’t had a chance to publish a lot, that means placing your “Awards and Fellowships” first, especially if you have some swanky sounding titles.  Just be sure to put *something* down for “Publications”, if for no other reason than to show whoever’s looking at the document that you are aware of their importance and that you are functioning, working academic–even when you yourself don’t feel that way!

More ways to stand out below the fold…

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The Post Academic CV series: Getting started

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 1, 2010
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"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…

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The psychological baggage of your CV

I wanted to follow up Caroline’s really helpful how-to’s on converting a CV into a resume by focusing on my own real-time experiences of doing just that, particularly some of the more intangible aspects of the process.  What makes turning a CV into a resume all the more difficult is the psychological baggage that goes along with it, since it can symbolize something you wish it didn’t–that you might be becoming a post-academic.  It’s not so much figuring out a new set of conventions that’s the tough part, but the self-scrutiny and rose-colored reminiscences that can really paralyze you.  Writing a resume feels like a surrendering the past to the future, when paring 5 pages down to 1 page feels like you’ve just ended up with a blank page.

Here are some of the mixed feelings I’ve dealt with in writing a resume and what I’m telling myself I need to do to thoughtfully and seriously prepare for a transition.

1. Get(ting) over it: Does shearing off all the details of your CV feel like your academic achievements don’t matter?  What exactly happened to the last 5 to 7 (to 10) years of your life?  Do your faculty recommendations even matter any more?  Going through your CV to decide what to keep (a little bit) and what to ditch (almost everything) is a daunting task, because it requires a retrospective introspection that isn’t easy, especially when you’re forced to do it.

In the post-academic’s touchstone, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”, by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, there’s a chapter on resumes that’s aptly titled “This Might Hurt a Bit,” which offers great how-to advice on shaping a resume out of CV.  But more important than the nuts-and-bolts of the process (though the list of resume verbs on to use on 110-11 is pretty great), Basalla and Debelius get you into the right mindset with some tough love.  According to them, the editing process involves some cuts that’ll sting.  But, for your own sake, leave off the following (109-10):

See the list and more after the jump…

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Transfer Your Skills: Turning Your CV Into a Resume

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 26, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionMany academics work on building a CV, not a resume. However, you’ll need a resume for the hamster world, and CVs and resumes are two different animals.

For starters, the resume is much shorter. You can list your experience in reverse chronological order, but if you have a long work history or you are a career-changer, then you may wish to list your experience into several groups:

Relevant Experience: Here you list the jobs you performed that are similar to the job to which you are applying. For example, if you are applying to work as a copy editor, you may want to list the fact that you worked on your department’s grad student newsletter or you had a side gig as an editor.

Other Work Experience: Even if some of your jobs weren’t relevant, you still need to list them to convince a potential employer that you are not prone to sitting on the sofa eating bonbons and watching paternity test results on Maury Povitch. Even if you are prone to Povitch’s paternity test shows, you don’t want your employer to know.

Freelance Experience: You may or may not want to list this separately. If you’re applying for a writing gig, and you’ve written as a freelancer, then you should list this section under relevant experience. But if you did freelance work to build up other skill sets that are important but not directly relevant to the job, then list it in this section.

An Important Note: Resumes are much shorter than CVs. You may have heard that all resumes must be under one page. This is not true. My resume is just under a page and a half, and no one has ever told me I didn’t get a job because my resume was too long. I usually didn’t get the job because my skills and experience didn’t match their needs.

A resume’s goal is to let future employers know what you can do for them in as short a space as possible. If you have a long work history that will benefit the employer, then don’t leave anything out just because of some obscure rule you may have heard in a high-school typing class. That said, you don’t want to go on and on, either.

Any more questions about resumes? I’m happy to answer. Also, if you’re not sure how to word certain aspects of your resume, join LinkedIn, and read what your contacts have posted.

Image of “human computers” in the NACA High Speed Flight Station “Computer Room”, Dryden Flight Research Center Facilities, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The Academic Interview Waiting Game

"Wooden Hourglass Edit" by S Sepp (Creative Commons license)

Even though MLA ’11 may be history and you’re (hopefully) home from L.A., that doesn’t mean you’re still not thinking about it.  No, I’m not talking about all the back-and-forth about digital humanities or the general direness of the hard times in the profession, but, rather, your ongoing, neverending anxieties about your first-round interviews.  I know I should say that you should  forget about the interviews so that you can get on with the rest of your life, but that’s not gonna happen without more than a little wasted mental energy.  So yeah, go ahead and lurk on the Academic Jobs Wiki if that’s what you’ve been doing all along, though there’s little info about campus visits yet.  And maybe some not-so-discreet depts will start posting job talks on their calendars soon, but it’s a little early for that considering that some schools aren’t back in session yet.  One piece of advice on what not to do while you wait: Don’t second-guess what you did in your interview, since it’s over, no matter how many times and how many different ways you re-run it in your mind.  (Unless you want to write up any zany experiences for Post Academic!)

