Friday, 3 October 2014

Prepare an effective CV: five top tips


There is an abundance of information on the web about CV design and presentation. However, what’s more important than presenting a good CV is having good content to write about. Here, I share a few thoughts about CV preparation for PhD and early career researchers.





1. Identify the blanks in your CV – and act to fill them
Think about the kind of career that you would like to have in a year’s time, and how your CV can serve the broad career directions that you wish to take.
Do you want to stay in research with a university or public sector institution?
Do you want to be a researcher in industry?
Do you want to stay within your current discipline, but want to leave research and pursue a different direction?
Perhaps you’re interested in several of these options, or want to leave your discipline altogether.

Whatever your intentions, think about the kind of CV content that will impress your prospective employers. Most importantly, consider the strategic actions that you can undertake to fill current blanks in your CV, or to make it even more impressive.
A few suggestions include:

   Undertake a training course that is relevant to your career choice e.g. principles of teaching and learning (lecturing); new research methods (research) or people management skills (non-research)

   Join relevant societies or professional bodies. It’s always impressive to see people who also serve in positions of responsibility in such institutions. Major societies also frequently run training courses, offer bursaries and facilitate qualifications in specialist topics, which might not otherwise be available to you. 

   Submit articles about your research to newsletters or trade magazines of relevant societies or professional bodies. Your university will have a similar in-house publication. Depending on your career choice, these contributions can have a career impact that can rival or exceed the career benefits of publishing journal articles! You get to reach an audience that may never read an academic journal, and it can be surprising how quickly you can establish a reputation as an expert.

   Look at the CVs of people in the positions you aspire to (many are available online). What skills, qualifications and experiences do they have that you lack? Which of these could you acquire in the next year?

 
2. Keep an ongoing record of your accomplishments
When you need it is not the time to prepare your CV.
Job ads will occur when you least expect them to – this is guaranteed! Employers aren’t waiting for a quiet break in your schedule, and there will be a limited duration of two or three weeks (at most) within which to write your CV and submit it. Over time, you will have a number of different accomplishments, which will be more relevant to some job opportunities than others. Try and make a habit of recording these accomplishments in some way, even if it is a rough list at the end of a master CV document (although the more detailed and quantitative, the better). This will be invaluable in quickly jogging your memory about content for your CV, and job application forms in general. You are likely to give several presentations, attend courses or workshops, or help organise or contribute to events such as conferences or open days. It’s remarkably easy to forget these and the details about them.

3. You will need more than one CV
Most people apply for several different jobs before getting an interview and eventually landing a job. Unless you’re applying for the same type of job again and again, you’ll eventually have several CVs, each of which should be tailored to the job that you’re applying for. If you have one standard and unchanging CV that you keep sending out, then you are underselling your skills. Carefully read the job details, and ensure that your CV illustrates where you meet the job requirements, and presents you and your skills to the best advantage.


4. Get other people to read your CV
Ask a number of people to read your CV. At the very least, this will help get feedback on the design and presentation of your CV, and pick up any typos or errors (this is very important). You could also ask your supervisor or Careers Advisor for feedback on blanks in your CV (point 1).


5. Be honest.
Your reputation and credibility are one of your most important assets. You can present yourself and your skills to your best advantage, but never lie in your CV. Never.


PhD Skill:  Start planning now to have a great CV for when you really need it.


 

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