June 23, 2003

From CV to Resume?

I'm looking for advice on how to write a resume, and especially on how to do so when you've wasted so many years of your life in the academy that you don't have anything non-academic to put on your resume. Books, websites, hints from Heloise, personal testimonials, twelve-step affirmations...Throw it at me!

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at June 23, 2003 03:02 PM

The advice I've seen is to write down the things you did in grad school (or while child-rearing) and add the particular skills those activities required/trained you for. You've certainly done teaching, that's definitely something you can put down. Unless you had a fellowship that gave you a full ride (no TA, no RA work) then you were doing some type of work throughout. If you were a research assistant, you should put that down and perhaps mention in a few words the kinds of skills you used in that job (researched, analyzed, summarized, wrote up, ?? - there are some action words here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/pw/p_skilist.html - I think some are bs but some might work).

Although career offices on univ campuses are usually not very well equipped to help out with the career needs of PhDs, some of them are getting better. I'm sure people there have had to deal with this before, have you talked to people there? If not where you're currently employed then perhaps where you got your degree (grad or undergrad). Some schools also have alum mailing lists where people exchange this type of advice. I realize you're already reaching out by asking us here, I'm just suggesting some additional avenues.

Posted by: Eszter at June 23, 2003 03:28 PM

The Chronicle website has a lot of info on this subject, as well.

Posted by: James Joyner at June 23, 2003 04:19 PM

All the people I've talked to/books I've read suggest that a "functional" resume is preferable to the standard "chronological" one for career switchers -- that is, provide a list of "skill clusters" rather than a list of positions held. It can be a very weird experience: who'da thunk that I could translate my teaching experience into something called "training and management," or my research into "specialized content knowledge"?

(Example: "Training and Management: Oversaw group production of original content websites, local history museum exhibits, fieldwork reports and research papers. Coordinated efforts of cooperative teams working as part of a larger group. Resolved conflicts among group members. Assisted team members in developing and adhering to production schedules. Oversaw employees responsible for assessing and monitoring student work." Translation -- I helped students with small group and class assignments, and worked with student graders. Fun, no?)

Of course, I have yet to put this new resume to use, so take this with a huge chunk of salt!

Posted by: Rana at June 23, 2003 04:19 PM

I've actually used the 'functional' resume in the past and I found it a great way to put forward my specific skill sets over my actual work history. Most of the management types I've talked to seem to like the functional resume too, mostly because it gives them more information.

Also consider tailoring you resume for the field you want to move into. This means focusing on specific skills over a shotgun effect. If you’re not sure what you want to due consider developing more than one resume.

You might be especially well positioned for instructional design (not a whole lot of people in this field), corporate style training, and B2B sales. Your public speaking skills are a big asset since it is an area that terrifies most people. Of course you could be a terribly dull adjunct, but somehow I doubt it.

http://careers.msn.com/ actually has some good information.

Posted by: Matthew at June 23, 2003 11:26 PM

The two most important parts of a resume that don't appear on a CV (and that should appear at the top of the resume) are your Objective (~2 sentences) and your Qualifications (2 paragraphs or 4-5 bullets) for that objective. Without direct experience, your qualifications take the form of relevant skills and personal characteristics.

It's important that you figure out what you want. Whoever hires you is taking a chance and committing time and effort; if the job is not what you want, you'll be leaving soon. So they'll be looking hard at your desire and enthusiasm, and at your confidence that the path they offer is, in your considered opinion, the best for you. Your Objective should be specific and confidently stated, and your Qualifications should suggest that you've been working toward that Objective for some time.

Posted by: pj at June 24, 2003 07:30 AM

Regarding the "objective" statement: I had heard in recent years that the objective statement was to be avoided. I have no idea why this was the case, so I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about it.

The only advice I'd feel comfortable giving is to make it graphically clear and avoid "cute" fonts.

Posted by: Michael at June 24, 2003 07:45 AM

The reason for omitting the "Objective" statement I'm familiar with is that it can be used as an automatic disqualifier. Make it as inclusive as you like, and even then some HR-bot will still find an excuse to put it in the circular file.

