Sign with text: Caution Academic CV is work in progress

#33: Why a great academic CV is a work-in-progress!

Do you keep a record of all your experiences and achievements as a researcher? Are you documenting what you’ve learned as you progress with your career? No? Well, then you better keep reading, because this blog-post is made for you! Yes, you! If you’re not keeping a systematic record of your achievements, you’ve probably lost some information already, but here’s the good news: You can start keeping a record today and it will make your academic life easier in decisive moments in your career – we are not exaggerating! How do you record your academic experiences and achievements? We’re here to give you the what, why, and how. 

You add to your CV as you progress with your career!

As a scientist you accumulate a massive amount of new knowledge and skills every academic year. Perhaps your thirst for learning was what motivated you to work in academia in the first place. Just think back on your years in graduate school – the many courses and programs you took. Or, think of your Master or PhD studies and the multiplicity of research skills you picked up along the way. 

So there is a lot that you have learned and you’re constantly adding new skills. Later in your career, when you’re applying for jobs or major grants you will often be in a situation where you have to evidence or prove a certain experience, expertise or skill. In all of these circumstances, it is not good enough just to write: 

  • “I have extensive teaching experience”,  or 
  • “I have a track-record of successful funding acquisition” or 
  • “I know how to manage large project consortia”

As a potential employer or funding agency wants to know exactly what experience you have, they need to see evidence. Therefore, you will have to provide details of the courses you taught, the funding you acquired and the projects you coordinated.

Do you collect evidence of your academic achievements? 

In our courses and consultations, we work closely with academics from all different fields. What we have realised is that many are unaware of the fact that you actually have to actively accumulate this information! Just like you, they do not keep a systematic record of their achievements. Then, they have a considerable problem when they actually have to write a strong academic CV or compile a compelling résumé for an employer or a funding agency. They’ve got to throw together from scratch what they can recall, but that is far from everything and far from the possibility to compose a great  evidence-based CV.

In our related blog-post no. 31: “Six smart strategies for a strong Academic CV”, we outlined that the most clever way to compile a strong CV is to add credibility, which you do by adding evidence. – But you can’t add evidence if you don’t have it ready. Systematically collecting this is information is an important step to assuring your CV can support all the qualities described in your cover letters, and it is what this blog-post is all about.

Why collect evidence-based information for your CV?

  1. You need an evidence-based CV when you apply for an academic position, be it a post-doc or a tenure-track professorship. 
  2. You need it when applying for a grant. Big or small, suddenly, you’ll have to evidence your experience with this topic or your ability to lead a team or manage a programme.  
  3. You need it when you are invited to honorary positions in your academic community. That is when you are, for example, asked to join advisory boards of scholarly journals, or even considered for an editor of a journal. It’s also the case when you become an external advisor for PhD students at another university, join project associations, become an assessor who evaluates research proposals or outcomes for a funding body, or evaluating instructors at another university . . . 
  4. You need it if you decide one day to leave academia, but instead work in industry or other non-academic fields. You’ll have to demonstrate your transferable skills to potential employers.

So, sooner or later every aspiring academic (aka Smart Academic) will be in need of information to compile into a great and tailor-made CV for the above occasions. 

You won’t remember all the details

Will you recall which courses you took 5 years ago? Would you know exactly which lectures you taught at the department where you were employed two years ago? Or how many projects you participated in or co-ordinated? Well, we couldn’t either, because no-one can! You collect such diverse skills in academia and you work on so many tasks, you’ll never be able to remember all at once. 

When you’re in the situation that you need a CV immediately, you’ll lack the information to write a substantial evidence-based CV. Instead you’ll end up with a short-and-shallow one that won’t pave your way to an academic career. Not because you don’t have the skills, but because you can’t give evidence for them. And worse, you could lose some of these accomplishments from your CV forever! You wouldn’t want to miss out on giving yourself credit for your own work, would you?

Solution: Keep a record of all your achievements

There is only one solution to this problem: Keep records for yourself! You’ve got to document everything that you might need to give evidence for later on in your career! If you start doing this as a PhD student, you’ll have zero problems compiling a stellar CV when you apply for a post-doc position, or later for tenure-track professorships. 

Now if you’re a bit uncertain as to what information is worth documenting, TRESS ACADEMIC is here to help: below, we explain which experiences or expertise you’ll need to document for the particular type of applications later in your career – so you get a rough idea of what is worth recording and for which purposes. 

BUT we don’t stop there! We’ve compiled the free factsheet ‘What information to collect for a great Academic CV’ in which we give you more detailed advice on the essential information you should record. 

Characteristics of CVs

Academic CV:

An academic CV is a full record of your academic education, experience, achievements and expertise. It is a track record of your professional life and shows the history of your career! There is no fixed length for an academic CV. The length is simply the result of all your experiences and achievements (see blog-post #31). 

Common sections in an academic CV are: 

  • Education
  • Employments
  • Research experience 
  • Teaching experience 
  • Publications 
  • Presentations
  • Awards 
  • Memberships
  • Additional skills 

What exactly you emphasise and also the exact order should always be tailored to the purpose for which you need the CV. Depending on the CV’s destination, you would highlight particular achievements and present others less prominently. 

