Professional on Paper: Writing a CV

by Matthew Chase

Coming into graduate school, I had the idea that having a Master’s or a doctoral degree would open opportunities previously closed to me on the way to making a lifelong career. While the degree certainly leads to qualifying for better job positions, this does not necessarily guarantee a career by itself. Many of my colleagues and I are quickly finding this out as post-graduates, as we navigate the job markets in search of a career reflecting our educational achievement. More often than not in this economy, we need work experience to back up our academic credentials. Rosa Conrad discussed this issue earlier about making the transition from being a college student to a career professional. With other people earning their post-graduate degrees, it is all the more important to set oneself unique from the rest, and that is usually achieved by demonstrating experience and professional success. It is normally the resume that becomes a written overview of one’s accomplishments. Within the realms of higher education, however, the resume is often replaced with the curriculum vitae (CV). The CV is different from the resume in that it focuses on the job seeker’s accomplished identity as a professional scholar. The CV is particularly relevant to positions related to college teaching and research. Yet a CV can be used and might even be required when applying for staff, administrative, and other alternative academic positions that do not involve teaching and research.

There is no set standard on how the CV should be structured, although clarity and conciseness remain important qualities to writing a compelling synopsis of one’s scholarly accomplishments. With this blog, I would like to briefly look at the most common pieces making up a curriculum vitae.

Professional Experience

This section is one that resembles a resume format the most among the other parts of a CV. Here, the job seeker lists their work experiences. While there is no limit to the length of a CV, it is important to keep the overview tailored to the specific position applied for. To organize it in a concise format, this section can be written using incomplete sentences, verb phrases, and bullet points listing one’s work experience in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest.

Education

As most scholarly and alternative academic positions require a post-graduate degree as a minimum qualification, this section is arguably the most essential. A CV should list all relevant degrees one has earned or is expecting to earn, providing at least the title of degree, date earned (or expected to be earned), and institution where the degree was received. For post-graduate degrees, the job seeker can also provide the title of their thesis or dissertation.

Areas of Research Interest

As the name suggests, this section is mostly used in research-oriented CVs. Briefly listing research interests using bullet points and keywords can provide employers with an impression of one’s unique scholarly knowledge and background.

Research Experience

Another research-oriented part to the CV, this section details one’s experiences with research and scholarship. This includes any thesis or dissertation work, independent projects, and undergraduate research. Again, this section should be tailored to be made relevant to the specific position opening, especially if the position asks for expertise in a particular field of study. While it should be organized in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest like professional experience above, it does not need to be formatted with incomplete sentences and bullet points. Providing the research abstracts can work, but they can be unnecessarily long for a CV so I would recommend cutting this abstract down to the most relevant information such as methods, theory, and findings.

Conferences

As a graduate student, I was informed to begin at least attending conferences as much as I could since it looks compelling for employers. I would suggest starting as early as undergraduate school. Organized in a chronological order from newest to oldest with the option of using bullet points, one should provide the name of the conference, the date one attended, and whether they attended or presented (the latter including the title of the work presented).

Professional Development

This section is essentially the same as the conferences section.  It can cover any events that promoted one’s development as a professional scholar including workshops, forums, expos, and so on.

Publications

This section includes any (preferably scholarly) work that one has published. The work can be anything from books to journal articles to book chapters to study reports. Information that should be provided is the author(s) including oneself, the title of the work, and the date of publication and publisher.

College-Related Activities

This section is as the name suggests, encompassing any activities that one has participated during their undergraduate and graduate programs. These activities can include any meaningful involvement in student-led events and programs, honor society memberships and participation in other college special interest groups, and leadership roles on campus. Briefly list what the activity was called, the role one had in this activity, and the span of time one’s participation took place.

Academic and Community Service

This section allows for one to provide an overview of one’s volunteering, community service, and internships. This can be organized similar to, but less detailed than, the professional experience section. Particularly for an emerging sociologist, community service not only demonstrates a commitment to the mission of social justice, but it also allows one to demonstrate specialized skills they may not have normally developed otherwise. Internships and volunteering are effective ways to cultivate career interests as well as relevant skill sets.

Professional and Academic Memberships

Often found near the bottom of the CV, this section can be surprisingly useful. While most academic memberships to organizations like the American Sociological Association charge for continued affiliation annually, they are helpful for many reasons. First, it shows employers a commitment to the field or discipline related to the position. Second, membership is often required in order to present at conferences, helping fill out the Conferences section above. Third but not least, membership also provides one with the opportunity to establish contacts and networks with colleagues and other like-minded individuals, perhaps leading to avenues for career success.

These are my suggested parts to compose a strong CV in the higher education job markets. Like I mentioned, there is no standard way to format it. They can and should be adapted to best reflect the minimum and desired qualifications of a job opening, as with any typical resume. It is important to periodically update the CV as appropriate with new experience, educational accomplishments, and academic participation. If you would like more information about CV writing, check out the links on our Professional Development page.

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