27 and a PhD

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What’s in your CV?

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.


December 2011
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Lately, I’ve been thinking about work (of course) and how I got to where I am, and how happy I feel at this time compared to last year. Last year I was feeling so miserable and sorry for myself. I had a job interview back home, and that had me a little excited, but eventually it didn’t pan out. That did give me hope that there were some interested souls out there willing to pay attention to my training and find it somewhat valuable.

At this time last year, and for the next 4-5 months (yes, 4 to 5 months, almost non-stop), I’d be sending CVs and resumes to whoever gave me the light of day. I had been to a couple of turning-your-resume-into-a-CV and vice versa workshops in grad school and then the postdoc and I was lucky to have a couple of super awesome tweeps look over mine and say “bleh, this is crap! Fix it!!!”

I had things written in paragraphs, I was rarely using (short and sweet) bullet points to showcase my mad science skillz and I needed to make it punchier (to quote my grad school PI who adores using that word).

As soon as I started at my new job, I immediately got out my CV and started adding skills as I mastered them. I’m somewhat lazy, especially when it comes to updating certain things, like my Twitter Bio, this blog, or hell, even my CV. So today, I started looking through the CVs and resumes I’d tweaked (or started from scratch) in the last year, and finally found one of my most recent versions of the CV, dated June 25th, 2011, very soon after starting at my current position.

For whatever reason I started updating the thing (possibly a pre-New Year’s resolution), and all of a sudden I found myself updating every little section, as if I was ready to apply to a new position (no, I’m happy at work, though occasionally I would like to punch my boss, but that’s part of our relationship). This got me thinking that I love to swift through resumes and CVs and learn about other people’s talents and experiences, what was their first job? When did they start in science? What awards and grants they’ve had and for how long? Reading some of these things sometimes triggers old memories, which help me tweak my CV and add old, yet important career points.

I won’t post my CV for obvious reasons, but I wanted to mention the areas included in mine, and see if you have the same, or if you have more or less.

The categories in my CV are:

  1. Work Experience (which is newly added, for obvious reasons, though I feel like changing the name to something less lame. Ideas?)
  2. Education
  3. Languages
  4. Skills (which I divided in categories: computer and lab)
  5. Publications (I’m tempted to move it all the way to the back, like TT-hopefuls do)
  6. Research experience
  7. Seminars
  8. Posters
  9. Teaching experience
  10. Volunteering
  11. Book Chapters
  12. Continuing education
  13. Awards and Memberships

I think there’s a better way of shaping my CV. It contains a lot of areas that are important to me (like skills, research experience, teaching, etc), but I believe that there’s a more coherent way of arranging everything. As it stands right now, I feel like my stuff is all over the place. I used to have a shorter version of my CV (I know, a lot of people don’t like this as a CV is supposed to chronicle your every step in the education/training/work ladder). But for some jobs I trimmed it down to the bare academic bones, to avoid having someone look at over 7 pages of me, me and more me. It felt …. wrong, I don’t know. I love to talk about myself all the time, yet, 7 or 8 pages of me made me feel … awkward.

So dear reader, I ask you now, how do you arrange your CV? Where do you start it? High school, college, graduate/professional school? How do you organize your CV? If you’re a recruiter, what do you look at first? What do you simply overlook,or ignore? Any areas that I’m missing? Any clever name for the “work experience” category? I’d love to read your ideas?

And, since I had a lot of help trimming mine and making it easier on the eyes, feel free to send your resume or CV my way. I’d be more than happy to take a look and help in any way I can.

PS. If you’ve taken a course, or audited one after grad school, do you bother to include it? Only if it’s specifically related to your discipline or future job? If you do include it, did you create a separate section in your CV for it? If not, where do you include it/them?


  1. AnyEdge says:

    Mine is organized: (Everything in reverse chronological order)
    Current Positions
    Education (no high school)
    Peer-Rev Pub
    Juried Posters
    Supported Research and Grants
    Invited Lectures
    Professional Societies and Organizations
    Editorial Responsibilities
    Professional Training/Continuing Education
    Awards and Honors.

  2. I keep a master CV that I add everything and I mean everything to. This gets whittled down to a lean mean version that I call application CV which is tailored for each job application I put out. I put classes that I audited under continuing education/workshops so they can see I’m trying to stay up on new stuff if I choose to include it in the application version.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Great! Thanks for answering re: auditing courses. I’ve done my share of that after grad school and never knew if it fit anywhere. I originally started with a resume I made while taking a technical writing course back when I was in college. I kept expanding that as the years went by and then decided to change the format when I was in grad school to make it look more professional/professor-y. I also trim mine according to where I’m applying.

  3. I have just been re-jigging my CV too, although not for any particular reason. My categories are
    1. Contact Details
    2. Education/Qualifications
    3. Employment History with subsections detailing what I did in each job
    4. Publications, again with subsections for papers, conferences etc
    5. Training courses, subsections again for technical and non-technical (eg public speaking)
    6. Other information (memberships, awards etc)
    It’s all bullet points, no sentences and easy on the eye, but at 4 pages, 10pt font I don’t want it getting much longer.