For example, if you apply for a position as a teaching fellow, you’ll want to demonstrate a strong teaching record in your academic CV, and mention not only which courses you taught, but also the level (undergraduate/graduate), as well as when which university/department you taught. You would also need to include additional facts to back this up like student numbers and outcomes of course evaluations. 

So in order to build a top academic CV, you’ll need documentation and evidence for the individual entries. Naturally, in an academic CV, when you apply for a research or regular staff position, you will mainly demonstrate academic experiences and skills. But there is an increasing awareness of and requests for generic skills and it is often beneficial to demonstrate these as well.

Industry résumé or non-academic CV:

In contrast to the academic CV, the résumé presents a summary record of those experiences that are most relevant for the position to which you’re applying. A résumé showcases your strengths as well as previous experiences for a certain position. As Alison Doyle: The Difference Between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae at points out, the résumé is competency-based, while the academic CV is credentials-based. It is much shorter, often 1-2 pages. Essentially, it is a marketing instrument in which you as the candidate “sell” a particular set of skills to a potential employer. But although the résumé is much shorter, it is not necessarily easier to compose. To write a strong résumé you’ve got to know exactly which information should be highlighted and how you can back it up if required! If you – as a researcher – apply for a job outside academia, you’ll need to re-think your achievements in terms of what might be most relevant to an employer (for more tips see Tina Person at passage2pro: CV design for industry). Here, the generic skills you accumulated while working in science are often at the forefront, while specific research skills might not be relevant.

Research skills and generic skills: 

Research skills are all the skills you acquired in order to undertake your actual research. Research skills can be learned through direct teaching measures (e.g courses) as well as indirectly by practice or self-study. Research skills are often tied up closely with the specific type of research you are doing. But others are also transferable, such as statistics, programming, surveying, 3-D visualisations, interviewing, or even microscopy and gene editing. So there are some research skills that can smoothly transition to generic skills, which are the skills that can be transferred from one field or area to another, notably also from science to non-academic applications. That’s why they are also referred to as transferable skills. 

Although you may not be aware of this, scientists pick up a great amount of generic skills that can be very valuable later in your career, especially when you’re applying for jobs outside academia. Generic skills from scientists typically include: people skills (leading teams, teaching, supervising or mentoring), analytical skills (critical thinking, data accumulation and analysis), and organisational or management skills (project management, efficiency, optimisation of work flows). 

Which information will I need later on?

As a young researcher, your career might very well span the next 30+ years. And unfortunately there’s no one who can tell you exactly which skills or expertise you’ll have to demonstrate later on in your career. So the only solution is to keep a record of everything that could be relevant later on. The amount of effort is small, but the benefit is huge. So it’s worth the extra time that you have to invest. 

Towards this end, in our SMART ACADEMICS blog-post no. 31: “Six smart strategies for a strong Academic CV” we suggest that you put together one full-version of your CV. This version is just for you, so when you need a tailor-made CV, you can just select the relevant information from there.

Below we’re giving you a short rundown of the most important information to collect for a strong CV. But because we are always going the extra mile for our SMART ACADEMIC members, we have also created a free fact-sheet ‘What information to collect for a great ACADEMIC CV’ – there you’ll find all the details for a great academic CV – as a work in progress!

Information that you should regularly collect for your CV

1. Education

  • State your degrees (Study programme, University, Department, Location, title of Bachelor thesis, supervisors, marks, completion date)

2. Employment

  • Put the time-span you worked there, your employer, the purpose of your employment as well as the starting and end times.

3. Research projects

  • Most important is the title of the project, followed by time-span, and it’s goals.

4. External funding/scholarships

  • Note when you received this funding, the purpose of it and the agency it came from.

5. Stays abroad

  • Give the length of time where you were a guest followed by the laboratory/institute/department/ university and then place/country.

6. Scholarships, fellowships, and internships

  • Impressive and should be given emphasis on your CV, along with time-span, organisation, 

7. Teaching experiences

  • Document your teaching experiences, the type of teaching and where, course titles and dates.

8. Academic self-management/services to the scientific community

  • A great validation of your role as an academic. Include internal services like administration & management and external services like paper reviewer. 

9. Publications

  • Your strongest assets in any academic job application, list according to your discipline’s style. 

10. Presentations 

  • Include both oral and poster presentations, include title and authors.

11. Awards, prizes, scholarships

  • List all awards and prises that you’ve won.

12. Excursions & field campaigns

  • PutLocation, time span, purpose of the visit. 

13. Research skills

  • More is more here: add all programs & certificates

14. Transferable skills

  • Same as above, list all soft and hard skills that you’ve acquired through your education and programs. For example, team building, presentation skills, writing skills etc…

15. Membership in academic societies

  • List the scientific societies in which you have a membership

16. Patents

  • Note the date of award and what the patent entails

17. Outreach activities

  • How you’ve given back to society with your research

If you can follow up on many of these categories and actively contribute to your academic CV, you’ll be ahead of the curve when it’s time to submit one! Check out our full fact sheet available for free download here . There’s no time like the present, so start collecting all the important skills and achievements that make you an ideal candidate! As they say, opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long you’ll miss them.


You’ve probably realised there’s a lot more to an academic CV than just your barest credentials. Are you already searching your memory for some skills you may have neglected to mention, scholarships you should have emphasised or presentations you just forgot about? Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here! Give your current academic CV a thorough once over before you send it out into the world! Your professional history is up to you – so be your own best biographer and get started! 

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