But there are some things you can do to futz with a job search that’s more or less out of your hands until/unless you get to the next round.  Be prepared and be productive as you deal with your nerves about what your future might or might not hold for you.

Send out thank you notes ASAP: You’ve probably done this already, especially if you were told at your interview that the search committee is planning a quick turnaround on who to invite to campus.  I always prefer to mail a  handwritten note whenever possible, but that might not be possible or preferable when time is of the essence.  Though it might not be as formal and gracious as snail mail, send a quick email to the search chair — and maybe even the whole committee if you have enough to say something unique to everyone so it doesn’t read like a form letter.   It might feel a little tacky and pushy, but emailed thank-you messages are pretty much pro forma as far as I’ve heard.  One advantage to email is that you know that your message will get to its intended soon enough, rather than get lost in the mail sorting process.  The other, potentially more beneficial aspect of email is that you might get a response back.  It might not be exactly what you want and it might lead to more tea-leaf reading, but maybe you will get a little more info to work with.

More productive fussing, below the fold…

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Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #4: The One I Didn’t Want to Have

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on December 9, 2010
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You know the trainwreck I hinted to last time?  I’m gonna get to that for our series finale, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to write about.  The one I’m describing today was an interview I felt totally ambivalent about, not because the job, the school, and the people there weren’t fine, but because of a confluence of circumstances.  To blow the ending in advance — as if you didn’t know already — I didn’t get the job.  What’s different, though, was that I basically gave up on it before the interview, which I more or less tried to pull the plug on by asking the search committee to reschedule my MLA tête-à-tête as a videoconference.   The crazy thing was they agreed to it, which was very nice of them, although I almost think that I ended up just going through the motions anyway.

"Gesto Communications Videoconference Room" by Gesto Communications (Creative Commons license)

Here’s what went into my kamikaze mission decision…

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The main reason I begged off the convention interview was that I didn’t have any others lined up, so I couldn’t justify the $1000+ expense, multiple connecting flights, and days cooped up at a hotel for a single 45-minute meet-up for — let’s be real — a job that I wasn’t super-psyched about .   I know, I know, beggars shouldn’t be choosers, but still.  So when December 20-ish rolled around, I called an audible and emailed to ask if I could do a phoner instead, because there was really no reason to keep hope alive that a bunch more interviews were going to come through.  I guess the moral of the story here is that search committees are more humane and more accommodating than you’d expect, so you might as well tactfully ask for you’d like if you don’t really mind totally blowing it.

More factors below…

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Be prepared!: After you send in your job application…

Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to be offering this advice, since I’m probably not sending any job applications in and still haven’t logged into the MLA JIL even for curiosity’s sake.  But if you’re doing some kind of endzone celebration after sending in your first batch of  job applications, we should  flag you for excessive celebration.  First, there’s probably still a bunch more applications to send in, which you would know if you made a handy spreadsheet like we suggested awhile ago.  Second, it seems like no two applications on your spreadsheet list are the same, from those requiring the bare minimum of cover letter and CV to those asking for everything and the kitchen-sink.  If you’ve already dealt with the latter, you’re probably golden for what’s yet to come.

"Emergency Preparedness 'Ready to Go' Kit" by Red Cross (Public Domain)

But if you’ve only been turning in the standard letter-CV variety up to now, you better be ready when you get the email you’re hoping to get for a secondary application or even a pre-convention interview request.  It might seem like it’s too early to stress about it now, but don’t wait to sweat it when you get your golden ticket, but aren’t ready to promptly reply to it.  In addition to the basics of the cover letter and CV, you can pretty much get any variations of the following at any time, so get your ducks in a row.

Writing Sample(s): I’ve been asked for samples of various lengths from 15 to 30 pages, including or excluding footnotes. Unlike some folks who just send in whatever they have at hand no matter the length, I follow instructions in fear of inflexible, dictatorial search committees looking for any reason to disqualify me, and will cut my default 30-ish pager down to 15 or 20 or 25, depending on what they’re are asking for. Use it as a good exercise in editing and not being too precious with your writing, since slicing and dicing your papers can actually make them better and more streamlined.

More about writing sample(s) below the fold…

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