What do I put on my CV for the person who is writing me a recommendation to grad school?
October 11, 2012 5:40 PM   Subscribe

What goes on an academic CV, especially when one doesn't exactly have a huge academic history to draw from?

Hey, this one should be quick. I got a request from a professor who is writing one of my grad school recommendations that I send her a short resume/CV that she can use to help guide her in the process of writing it. Fair enough, but I don't really know how to write one. I can do a job resume no problem but I'm not really sure exactly what information is supposed to go on a document like this one and my googling isn't really helping very much.

Basically I need to know what the major points that I will need to hit on are, and what I should be putting there given that I'm just an undergrad and I don't really have a publication history or anything. I have some lab experience and I imagine it would make sense for me to put down whose labs I've worked in and what I did in them. And of course I know I need to put down the institutions I've attended and when.

What else, though? Does anyone care about my job history in this context? (Selling cigars doesn't really seem relevant. Do people care that I did Americorps, or that I used to be a park ranger back in the day?) Do I need to put down some of the major classes that I've attended? Is there space on a document like this for me to talk about my academic interests and the direction that I see my career going in the future?

I can get a sense of proper formatting from looking at some sample CVs online, so I feel like I'm OK there. And I'm not generally a dolt about writing this kind of stuff, like I said I can do a mean resume, I'm just not sure what sort of information is considered pertinent on a CV of this kind. Help is, as always, appreciated.
posted by Scientist to Education (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's okay to have a short CV at this point in your career. CVs are different from resumes in that they are supposed to tell a story about your career as an academic, and it doesn't have to be as short as possible. But don't pad. Contact information, Education (you haven't quite got your degree yet, right, so you can put down your major and intended matriculation date as well as whatever degree you'll be getting), Relevant Experience, Honors and Awards (Deans List, any merit scholarships), Publications (includes meeting abstracts), Conferences (okay to list even if you've only attended, and it's okay to include a class that had a mock poster session or whatever as long as you are clear about it), and, because you're an undergrad, you can legitimately add a section called Relevant Coursework and list any independent projects or independent study you did. There's also usually a little catch-all for Other Skills where you can tuck things that show how fabulous and well-rounded and interesting you are, like CPR certification or Fly Tying Expert or whatever.
posted by gingerest at 5:53 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did you get any scholarships, honors or awards? Join any clubs? Put all that stuff on there and your experience in the labs first. Then list your regular work experience.

Here is a really good example.
posted by ephemerista at 5:53 PM on October 11, 2012

Americorps and park ranger jobs are great, and you should list them, as well as any other community service. Crappy sales jobs don't need to be there.
posted by mareli at 6:05 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My headings are:

- Contact information. Name, as official an address as possible (so I use my graduate office on campus), phone number, and school e-mail
- Education. As an undergrad, if you've graduated from high school in the past 5 years or so, and are particularly proud of your GPA and rank, you can include that. Definitely put your expected date of graduation, current GPA, major (and expected degree - BA, BS), and if you're working on an honor's thesis, you can list the title and advisors
- Publications. I've only got a few published abstracts at the point in time. *shrug*
- Academic appointments. I'm an instructor of record, but I also TA-ed a few classes as an undergrad. If you've done that, list the course you TAed and your supervisor's role, and maybe your duties as TA.
- Research experience. I separate out lab work and field work; ymmv. Definitely put the project you're working on, the PI you're working under. Then in two or three pithy bullet points with active verbs, what you did. Techniques you learned, papers or presentations that came out of it.
- Honors. Grant money, scholarship money, departmental awards...
- Service. In particular, service that is relevant to your field. Departmental service (like serving on a panel for incoming students, or something) and community outreach are the two you want to highlight.
- Skills. Here, you want to put language skills, any particular methods you are trained in, software packages you can use, statistical packages you can use...

Since this is to help a professor write you an excellent recommendation, you can also include (probably at the very end)
- Relevant coursework. Just titles is fine here, but if it's a class you took with that professor and you were particularly proud of something you did, you might include the title of a paper you wrote, or something.
- Extra-curricular activities, previous jobs, etc. These are things to help humanize you and add personality and the like. For example, I think my undergrad advisor included my role as VP of the swing dance club in undergrad on my rec letter to show that I was more than just a robotic monkey lover.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and definitely include your time as a park ranger, especially if you want to do conservation or some sort of field-based research. And, if you maybe perhaps have exciting planned fieldwork in your immediate future, you can put that on, too, with expected dates of participation.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:13 PM on October 11, 2012

I'd be happy to send you my own academic CV - just MeMail me and let me know.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:43 PM on October 12, 2012

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