Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing a Real Resume - What Have I Actually Done??

So task number one, before I can apply for a non-academic job, is writing a resume.

Anyone who's been in a grad program or in academia in general knows that the "resume" for an academic job looks a bit different from a resume in the outside world.

Instead of a resume, we write a curriculum vitae, or CV. And unlike a real-world resume, where you want to be as concise and brief as possible by summarizing your skills and experience into a one- or two-page document, a CV is by design supposed to be longer. A one- to two-page CV would get you laughed out of the job pool for an academic job faster than you can say "adjunct." On an academic CV, you list a separate line for every paper you've written or are working on, every conference presentation you've done, every course you've taught, every professional membership you have, and so on. While you certainly don't want to go overboard "padding" your CV, the expectation seems to be that your CV will be 5 or 6 pages long by the time you're on the job market, and that it will get a few lines longer every time you start a new paper or present at the Regional Society for the Study of Widgets Conference - even if you only went to the widget conference because your sister lives in the same city or if you're presenting a paper you've already presented (in slightly modified form) at two other conferences. That 15-minute presentation of research you've already been working on gives you another "credential" on your CV.

In short, even if you aren't padding your CV ... well, everyone's padding their CV.

Anyway, what this means is that my CV is pretty long. I don't have a lot of publications, but I have a lot of teaching and conference experience. So I have a long CV.

However, as I venture into this nonacademic work world, most of it is useless. Not only do nonacademic employers not give a crap about the specific presentation I gave at the widget conference, but my academic CV also says nothing about the years I've spent working part-time outside of grad school. That experience was completely irrelevant to an academic career, so I've never even put it down on paper.*

But now that I'm looking outside academia for jobs, I realize that this part-time experience needs to go on my resume. Not only does it show that I'm capable of working with others in an office setting (something not usually assumed of Ph.D. students), but it also shows that I have a number of other skills - customer service experience, budgeting, management and training, and experience in an industry that's different from where I've honed my research skills.

So I need to add it to my resume, while also figuring out how to whittle my 6 page CV down into one page while still retaining a clear picture of the skills and experience I've gained in school.

But wow, is this hard. See, I'm not really sure exactly what jobs I want to apply for. I know what jobs I'm overtly qualified for thanks to my graduate training (applied research positions), and what jobs I'm qualified for thanks to my part-time work (administrative positions in a different industry). I also think that I might want to pursue opportunities in student advising - which I think I'd enjoy given my love of teaching.

But for each of those jobs, I think I would ideally want to submit a different type of resume. For the first, I would submit a resume that emphasized my research training and experience. For the second, I'd emphasize my outside work while also stressing my research training and (to a lesser extent) teaching experience. For the third, I'd emphasize my work in the classroom - in particular, highlighting ways in which I went beyond just lecturing and grading to interact with my students.

So after a lot - a LOT - of jotting down ideas and skill sets and poring over job listings, I've drawn the conclusion that rather than writing "a resume," what I need is to write down several pages' worth of resume pieces - a section on each job I've held with bulleted skills/experiences lists underneath. But also, a list of composite skills that I've gained from multiple jobs that fit into broad categories. For example, right now I have:

Teaching / Advising Skills
[Part-time job Industry] Skills
General Office / Employment Skills
Written / Oral Communication Skills
Research Skills

My plan is to cut and paste from this skills list to compile an appropriate resume for each job I apply to.

It's going to require extra work, but it's the only way I can think of to come up with some type of source document so that I'm not writing a completely new resume every single time I find a job I want to apply for. The academic job market was hard enough, and writing cover letters and job hunting is going to be time consuming already, without having to write a fresh resume every time.

But, wow. I wish I'd realized this was going to happen sooner so that I could have thought ahead and would have been working on these skill lists from day one.

(*my discussion of how angry it makes me that any work experience outside academia is considered irrelevant will have to wait for another post.)

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