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Approx. number of CVs I have looked at! You might well know these sections of an academic CV but have you made them shine?

#1 Tell me what your doing now

One of the things that infuriates me is not being able to find out straightaway what someone’s doing from their academic CV. They might lead with their PhD but they don’t tell me what they’re doing now. If you are currently a postdoc, that is what you’ve got going for you! You’re a fantastic literate, numerate, problem solving, project managing wonder and you need to tell me about it straight off. So my first section for you is your current and previous research positions. Now some people put what they’re doing now and then they jump into qualifications and then they carry on with other work bits. I think keeping all the work stuff together is really handy. Someone reading your CV is going to be looking at it for less than 20 seconds (depressing but true). So it really does need to be as pithy as possible, and keeping stuff together just keeps them on track.

That top third of your first CV page needs to scream the answer to “What are you doing now?”. That’s the hook. That’s what’s going to get me into reading more about you. So what are you doing now, but don’t just give me a job description. And tell me about the successes that you’ve had during your postdoc. And if you have just started this contract include previous contracts. Make sure that you have put some successes from that too in bullet point form. Don’t give me the job description! That could be anyone. That doesn’t tell me how successful you are, at that particular postdoc, please piece. So the first section for me has to be what are you doing now, which will probably be called “research career to date”.

#2 Let’s take off kindergarten shall we?

Next section and another pet hate! Yes, we work in higher *education* and research. But people who call their qualifications section “education” – see me after class! You don’t need to start at school, if you have a PhD. If you still have your high school diploma on your CV, take them off now before I see it! If you have a bachelor’s, followed by masters followed by a doctorate, you have letters after your name. You have qualifications – sounds much more professional.

Everything on your CV should be in reverse chronological order. So starting with what’s relevant and what’s newest, because that is most relevant to the employer. If like me, you did your degree, you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it’s much less relevant than what I’m doing now. Hence not the first section but an important one.

#3 Measure your teaching

If you’re looking at academic CV for a lectureship, we are aiming to cover research, teaching, and administration. So we need a teaching section in there. What people miss out on this section is really giving me the metrics. What are the dimensions of your teaching? Now, I am not talking about course codes, course codes only ever make sense to the person in that university. But you can say I taught 100 first year scientists, basic mathematics for scientists in four lectures. And that is it – you have got your numbers there. If you have had any great feedback, you need to add that in as well. That is another metric.

If you’re just having a big teaching section that in research supervision can go in, but I wouldn’t list everyone that you’ve supervised by name. Big rule of thumb on a CV is do not put anyone else’s name on the CV unless it absolutely has to be there. A CV should be about you and how fantastic you are, not about other people. So when it comes to your teaching, tell me the course that you did in a way that other people will understand how many students it was, what level it was. Teaching first year students is very different to teaching master students but both really good teaching experiences. But if I am looking at you, as a potential lecturer, I’m looking for a breadth of experience. I need to know what you have done, how much you have done, and who have you done it with.

#4 The forgotten third

If you are applying for a lectureship then that stuff that you do that is not teaching and is not research, but is absolutely essential to academic life, need to get mentioned. I am going to call it administration. But that really doesn’t cover the huge wealth of stuff that can go into this section! If this section is looking big and bulky, you might want to break it down. But initially, when you perhaps you’ve just landed on planet postdoc, your CV might look a bit thin on this. And this is really important. If you’re applying to a lectureship to my department, I want to know that you can be part and parcel of the department and discipline. How do you contribute in a wider sense? So what does go into this admin section? If you have sat on teaching committees, gender equality committees, postdoc committees, those can go in there. If you’ve organised, seminars, workshops, conferences, those can go on there. A conference committee shows a commitment to discipline and the fact that you probably super organised  – who wouldn’t want you in their department?

Other things might include instigating a journal club or something to help people learn. Journal editing, reviewing – all those sorts of things to do with sort of publication side of academic life. And there might be things like you do procurement for your lab, health and safety procedures, understand budgets. The administration section might be a good place to put things that don’t quite fit elsewhere too.

#5 What comes last, often read 2nd

Publishing is obviously a key metrics that we are judged on. People sometimes bury the publications in the middle of the CV. I tend to think typically an academic will come to your CV and read what you’re doing now, which you have, of course, now put first Then they are going to look at the back and expect to find the publication section.Then, if they like what they see, they will read the stuff in between! Which should be no longer than two and a half to three pages not including publications. you can ahem as many of those as you like!

What people often don’t do on their publication section is, firstly, highlight their name. Now, I don’t mean moving yourself first – bad and wrong – but highlighting your name, just in bold, so that I can see your academic progression. This needs to be reverse chronological so that as I am looking at your publication list, your latest publication, screams out at me. And if you can make word do this, try and do the numbering reverse. So your first paper you ever wrote is number one. And then I might be looking at paper number nine, as your most recent paper. It does emphasise how many publications you’ve got. If there’s under 10 publications, you probably don’t need to number them.

And another pet hate – oh, I have lots don’t I? –  is that quite often on the publication list I see “in prep”. Is this idea you had in the shower this morning, in which case take it off, or is this about to be submitted? My general rule of thumb is if it’s been submitted, it can go on your CV. If it hasn’t, take it off. Because you don’t want to get to interview and they asked you about it. And for some reason that didn’t get into the submission stage. Once it’s been submitted to a specific journal, then you can put it in. In this section you might also want mini sections for books, conference presentations etc.

These are the top five sections. You may well have others outlining your skills, collaborations, industrial experience but please promise me you will leave the hobbies section off?


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