By: Jonathan Foland, Graduate Peer Coach and Career Services Assistant
Many graduate students list their accomplishments in research, teaching, writing, and service on a curriculum vitae. Typically, a CV is prepared for application to teaching and research positions, and it would list experiences and accomplishments in teaching and research in comprehensive detail. CVs can be lengthy documents; it is common for a graduate student’s CV to run 4-8 pages, and an established scholar or researcher may have a CV of 10 pages or more.
For most positions outside teaching and research, a resume is the standard document for showing accomplishments and experience. Unlike CVs, resumes highlight education, work experience, and relevant skills for a position. Graduate students accustomed to the CV format often struggle to convert their CV to a resume.
If you are having difficulty changing your CV into a resume, then here are five suggestions for making the conversion process easier.
Target a Job Announcement and Adjust Your Vocabulary
A resume should be tailored to a position, so revise or adjust your resume to fit each job posting you target. You may have one master resume that you use for tracking all of your accomplishments, but you should not try to use the same resume for every job. Your goal is to demonstrate your qualifications and fit for a position. Adopt the language of the job posting to describe your relevant experiences and the skills that translate from one career to another. Avoid academic jargon; instead, use words that clearly communicate relevant qualifications to a prospective employer. Jobscan is an online tool that allows you to compare your resume with a job description, ensuring you match the ad language.
Prepare to Cut Details
Resumes rarely exceed 2 full pages, and a single page is common for individuals who are getting started in a career. You may have to leave information off your resume to fit a page limit, even if the information includes accomplishments that you hold near and dear. For example, publications and conference presentations are listed in full on a CV but are rarely included on a resume. The type of position you apply to will determine whether you should include some of your publications and presentations, or whether you should leave them off. Likewise, it is common to list all courses taught or assisted on a CV, but less detail about specific courses works best for a resume. Converting a CV to a resume means you have to do more work than simply cutting and pasting content. You must rethink and reframe your experiences to foreground skills and job fit. Base your framing off the skills and qualifications named in the job posting.
Use Relevant Categories
A typical resume will show education, work experience, and related skills. Additional categories may include honors and awards, activities (e.g., community involvement), and relevant coursework (if the coursework would be desirable to an employer). Work experience will receive much your attention.
Rethink and Re-Group Your Accomplishments
You can spread your experiences and accomplishments across categories on a CV, even creating headings based on your unique qualifications. However, the number of categories on a resume tends to be fewer than on a CV. Take inventory of your research, teaching, and service. View these areas together as your work experience, rather than as discrete categories. Think about how these experiences relate to each other thematically, how each conveys skills and competence, and how each shows your ability to do the duties called for in the job posting.
Reframe Your Experiences to Emphasize Skills
For each relevant experience, list your tasks, duties, and accomplishments. For example, teaching involves facilitating discussions and developing lesson plans, assignments, and assessment tools. Likewise, research may include conducting lab experiments, performing fieldwork, gathering data, or reviewing bodies of literature for reports. Revise your lists so that each point conveys context (what had to be done), your contribution (an action), and a result (a qualitative or quantitative outcome). “Responsible for” and “duties included” do not convey skills. Instead, opt for verbs like “collaborate,” “analyze,” “facilitate,” “create,” “organize,” “prepare,” or “implement.” Strong verb choices will communicate your skills, abilities, and accomplishments using language that prospective employers will understand. The UCS Career Guide includes a listing of skills and recommended verbs.
You can meet with a UCS counselor to have your CV or resume reviewed. Visit careers.unc.edu to schedule an appointment, or to check out additional resume and job search resources. You may also stop in during Drop-In hours, 1:00-4:00pm, Monday through Friday.