Monthly Archives: December 2011

Carpe pm!

Or, more accurately: “Carpe diem”, “Sieze the day”, “Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today”. These ‘go-to-it!’ phrases are all well and good but, for most of us, it’s much easier said than done. Since the deadline for my book “Career planning for research bioscientists” was agreed with the publishers for the end of January (2012), household chores have suddenly become really attractive: the house is vacuumed, the dishes cleaned, the washing done. Retail therapy has also moved up my list of priorities and what better time to be spending my time (and money) than at the December/January sales perusing bargains (I got a great pair of half-price pyjamas yesterday). But it’s no good. This displacement activity has got to stop. After tonight, I’m back on track …. I have to admit to having most of the book done now but the mince pies and red wine have hampered my progress over the Christmas period.  I’ll keep you informed of progress over the next few weeks but here’s a quick preview of the book contents.
1.      Introduction to career planning
2.      Self-awareness.
3.      Opportunities
The job market (job-seeking)
The hidden job market (networking)
4.      Case Studies (career profiles)
5.      Transition (the process of moving on in your career)
Making applications (including example CVs)
Interview technique
6. Enhancing your employability
7. Decision making and action planning
8. Resources and bibliography

The resolve starts tomorrow morning – I’ve heard it’s quite a good hang-over cure … Post a comment if you have any suggestions to help ease things along!

Top 10 CV Mistakes

One of my favourite slides in the CV workshop presentation I deliver on a regular basis to postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers (but which applies to all CVs) is what NOT to do. This negative, cautionary information can sometimes be more effective than the postive CV ‘Do’s’. Here are my Top 10 ‘Don’ts‘ for writing an effective CV:

1.       Too Long
Unless you have reached a very senior level, two pages are normally adequate for your CV (you can add extra information such as publications in an appendix).
2.       Disorganised
The information should be laid out logically and consistently.
3.       Untargeted/generic
You always need to match your CV to the job description.
4.       Misspellings, typing Errors, poor Grammar
There is no excuse for these errors and may be the reason why your CV is deselected by an employer.
5.       Too many irrelevancies
Don’t include irrelevant information – it gives the impression you are not informed about the job and haven’t taken the time to target your application.
6.       Too Sparse  
Don’t undersell yourself. Make sure you include all relevant information and avoid gaps in your experience.

7.       Misdirected 
This gives the impression you are using a CV which you have already used for another job.
8.       Not Oriented for Results 
The aim of a CV is to get you to interview – make sure it conveys enthusiasm and commitment.
9.       Overwritten
Too much information in a small font with thin page margins can be overwhelming and difficult to read.
10.   No covering letter
As a rule, all CVs should be accompanied by a one-page covering letter setting out why you are interested in this job and the key skills and experience you possess which match the job requirements.

Related content: CV identity crisis
CV advice and examples


CV identity crisis

Delivering a bioscience careers workshop in Lyon (France) this week brought it home to me the variation in curriculum vitae (or resumé) formats and styles which exist across different countries. In France, for example, it’s common for your CV to be just one page in length with no embellishment of your employment or educational experiences. However, there were postgraduates in the audience who did possess a two-pager and this seems to be becoming more usual these days. The relatively recent introduction of the Europass CV, a standardised on-line CV format which includes additional sections for activities associated with employment and education, as well as asking about personal skills, has compounded the idea of a more substantial CV.
“CV or not CV, that is the question”

The very name ‘curriculum vitae’ comes under scrutiny when you ask what is the difference between a CV and a resumé? Ordinarily, I would say “not much”. However I found some advice on this website about the differences between Canadian CVs and resumés, which describes the resumé as a 1-2 page document and the CV to be anything up to 20 pages (for academic and other professional jobs). I would say the latter is more commonly known as a personal /professional portfolio which includes all relevant positions held and charting key achievements during a person’s career history. If you have lots of extra information to include such as a list of publications, presentations delivered at conferences and other supporting information I usually advise people to place them into an appendix following the main 2-page CV and then refer to them on page 1. In this way you don’t break up the flow of the CV and can add as many pages as you like.

Another difference in CV conventions between countries which we identified was the inclusion (or not) of a photograph on the front of your CV. Again, for many of the postgrads in Lyon this was the norm. I think, with respect to equal opportunities and other rules of employment, demand for the inclusion of a photo on CVs or application forms has been reducing over the years to avoid possible discrimination towards people’s appearance.

Including your hobbies and interests is another debatable point which was raised in the workshop by the French postgrads, who generally would not include them in their CV. As a rule, I would say that, if this information enhances your profile (e.g. active and team-orientated pursuits such as sports or something related to the job), it has the advantage of giving the employer a more personal view of you and focusses on your individuality. However, be careful and do your homework since in certain countries outside interests would be seen as being rather suspicious – why do I need to know what you do in your spare time??
Finally, with the advent of social media, we discussed in the workshop all the opportunities available to us nowadays to extend the capability of our CVs . For example, your personal details can include links to your personal Facebook, Twitter account, Blog or personal profile (e.g. Linkedin) where you can illustrate more fully what you do, even showing photos of your experiments, communication activities, teaching etc.  However, regardless of the country, you’ll need to ensure it’s professional and accessible and brings your career to life in terms of your work, skills interests and personality. So if you haven’t done so already, get yourself a CV identity!

PS: This is just a brief blog about CVs – more detailed information will be posted up soon about how to write an effective CV for bioscience researchers.

Organisers: Thierry Defrance & Benedict Durand (4th, 5th from left);
Careers workshop deliverers: Sarah Blackford (2nd from left), Peter Lumsden (2nd from right).
Et alia: Left to right: Charlie Scutt, Nicolas Brouilly, Alexa Sadier, Latifa Bouguessa and Nisrine Falah.
Photo:Joëlle Pornin

PPS: Many thanks to BMIC, Lyon for organising such a great 2 days for the bioscience postgraduate students including our careers workshop on Day 2.

Related content: Top 10 CV mistakes
CV advice and examples