Converting a science CV to a resume for non-academic job applications

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 - CV Writing

Kelly asks: I’m having a hard time converting my science CV to a resume for non-academic job applications. Any advice?

In answer:
Kelly – I am guessing that the present version is one of those huge formalized American scientific format Curriculum Vitae’s, and it probably looking at your work history goes to at least 10 pages plus – I have seen some over 30pages……?

A common difficulty technical and academic people have in creating non-academic resumes is expressing the results of what they’ve done. The only reason hiring managers will get excited about hiring you is because of the results you will be able to produce for them, so that you need to get really clear on that. There is also a tendency to assume that an ‘academic’ is not going to be results-oriented, that they are going to be always focused on research and learning instead of on getting things done, so that your resume needs to help overcome that bias

Start with the easy bit – what do you want to do? Or even easier, start with a target job that you want to do, and its internet/newspaper advert. Let’s assume that you meet all the criteria in Para4 of the typical job advert, which amongst other things lists academic qualifications and that as a result of your study you have the work experience to apply. Note, in your case, even if you don’t have the three years they require, apply anyway if its a job you really like – the balance of educational experience in most cases will count for you.

Now, take Para’s1 and 3 of the typical job advert which list out the job and – after Para2 where they chat about how wonderful a company/organisation/employer they are – in Para3 the type of person they are looking for. Split these two paragraphs down into singular sentences, which are the polished version of the required competencies. You see the trick of this approach is that an advert is written from a job description – so like a detective, all you are going to do is work out by reversing the process what the JD says and how you can tick all the required boxes.

With each of the competencies written down, look at your existing CV and take the experiences from your CV and copy them into a new document. For instance, it says “experience of food hygiene services and checking compliance with state and national regulations” and you have on your CV “study into botulism in the food counter environment” – put those two together. For each competency you want at the end one or two sentences from your CV at the end of the process. This may take a bit of rewriting and summarizing for the text you take from your CV, but that’s the target.

From any source you prefer, take a standard resume format that you like, and after the opening section of name/address/contact details insert a new section entitled Competencies. On the left list up to five key competencies (yes – taken from the list in the advert. If you are not sure which one’s to highlight, then either merge a few similar ones or take the first five), and your responding skill/s. Now copy the career summary from your LinkedIn profile (which is more than long enough for a commercial resume), and put that below it. Complete the bottom section in your preferred format, add a line that a full Scientific Curriculum Vitae is available on request; think about at least two references (one of which should ideally be from a commercial work colleague/non-friend basis), and – that’s pretty much a basic 101 commercial resume written! You’ll need to add a cover letter – I am guessing that will be the subject of your next question…..

I dare say compared to a piece of work from a professional resume writer: the competencies will be poorly focused; the words and their slickness will be weak; there will be little commercial sector focus; and the layout in MSWord could probably do with some polishing – but for a DIY job, it will hit 6/10 most days. Plus, it will be all you – some resume writers take the “you” out of a Resume, and then the HR/Recruiting people complain about what they see on the paper and what they get in an interview not being the same person.

If this daunts you, then get a professional to do it for you – but know first what job or have an actual job advert for them to prepare against. The biggest problem with academics converting to the commercial world is focus and speed of results – its just different, not wrong, and the advert will answer all the professional resumes writers key questions about the what.

Good Luck!

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