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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Last week on Post Academic (5/30-6/5)

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on June 6, 2010
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At the end/beginning of the week, we like to point out some of the posts that have either cycled off the front page of lost in the shuffle from the week just ended on Post Academic.  Besides the return of Broke-Ass Schools and the continuation of our Alcoholic Horndog Tenured Professor Stereotype film series, the last week is pretty easy to recap: resumes and CVs.  You can start with Caroline’s first post musing on resume objectives and work your away forward, or end with Arnold’s CV vs. resume grudge match comparing the two forms and go backwards.

Or if you’re sick of listening to us on the topic, just check out the video above by web jokester Liz Thompson, who made a YouTube on “How to Write a Resume!”.  It’s part of a series of “How-to” videos by Thompson, and it captures the silliness of resume writing pretty well.

And sorry, no Zizek-SNL update this week, mostly because Arnold didn’t get to attend the UCI talk and ask him if he knew about the campaign.  For those of you counting at home, the Facebook fan site seems to have stalled out at 5,358 members, thought that’s still a pretty impressive number.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

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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Learning to Let Go of Your Publications

Posted in Housekeeping,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on May 11, 2010
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Over at Inside Higher Ed, Jerry Jellison provides advice for academics who are putting together their first Hamster World resumes. He reminds readers that the resume’s goal is to answer one question: “What can you do for us?”

Along those lines, he advises that former academics (or soon-to-be former academics) skip listing publications. That can be painful since the whole point of being in grad school and academia is to rack up publications.

The issue here is not that your publications aren’t important to businesspeople. They are, but not in the same way they’re important to you. In the Hamster World, it’s less about prestige and more about your actions. Jellison suggests re-framing your academic work: “Instead of listing academic publications, describe the skills and traits that enabled you to write the articles or to conduct the research.”

Conducting research, staying organized, and forming a coherent argument are all talents that will appeal to employers. The fact that you had the tenacity to get published is more important than where you got published. So, instead of listing the papers themselves, say that you did research, conducted interviews, and crunched data.

Jellison has many more tips for translating your academic skills into business lingo. Don’t be afraid. By the time you’re done, you’ll realize that this process is way easier than an MLA interview. For more tips, check out my advice on turning your CV into a resume.

Last week on Post Academic (3/28-4/3)

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on April 4, 2010
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Happy Easter!  If it’s as nice outside where you are as it is here in So Cal, you and your Peeps probably aren’t at your computer to read this.  But whether you’re brand new to the blog or haven’t been back in a while, here are some posts that might have been lost in the shuffle or cycled off the front page.

* We really explored the money side of academia and post-academia this past week.  Caroline warns about accruing too much in the way of student loans while you’re in grad school.  See if you can afford ’em by figuring out how much you’d make as a professor (or not) by checking out the salary comparison sites we’ve compiled here and here.

* And if you can’t afford the loans, Caroline suggests, with tongue-kinda-planted-in-cheek, that you might try out for The Apprentice.

* Arnold obsesses over what might be the vestiges of his career as an academic, psychoanalyzing his CV and mourning his uci.edu account–which, by the way, still lives!

“Pink Marshmallow Peeps” by Jon Sullivan from Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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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Last week on Post Academic (3/21-3/27)

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on March 28, 2010
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Thanks to all the readers for making this another great week for us at Post Academic!  Here are some of the posts from the past week that might have been lost in the shuffle or have cycled off the front page by the end of the week.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

* Caroline offers some real-life hands-on advice on how to write a resume and how to get paid (if you’re a freelancer, that is).

* While Arnold takes Caroline’s real-life hands-on advice, he’s still dithering about keeping on hanging on or moving on.

* But at least health care reform passed, which should help vulnerable academics and post-academics.

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