A common concern that I deal with when meeting post-docs is how to present an academic career to non-academic employers. When I first produced my website back in 2002, I looked around and realised there were limited resources with CV examples. This led me to produce one for my site. Even at the time it wasn’t intended as a model of perfection, but it was a distillation of the advice I give. Now ten years on, I think the CV had dated a little and I’d definitely add in reference to social media, but the reality is that writing mock CVs is one of the most difficult things I do, so I’m not in a hurry to produce another. Therefore, I’ve retained the link to the original CVS – partly because they provoke most of the emails I receive about the site.

A bit of history – at the time I was the Career Doctor columnist for Science’s Next Wave (now Science Careers) and in order to mimic the experience of a postdoc in this situation as closely as possible, I wrote a CV to the best of my ability –

Postdoctoral Research : CV for leaving academia 

I then showed it to a number of experts, whose comments appear below. I used their feedback and some new ideas of my own to develop a final version:

The revised CV for leaving academia

The revised CV is not necessarily better than the original — opinions were mixed, so I’ve decided to have both CVs on the site, along with the feedback, and you can decide for yourself what works. I hope these comments also reflect the quality of advice and support that is out there — I’ve deliberately approached people who would be available to a postdoc.

Feedback from

Here are some of their comments.

First of all, some comments from me.

The first draft of the CV (which isn’t on this site) showed supervision of staff and a large group of students – both the post-docs and the academic felt this was uncommon so I’ve changed this to supervision of students only and “providing direction to work of junior researchers”.

The CV isn’t trying to imply that the post-doc is a line-manager, but my experience is that much of the day-to-day supervision of students is done by post-docs, so don’t play this down because you aren’t an official manager. Similarly budgets – most post-docs manage budgets day-today, order materials, keep track of spending and are responsible for dealing with equipment suppliers – don’t play this down because you have to get a signature from the PI!

I’m also aware that post-docs cannot apply for many grants in their own name and are therefore not involved in coming up with complex costings, but as they are commonly involved in producing draft proposals and day-to-day management of budgets, I felt this skill was worth promoting.

The way I presented my name in the main heading wasn’t an easy choice. My “real” CV includes all my designatory letters (BSc (Hons) PhD CChem MRSC) as I think it is important to show my academic credibility and my Chartered status, which suggests I reached a professional standard as a chemist (long ago, but it points to my background in a positive way). I toyed with the idea of simply “Dr Sara Fiction” on this and I would also use simply “Sara Fiction” if I felt it was too academic. No-one I showed it to picked up on this first impression being very academic – but they also all have PhDs!

I use “current status” because it is neutral and I don’t have to start my CV with a big sign saying “RESEARCH” – but then my job title does this. Job titles can be meaningless (my last job title was “Project Manager” which I never use on my CV as it is misleading), so Julie’s advice (see below) was something I took to heart. It even convinced me to write a profile statement despite my usual objections to them!
Despite our personal dislike of them, both Julie and Valmai felt the CV needed a profile statement, so I’ve added one. I also agree that in this case the CV needs careful introduction to the reader as there is a danger of them assuming it has appeared in their pile of CVs by mistake.

I’ve dropped the references from the revised CV because I ran out of space, but I would usually include them unless I hadn’t quite got around to telling my current employer of my plans to escape!

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Feedback

Academic:

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Dr Kat Arney, (at the time of writing, Kat was a postdoc – she’s now a media star…):

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Dr Melanie Hanna, Freelance science communicator and former post-doc:

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Dr Julie Franklin, then at the RSC:

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If you are a member of a professional body, you’ll probably be able to get CV feedback either in person at a career surgery. Most professional bodies have careers sections on their websites – as an example look at the IOP website (I’ve written a range of careers materials for them).

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Dr Valmai Bowden, Former staff developer and careers adviser, HE

Building on her research into career management for scientists, Valmai has worked at UMIST, Warwick and Aston Universities in staff development and careers adviser roles. She is now working freelance to focus on her special interests in postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

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James Innes, Head of Marketing, The CV Centre

The CV Centre is the UK’s leading CV consultancy, specialising in professional CV writing and preparation. James looked at the revised CV.

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Many thanks for these comments – I welcome more. You’ll see that some of the feedback contradicts my ideas – you are likely to receive a range of views on your CV so you’ll need to judge how to use feedback to develop a final CV which you are happy with.