When you come from a primarily academic background and consider job searching outside of the academy, a key core step of the process is to convert your application documents to formats that will be successful in a nonacademic context. You must take the same experience that has described an academic trajectory and translate that to a background that qualifies you for work in industry. As you begin, know that you are moving from a document recognized widely in one field (academics/research) to a document that will need to shift drastically if you are applying to different industries. The academic CV is a representation of you as an academic and field expert. Your comprehensive listing of experience serves to prove your scholarship and expertise. The industry resume is a document that highlights your skills and experience specifically tailored to one job or type of work. You may have many versions of your resume if you are applying to different types of positions. So, to start strong, it is important to realize you are creating a whole new document. The good news: your CV can act as the beginning of what we call a "master resume" from which you can pull information to create individualized, tailored resumes for any number of nonacademic positions.
Mindset: From academic to industry
CVs are centered on you as an academic and researcher; resumes are a broader category of documents that showcase how you fit one specific role, no matter the field.
CVs are a comprehensive list of your accomplishments and experience from the perspective of one, very specific field --higher education (and, more broadly, research). You can think of CVs as the academic version of a resume. They are organized in a way that makes sense to those oriented toward the priorities of academia and research. As research, publishing, teaching and service are the primary responsibilities of academics, those are the building blocks of a CV. Now, of course, CVs take into account the type of institution one is applying to, but tailoring tends to involve rearranging the same information; with resumes, some information may be left off altogether.
Resumes, on the other hand, are used for every field from marketing to manufacturing to management. Therefore, to understand what you'll need to include, you must start with the job description and see your resume as a piece of marketing material (read: brief, targeted, essential information-only) to appeal to the audience who posted that job ad. You need to filter your experience through that lens; what experiences, accomplishments and - most of all- demonstrated skill sets are they looking for? For more information on reading the job ad to understand what you should include in your resume, check out the section called “Decide How to Tailor Your Resume: Mine the Job Ad”.
Where to start: Gather your content in a master resume
Chronologically list all past positions you have held (paid and unpaid). Include the position name, company/organization/department, location and date range during which you were in that role. You have a good start here working from your CV. Add any additional positions you have had beyond what you have included in your CV. It is appropriate to include positions held in undergraduate years if they were roles that may be relevant to the type of work you want to pursue now. Do not include experience during high school. Additionally, positions from more than 12-15 years ago should not be included unless they are extremely relevant to the field you are planning to enter.
Under each role, list all responsibilities related to that role. Choose the responsibilities from your list that are of highest relevance to the opportunities to which you are applying and focus on building those out.
For your prioritized responsibilities, list any achievements related to those responsibilities, quantify those achievements where possible (i.e. number of people you led, number of classes you taught, amount of funding raised, percentage of efficiency/income gained, number of publications produced, size of event planned, etc.)
This information will become the most important content in your resume and having it all in one document will make tailoring easier as you build a library of “evidence” of your contributions.
Building a resume: Formatting considerations
One of the most noticeable differences between a CV and resume is the length. While CVs work to demonstrate a both a depth and breadth of experience in academic pursuits and grows with your experience, a resume must be packed with only the most relevant, current experience and skillsets important for the exact job to which you are applying—again, think of it as marketing material (where brevity and relevance of information are of utmost importance).
CV and resume section comparison
|Contact Information||Contact Information|
|Education (including description of dissertation and advisor’s name)||Professional Summary (if applicable)|
|Research||Education (move down if less relevant than experience, leave advisor/dissertation off)|
|Publications||Experience (2-3 tailored sections)|
|Awards and grants||Research/Publications (if relevant for role)|
Formatting: Broad tips
- Keep your formatting consistent to quickly “train” the reader to find the information they are looking for
- Two Pages Maximum: front and back of one sheet, even if you have extensive experience.
- Use short phrases/fragments: No pronouns (I, me) and eliminate unneeded articles. No full sentences.
- Match tense to current involvement with the role or project
- Use bullet points to describe experiences and organize lists
- Arrange sections in order of relevance to the role: Those most relevant should be closer to the top of the document.
Content: Broad tips
- Focus on skills
- Keep your readers in mind: ATS (algorithm looking for key terms), HR (generalist), Departmental manager (field expertise – most likely)
- Remove information that doesn’t pertain to the job
- Have someone else (non-expert, non-academic) proofread to make sure your descriptions are adequately accessible
- References in a separate document
Content: Describing your experience
Include your title, the organization, location and the time frame (month, year- month year) during which you were involved with that experience.
Example: Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado Boulder – English Dept., Boulder, CO 2015-2018
This becomes your position heading. Describe your experience in a bulleted list under your position heading. When possible, emphasize experiences with accomplishments instead of just making a list of job duties.
Another significant consideration when listing your experience on a resume is the fact that many (if not most) of the people/software reading your resume will not have done academic research, publishing or teaching. When writing to an academic audience, you can safely assume your audience at least generally understands what is involved in doing the common types of work in academia (what being a "research assistant" or "teaching assistant" means or the steps it takes to get a paper published or win a grant). That isn't so outside of academia. Therefore, instead of simply listing positions you've held, you need to explain in terms relevant to the desired position what you accomplished in that previous role, what skill sets you used and how you made an impact. That's where the bullet points come in.
Decide how to tailor your resume: Mine the job ad
Minimum and preferred qualifications tell you which skills and experience you need to highlight in your resume and cover letter. They are also your main hints for which keywords your document will be scanned for. Include relevant skills in your job descriptions and skills sections as appropriate. Always address each minimum qualification (esp. in government applications. If you don't mention it, the reader cannot assume or infer that you have it.)
Job responsibilities will inform what your experience headings should be called. To highlight relevant experience, summarize the 2-3 areas of largest responsibility in the role and organize your experience under those headings, translating transferable skills in your bullet points into terms that make sense for those areas.
The company description will give you clues about how the company sees their impact in the marketplace and their culture. These elements can help you decide what tone to use in your cover letter and may indicate elements of the company's identity that compel you to work with them. Those details are also important to mention in your cover letter to stand out from others who are submitting form letters.
Know what you are qualified to pursue: Identifying your skills outside of academia
You'll need to spend some time deconstructing the projects you have completed and the roles you have held to identify various skill sets gained through your academic work. You have already begun this process if you began by creating a master resume. This process can be used for two purposes: deciding what types of work to look for and creating a skills section in your resume.
- Choose one position you have held and consider what roles you played within that position
- Choose one role. What are your responsibilities and accomplishments connected to that role?
- Choose one responsibility. What skills do you use (or are you developing) through performing that responsibility?
- processes and procedures
- software, modeling, coding
- data analysis
- project management
- hiring, supervision
- First, identify all skills and your level of proficiency with the general population, then choose relevant skills for the role
- Examples of advanced degree resumes
- You can also find robust examples of application documents used to apply to non-academic positions in Versatile PhD. Access Versatile PhD on the Career Services website here.