Most of us who have been a part of academic spaces are familiar with the curriculum vitae, the document listing all of the research, teaching, and service work you’ve done while in the academy. It serves as a comprehensive record of every conference presentation, published paper, invited lecture, undergraduate and graduate course, and committee seat you’ve ever given, written, taught, or held. Though it certainly takes skill to craft a strong and effective CV, in general, the rule is the longer the better—more lines on your CV means more accomplishments achieved.
But what do you do with this rambling document if you’ve made the decision to forgo a tenure-track job search? After years of focused scholarly work, making these efforts legible to those beyond academic job search committees can feel daunting. Crucial to this shift is crafting a dynamic, accessible resume that both highlights the skills you’ve developed during your time in academia and makes it clear why you are moving away from the tenure track and in a new direction. Here are some tips to help you turn your CV into a resume that does just that.
Start with what you’ve got
First off, developing an effective resume doesn’t mean throwing away the academic dossier you’ve built. Rather, it requires some creative thinking—and strategic editing—to make it work in a new arena.
Don’t just ditch your CV to start from scratch. Take the time to look it over and reflect on what it says about two important things that will help you shape a resume that will land you a job:
- the skills you’ve developed in graduate school
- and the inclinations that brought you there in the first place
At this stage of reviewing your CV, don’t immediately try to identify what to keep and what to toss, line by line. Instead, think of how you would group together your accomplishments into different areas of expertise and interest.
Although roles in teaching and administration are generally more legible to non-academic organizations, this approach will be especially important to reviewing the types of tasks more specific to higher education spaces, like academic publishing and conference presentations.
Have you published a lot? That means you have strong writing, editing, and researching skills.
Given several compelling conference presentations or invited talks? You’ve developed not only public speaking skills, but also the ability to effectively translate your work into different formats and for different audiences. All of this is relevant when converting your CV into a resume.
Tell your story
Now that you’ve begun the work of interpreting the big-picture skills you’ve gained through your academic training, the next step is to think about what overall story your experiences tell potential employers about who you are, what your career path has been, and where you want to go next.
Take some time to reflect on the narrative that unites the information that will end up on your resume. Since you are now taking a different path than the one carved out by the academy, highlight the reason why. If this feels overwhelming, try answering the following questions for yourself:
- What were you doing entering academia and why?
- What brought you to graduate school in the first place?
- What did you most enjoy doing while a graduate student or faculty member?
- What made you decide not to pursue a tenure-track job or to leave the tenure track?
- What kind of job would you like to have next? If you don’t yet know this, ask yourself: what kind of things would you like to focus on in your next role? What kind of tasks would you like to spend most of your time on?
Some resumes include a brief introductory statement about the candidate, usually 2–3 sentences describing their professional identity, their area of expertise, and what kinds of jobs they are looking for.
Whether it makes it onto your resume or not, the ability to succinctly describe who you are, what you’re good at, and what you want to do with those skills can be hugely useful throughout the job search process, so try putting a statement like this together together.
What makes the cut and how
The most immediate difference between your resume and your CV is length. While CVs can be upwards of 20 pages, your resume should be kept to 1 page. As a document, it is meant to be short and clear at a glance.
Demonstrate your editing, research, and critical thinking skills by making your resume a streamlined, targeted document that strategically pitches you for the job you are applying to, rather than simply lists everything you’ve ever done or worked on.
Now that you’ve established your skill sets, determined your career narrative, and picked a layout, what specific jobs, roles and responsibilities should make it into the final document?
Here’s what you should keep:
- Any roles you’ve had that are related to the types of jobs you’re currently applying to. Did you do administrative work (paid or unpaid “service” roles) while a graduate student? Think both about formal roles and tasks you took on within more formal academic commitments. Did you plan events? Copyedit your advisor’s manuscript?.
Here’s what you should cut:
- All academia-specific accomplishments like conferences, small travel grants, and publications
Now that you’ve done some serious trimming, consider how you will arranging this information on you resume. You could list your roles chronologically, but consider the value of arranging your resume by types of roles or skill-sets first. This is a useful way to draw a road map of your expertise that not only shows what you’ve learned and what you offer, but ideally echoes the career narrative you established at the beginning.
In the interest of space, not all jobs need to have bulleted descriptions of what you did there listed below them, but these are useful for your most recent roles, roles related to the job you’re applying for, or roles with unclear or vague titles. Keep the bullet points brief (rather than “I updated the weekly email newsletter” try “Managed weekly newsletter”). You don’t need to highlight everything you did, just the core tasks and those most closely related to the jobs for which you’re applying
Whenever possible, note your accomplishments in relevant roles, rather than just your general responsibilities. Make sure it is clear to whomever is reading your resume both what you learned on the job, and what you achieved there.
The cover letter is crucial to the academic job search. But while it is still a part of the non-academic or alternative-academic job search, it is the resume that is the most important document in this process.
Your resume must be able to stand alone. It is the first document (and sometimes the only document) recruiters or employers will look at. For many jobs, software, rather than a human, will be what scans your resume first so it needs to tick all the boxes for the position right off the bat to avoid getting passed over.
Especially if you are casting a somewhat wide net when entering the job market, tailor your resume for each job.
If you’ve done all of the above, you should end up with a working resume (or resumes) that will help you land the job of your dreams. But more than that, the process of crafting a strong resume should also help you establish, if you haven’t already, exactly what you’ve done so far, and what want to do next. Good luck!
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