Part 1 of a 3-part CV vs. Resume Series

Academics are totally familiar with the CV, or curriculum vitae, but may struggle to take 10+ page CVs and create industry ready resumes.  In this post, I’ll walk you through the differences between a CV and resume, give you pointers on when to use which document, and then show you what to include in a resume when you’re applying to post-academic jobs. (1)

The CV

CVs are primarily used to apply for academic teaching and research positions and fellowships. Generally speaking, the CV is an in depth look at your research, teaching and university or college service work to date.  It is not uncommon for these documents to be several pages in length. One of my clients came to me for help to convert her whopping 15-page (!!) CV to a 1- to 2-page resume for an administration position she was dying to apply to.  In her few years as an Assistant Professor of Higher Education, she had a lot of rich academic experience to showcase from conference presentations, publications, committee leadership, teaching, and grants. Though laudable, these accomplishments could not be included in the resume she was submitting in her post-academic job application.

I know, it’s like someone’s snatched your child when you see the list of your 20 hard earned conference papers cut out and replaced with one seemingly lackluster bullet point like,

“Prepared and delivered 20 papers at national and international conferences, resulting in 5 peer reviewed publications.”

Keep in mind that this document is created with your reader, the hiring manager, in mind. …and the fact that the hiring manager will only take a few seconds to determine if your resume stays on the “Let’s Interview” pile.

The Resume

A resume showcases the highlights of your professional experience, and tends to focus on your skills and experiences that are relevant to the position to which you are applying. Unlike the CV, the resume should be brief – one to two pages maximum – and include your most recent and relevant experiences, not the whole lot of what you’ve been working on for the past 10+ years.

Employers for most post-academic jobs will request at resume, rather than a lengthy CV.

So what should I include in my resume? And how do I communicate all of my amazing work, mostly accomplished in the academy, in just one to two pages?

I’m so glad you asked, my friend.

Here are the most common section headings used in a resume:

Summary – There’s a healthy bit of debate about whether to include a summary at the top of your resume. In my view, a descriptive, yet concise summary of your professional experience and desired next steps can be a powerful tool for academic career changers. It answers a lot of questions for the reviewer about who you are, how you see your experience and skills as relevant to the job, and what want to bring to your next position. The key is to avoid jargon and flowery language, opting instead for descriptive keywords that resonate with the employer of interest.

Education – List institutions of higher education and degrees earned. You may also include dissertation title, concentrations, certificates earned, and a list of relevant course work for certain jobs and industries.

I’m not a huge fan of seeing coursework listed on resumes. It feels sophomoric to me, however, if you’ve had highly specialized coursework in a specific area that is of value to the position or industry then feel free to include it. Otherwise, list the skills learned in these courses in the Skills section.

Experience – Accurately and concisely describe the context, inputs and outcomes of each entry you include on this list. This section is not limited to paid work experience, which is why we title it Experience, not Work Experience.

The Higher Education professor above wanted to shift from teaching higher education principles to working as a university administrator. For her resume, we wanted to highlight her vast committee leadership and university policy work, and separate it from her work on the topic as a professor.  Instead of Experience, we used “University Administration Experience” and “Research Experience.” These two sections helped us to foreground what was most important to the search committee and de-emphasize, though not entirely eliminate, her research and teaching experience.

Skills – List any technical or computational skills or any software or spoken or coding languages. Just be sure to include relevant skills. If you’re not sure what’s relevant, check the skills listed in job ads for positions of interest.

Professional Affiliations – List any relevant organizations of which you are a  member or have a leadership position.

Awards or Honors – List fellowships, awards, honors in this section. You may choose to include a brief description of the award. For example, you may describe a fellowship or grant as follows: “Awarded $25,000 in national fellowship competition.”

Finally, a note on formatting

Format your resume with 1” margins and use a clean, tight font like Helvetica or Garamond in 11pt or 12pt font. By all means, do not use Times New Roman font –  it is sorely overused and has a common, humdrum appearance.

Coming Up

In next week’s post, I’ll cover some of the common challenges that graduate students and faculty face when transitioning their CVs to resumes that actually work for employers beyond the academy.  I’ll answer tough questions that academics like you ask when enlisting my services to convert their CVs to an industry ready resumes such as,

  • How much should I describe my dissertation research in my resume?
  • What do I include in a resume when I’ve had little or no formal work experience?
  • How do I talk about my past experience in a way that’s relevant for a job other than teaching and research?

In the comments below, send me any questions about the resume that you’d like me to address. You just may see it in an upcoming blog post or in a live Periscope session!


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