Posted by: Curtiss Leung at June 24, 2003 08:56 AM

I found this article "Resumes for a new millennium" (http://www.seattlewritergrrls.org/archive/2003i1_resume.html) quite interesting, including an explanation of why the "Objective" is out of date.

Posted by: Elaine at June 24, 2003 11:10 AM

I would skip the Objective. They're usually so broad as to be meaningless and they often sound stupid as well. Brief advice: one page. The functional resume is fine -- although I've never actually seen one -- but you have a continuous employment history. Being able to keep a job is definitely better than not being able to do so, so include some chronological job history. Another way to think about it is that humans think about themselves as stories. Job history is a narrative device that helps someone understand you.

BUT my MAIN advice is not to rely on your resume. Go out there and talk to people continuously. Give them the resume if they ask for it but don't treat it as your main introduction. It's a secondary device.

Posted by: JT at June 24, 2003 04:01 PM

As one who has read lots of resumes...

1) I agree with skipping the objective. Most of them are content-free ("objective: achieve superlative performance in all areas of excellence"), and they can be used for weeding you out. Yes, there's some risk here; an HR drone may absolutely refuse to consider any resume without an objective, but this is probably more an exception than a rule.
2) Don't make it too long--3 pages absolute max. I got a resume once from a PhD (who was employed in industry) which was 20 pages long, including info on every paper he ever wrote. My impression was that this guy is pretty strange--I hired him anyhow and my first impression was right.
3) If there is jargon that only people in your field would know, translate it into something more universal. This is often a big problem with former military people ("Managed upgrades on the AN/FSZ-264 systems in compliance with the TIGERPRO program standards")but may be an issue with transitioning academia as well.
4) Functional (as opposed to chronological) resumes can be useful, but should probably include a brief chronological summary as well (after the functional part), so they don't think you're trying to pull something over on them.

Posted by: David Foster at June 24, 2003 07:58 PM

"Most of them are content-free ('objective: achieve superlative performance in all areas of excellence'), and they can be used for weeding you out."

But that's precisely my objective. :)

I couldn't come up with a 20-page resume if I tried.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at June 24, 2003 09:15 PM

A couple pieces of advice I got from the headhunters I've talked to:

1) Keep it to one page. Always.

2) Resumes are now written to be machine-readable; in large companies, the HR department will scan them, looking for keywords, and then-- well, actually I'm not sure what happens then. But you should avoid complex fonts and formatting.

3) Brief descriptions of what you did and learned at each of your jobs/posts can help flesh out your skills.

4) Don't forget to mention your now-awesome knowledge of CSS, Movable Type, and the whole blogging world. If you've got stats on the number of visitors per day, don't be shy about including them. Who knows how long serious blogging will be a skill that differentiates you from others, but exploit it while you can!

5) Cut way down on the number/description of publications. This is often the most wrenching part of the task. I had a headhunter wave the pubs section around and shout, "Employers don't want to know what you've WRITTEN! They want to know who you ARE!" It took a minute to realize why this was so stunning, and then it hit me: as an academic, what you've written IS who you are. But not in most of the world. Cut it down to "X articles in peer-reviewed journals, popular magazines, yadda yadda, including [a couple familiar names if any]."

6) More broadly, keep in mind that you've developed skills that haven't been of use in the academic job hunt, because everyone assumes that all candidates have them: skills like the ability to manage a complex, multiyear project; to be self-managing and -motivating; to stand up in front of 18 year-olds and talk for an hour or 90 minutes (this is MUCH more valuable than you'd expect, but most of the world is terrified of public speaking); to facilitate meetings (once known as classes); to translate complex concepts into an accessible form (who knows if it's true, but it sounds good); and to write (which again is rare, but not as well-regarded as it should be).

Posted by: askpang at June 25, 2003 02:04 AM

Thanks everyone for this great advice.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at June 25, 2003 10:13 AM