Extreme Makeover, CV Edition: Transitioning Your Academic CV Into a Professional Resume

Feb 11, 2021 | Resumes

Extreme Makeover CV Edition

Transitioning from academia into the professional world? The first step is converting your academic CV to a resume. Often, this involves some serious editing, and the process may seem intimidating. Here are some tips to help you determine what to leave out and what to keep in.

By: Grace Mitchell | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Whether you’re wrapping up graduate school or looking for a change of pace after years as a professor, the transition from academia to the professional world can be a difficult one. Navigating interviews, adapting to an office environment, and—before you get to any of that—adapting your 10-page CV into a 1-2 page resume!

OK, take a deep breath. Resumes can be daunting for everyone, but today’s blog will guide you in turning a massive, niche academic CV into a short, impactful resume.

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Shed a Few Layers (of Irrelevant Information)

“But!” you may be saying, “the entire document is relevant!” Don’t panic. We’re not asking you to destroy your CV and all the accomplishments it contains. What we want is to translate those accomplishments into the skills that are essential to the job at hand. We want to frame your experiences so that hiring managers see all the great qualities you have to offer them.

stack of paper Photo by ron dyar on Unsplash

While an academic CV is a comprehensive list of everything you’ve done, a resume is a 1-2 page highlight reel of your career. Photo by ron dyar on Unsplash

A CV lists all of your experience, but your resume is a highlight reel of your career until now. While academic administrators want to see everything you’ve done, hiring managers are more interested in your process. What work went into those accomplishments? For example, your resume shouldn’t list every article you’ve published. However, it absolutely should note that you’re a self-starter who worked effectively under tight deadlines to consolidate findings into content that has been cited in over 100 publications.

Resumes rely on concise bullet points in a 1-2 page document, whether you have two years of experience or 29 (and also unlike your CV, absolutely should not include pictures). With this in mind, for example, if your CV lists 30 different research projects, consider which of these, if any, seem most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Whittle your list down to just a few. Now summarize your role with an action verb, without using technical jargon, in a single bullet point.

For example, this sample CV describes a research project this way: “Member of a unique scientific community of clinicians and basic scientists trying to understand the neural underpinnings of drug abuse.” A resume might reframe this into a bullet like this:

  • Collaborated with a diverse team to research neurological effects of drug abuse

One thing that isn’t clear in the above example, though, is the result of this research. On a resume, this could be even more important than the focus of the work itself. An even better bullet point might read:

  • Secured $2 million in funding to American Addiction Centers through collaborative research with a diverse team

Note: While your resume should use concise bullet points, your cover letter allows for more space to share the stories that further demonstrate your skills as a candidate. This makes it the perfect place to include a few of those details that don’t quite fit in your resume. If projects you’ve worked on align with the job posting, but you feel like you can’t describe them fully in your resume, don’t hesitate to write a sentence or two about them in your cover letter. And yes, you need a cover letter!

Accessorize with Key Terms from the Job Posting

In an article for the American Psychological Association, professional resume writer Beth Brown advises professionals to think of a resume as more of a marketing tool. “In marketing,” she says, “the thing is to identify as clearly as possible who your target audience is and what they need to know.” Ideally, your resume should serve as a quick sales pitch selling your skills and accomplishments to the hiring manager.

Just like a salesperson researches and adapts their pitch to different target audiences, your resume, too, should adapt to each job posting you apply for. Don’t worry, though. We aren’t asking you to completely rewrite your resume every time you apply for a job.

Simply take a few moments to scan the job listing for key terms. What programs or certifications are emphasized? What software or other program knowledge is required? Are there any essential skills that are repeated? Then, find ways to integrate the key skills that you possess into your resume before sending it off. Pay attention to soft skills, such as multitasking and critical thinking, in addition to technical knowledge. (And if a specific certification that you don’t have keeps coming up, it couldn’t hurt to learn a new skill.)

Flaunt Your Transferable Skills

woman thinking Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

All it takes is a little creativity to think of your achievements in terms of transferable skills. Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Coming from academia, you will have developed different skills than the average candidate who comes from a corporate environment. When transitioning into a new career, it can be easy to focus on what skills you don’t have and get discouraged before even beginning your search. But try to avoid this trap. It just takes some creative thinking to highlight the transferable skills you do have.

Did you secure funding for your research into female writers of 20th century modernist poetry? Great, list strategic thinking and negotiation as skills! Manage a team of graduate students in an assessment of mineral deposits? Hello, project management! Present those findings to an international conference? Presentation delivery is a valuable skill in the corporate world! And, if it’s relevant to the jobs you’re applying to, don’t discount the specialized knowledge you’ve accumulated through the years.

Final Touches

With resumes, structure is crucial. In fact, recruiters spend more time looking at highly structured resumes. You want your resume to be easy to read, with attention paid to font size and white space, and with clearly labeled sections in logical order.

Finally, be sure to proofread your resume before sending it. Better yet, have someone else proofread it for you! Since your resume is a much shorter document than your CV, it’s more likely that hiring managers will notice those small mistakes.

So there you have it! With a few touch ups, you can transform your lengthy CV into an effective resume. Now get out there and rock your career transition!

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