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Career tip: My CV looks naked! An early career issue April 29, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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The situation: you’re finishing grad school or a postdoctoral and are looking for that first job. You put your CV together using the format guides you’ve found. It is only half a page long! You panic because there’s not much.

You think several thoughts. Do I list in my presentations all of these interview talks? Do I list conference abstracts and proceedings as publications? What can I fill up that space with?

If you do these things, try to remember that you are not applying to some unfamiliar boob. Hiring managers are smart enough to realize that people at the start of a career are not going to have lots of accomplishments. No matter what, they take that into account and look for quality over quantity.

If you list the same things over and over – as a conference presentation, a published abstract for that, the peer-reviewed paper – it becomes fluff filler or even worse an annoyance to the reader. If there are significant differences between seemingly similar sounding titles, you can describe what they are. You have the space, so use it to strengthen your message.

A CV or resume or cover letter is all advertising vehicles. Their aim is to sell you as skilled, competent, personable, creative, and the many other qualities that someone is seeking. Its purpose is not to be a nice looking document of a certain length. Those are possible attributes to create that effective sells pitch. They are means, not ends.

So, back to your too short CV/ resume. Be unconventional in using that extra space to provide more information and more detail. Someone with lots of publications cannot do that (nor is there as much need to).

Put in descriptions that highlight skills that are not part of the title. Did you have to purify and crystallize the target compound? Did you use MALDI-TOF MS? Whatever might give a hiring manager more information to differentiate you from the mass of other young scientists.

A hiring manager can differentiate fluff and filler from solid accomplishments. If someone really does have several publications, awards, and a variety of presentations, you cannot look better just by creative writing. But you can compete with the vast bulk of your peers if you are aiming to sell your talents by substance and not rhetoric.

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