    We recently advertised for a lab tech and the standard of CVs was very poor. Irrelevant job history (I don’t care if you worked at McDonalds for 6 months when you were 15), spelling and grammar mistakes and some didn’t even state their qualifications. It’s a shame because it’s not all that hard to put a decent CV together and there are plenty of places to go for assistance.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Yes, definitely leave out the McD’s stuff. Once I was out of college I pretty much removed all of my high school stuff. I did get a couple of rather small scholarships and prizes, but once I started doing research and presenting as an undergrad, and saw where I was headed (grad school, eventually the postdoc), I removed those HS things. It’d be fun to see if I can ever rescue an old resume or CV from 10 years ago. Thanks for your comment!

  4. zfaulkes says:

    Mine is sort of like this:

    1. Contact info.
    2. Work.
    3. Education and training (degrees and post-docs).
    4. Publications (never move it to the back; it’s the first thing people will look for).
    5. Presentations (seminars and posters).
    6. Grants.
    7. Teaching.
    8. Service.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Yes! Indeed, my publications are on my second page, but that’s only because I describe my skills, training and work in some detail on the 1st page. Since I only have 1 page worth of publications, I try to keep together, so people don’t have to shuffle between pages to make sense of the order/what section they’re in. It drives me nuts when people break a section and never write ‘continued’ or something to help me keep the pace. Maybe that’s me. I’m a bit crazy. Thanks for your comment!

  5. I’ve heard the advice from a CV/resume consultant that apart from putting personal info first, that the order of the rest of the sections should be dictated by how strong you are in each, so to present yourself in the strongest light put the best sections first.

    But I’ve also heard a few general pieces of advice (such as don’t bury your pubs in the back). So with that in mind here is my structure (btw I’m a 1st year postdoc):

    1) Personal Info (contact info, biographical stuff, citizenship..)
    2) Education
    3) Research/Professional Experience
    4) Awards and Honors (I have tons…~2pgs worth)
    a) Fellowships and Scholarships (I plan to put maybe small grants here too, so maybe if I get the one I’m writing in Jan, it will have to chance title)
    b) Travel awards
    c) Other
    5) Publications (I have more than avg)
    a) Journal articles (peer-reviewed research papers, and reviews and perspectives I’ve written)
    b) Book chapters (currently only 1, but not in a hurry to write any more)
    c) In submission/preparation
    6) Committees and Leadership Activities (again I have a lot, but figured this is less important for the things I’m currently applying for, but maybe more important later if I was to be applying for an administrator-type position)
    7) Journal reviews (the rest of these are not so important so not really ordered for any specific reason)
    8) Volunteer activities
    9) Professional Organizations (just a list with years, any leadership stuff is in the previous section #6)
    10) Conferences (presentations)
    11) Seminars
    12) Teaching experience (weak, based on both my PhD and postdoc environments being UG-free, but I include lab mentoring here)
    13) Abstracts
    14) Continuing Education: Symposia and Courses Attended
    15) References

  6. Great initiative you took to write this post.
    Well my CV is 4-5 pages long but i try not to send a CV longer than 2 pages (i do not always succeed!). So I fight to include the most relevant and strongest of my skills for each application. And always the strongest sections goes on the first page (i have a feeling that recruiters/PIs etc do not go to the 2nd page if they don’t see anything intriguing on the 1st page! – but that could be just me!). With reverse chronological order of course!
    1. contact details, as brief as possible.
    2. Research experience (I list the projects i had until that day, and the techniques I ‘ve used and obtained expertise. Of course i list the ones that I think they fit for the position I am applying for. Not all of them.
    3. Publications
    4. Education (again i list techniques i ve learned or courses i have attended while UG or PG without repeating my self – see 2)
    5. Awards
    6. Relevant working experience. (So far I ve only applied for postdocs so my research experience has been described in 2. So i write about my teaching experience and If i have space i mention my UG placement in a hospital, but not always). Of course there is no point in mentioning the other McD’s style jobs!
    7. Participation in conferences. Either organizing one or presenting or just attending workshops etc.
    8. Other skills
    e.g. Languages, Bioinformatic skiils, other computer skills, Organization & managing & skills (but i do not really mention the skill, i just say what i did e.g. Coach and president of basketball teams for X number of years. Representative of such and such).
    9. References.

    While i was still a PhD student and didn’t have a publication out yet, i had a section ‘Publications & Participation in conferences’ just after the Awards section and there i mentioned the papers that were in preparation. Now, as a postdoc the order of my CV is as described above.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thank you SO much OmicsScience. I’d been reading on some of my fave blogs about the things people include in their CVs but I hadn’t seen a list of all the categories people include, which is why I decided to write a tiny bit about it. You’d be surprised about the amount of feedback I’ve had. I’m really glad people like it and find it interesting. Thank you so much for including your categories.

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