Moving from academia to consulting
September 27, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I recently left a tenure-track position(!) for geographic reasons (spouse's job). At this point I am not wedded to staying in the faculty track, and have been applying for admin positions as well as faculty ones. However, I recently saw an ad for an analyst job in a higher ed consulting firm in a topic area where I have experience and interest, and I am very seriously considering applying. I have some questions about how to format my resume and cover letter .

I have already searched through the Versatile PhD forums and the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and have some tips from those sites, but I have some more specific questions that I'm hoping some Mefites can help me with.

I know a traditional business resume is 1 page, but some of what I've read on the Chronicle and Versatile PhD sites indicates a 2 page resume may sometimes be acceptable. For higher ed consulting, what is my best bet for length here?

My work experience goes back to the 90s, and some of it includes non-teaching work that is potentially relevant experience (project management type stuff). Is it weird to go back that far on a resume? Do I include *all* my jobs, including adjuncting work before/during/after grad school? The position requires a minimum of 7-10 years in higher ed, and I have more than that. Do I try to squeeze it all into 1 page, or just the last 10 years (10 years ago I was in grad school).

The position also requires research skills. I have a publication record. How do I include that in my resume? Or do I just discuss that in the cover letter?

Cover letter:
Is 1 page single-spaced appropriate for a cover letter? Should I include why I left my TT job in the letter (in my interviews so far I know people in academia will ask. Will people in consulting care)?

In case it matters, there are people in the company, including the President, who have PhDs and were formerly academics, so I assume they have some familiarity with academic CVs. But the job ad says to upload a cover letter and resume, so I am assuming they don't want my full, 8 page academic CV.

Any other advice on how to sell myself as a consultant would be appreciated.
posted by pamplemousse of love to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Traditional resumes are typically one page for people who have less than ten years' experience. (Sometimes there is a different amount of experience cited for this rule.)

If your experience goes back to the early 90s you can safely have a two page resume, though don't be surprised if nothing but the first page is read.

I can't help with the other aspects of your question though.
posted by dfriedman at 8:47 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

My resume is two pages long and goes back fifteen years/six jobs.

I start off with a PROFILE, a one sentence statement and some bullet points of my skills and experience:

Sales and marketing professional with over twenty years of experience with multi-national corporations.
• Project management and long term strategic planning
• Managing and coaching direct reports
• Matrix Management
• Manage technical and service teams associated with telecommunications implementation projects.
• Compiling financial analysis and reports.
• Developing and delivering leadership and sales training.
• Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and database management tools.
• System Administrator, CRM.

Then I list the relevant jobs I've held with a few senteces, and a few bullet points per job.

Then Education, Then Awards.

Short, sweet, simple.

As for the cover letter. Don't go nuts. Most of the times, it won't get read anyway. Make a short narrative of why all the roads you've traveled have made you uniquely qualified.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2013

The one-page resume rule is a thing of the past. Two to three pages is perfectly fine these days in business, including higher ed-related business. Going back into the '90s is fine as long as you're not showing any gaps in employment that might cause a red flag, but keep those positions of more than 10-15 years ago to very short summaries and not detailed bullets of responsibilities.

Make a section of your resume for publications and list them there. Section order could go something like: Professional Summary, Employment, Education, Publications, Technology.

I'm going to MeMail you b/c I think I know what firm you may be talking about and just recently spoke with their recruiter...
posted by dayintoday at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2013

I switched careers and sought employment at places that also employed PhDs, and a few were former academics. The best thing that I did IMO was to 1) seek out people with your same background who have the job title that you want right now; I sent emails to people that I did not even know but said something along the lines of have PhD/Left academe/dream is to get similar job, would they meet? Now those people looked over my CV and gave recommendations 2) seek out people connected with hiring or recruiting employees (believe it or not, a recruiter was very, very helpful and gave me samples CVs from other people, with private info obscured.

The reason that this step was helpful is that only those people really knew that industry. This was how I found out that they really did want a few page CV (not one page), which I would not have known if I talked to a generalist or someone in a different career. They also emphasized key areas, things that they know were hot in the field, and alternative job titles and companies to look into. I really attribute making the leap into a the new field a result of these conversations (and I poked around higher ed, versatile, and here).

One suggestion that helped me that seems related to your background (and was suggested by a recruiter) was to create a functional resume. It helped because I could create categories that they wanted for that job (teaching/research/writing) and could drop in relevant jobs/experience- but I could also leave out things that were not relevant.

I never addressed why I left an academic position in cover letters; rather, I wrote the cover letter to address every single point that was desired for the job. I was always asked in interviews, however, as to why I was leaving/left/will you go back (even many yrs later).
posted by Wolfster at 8:55 AM on September 27, 2013

It is routine to have one- to two-page resumes in business. Two pages is totally acceptable if you have enough content to fill them.

If you're applying to a position that's related to academia and that wants research, etc., I think I'd submit a two-page resume and mention that you can also submit your full academic CV if they're interested. I would absolutely put a publications section into the two-page resume if they want research - if you don't have room for them all, put Selected Publications or Recent Publications as the section header. Presentations, conferences, short research statements, grants, etc. are all also options depending on how much space you want to devote to this area.

Cover letters should be kept to one page unless they're asking you to incorporate documents within the cover letter (research statement, etc.). I'd focus more on why you're interested in the consulting than why you left academia, though both questions probably contain the same facts. But go with positive, forward-looking syntax.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2013

My company hires people like you. A few thoughts:
- We don't expect ex-academia applicants to have perfect form in terms of resumes and such, so don't sweat making things flawless from the point of view of what is normal in a consulting firm context.
- I definitely like to see experience of project management, even if it was an internship or volunteer gig 10 years ago -- there are some academics who can be great in a lab or archive, but flail miserably in a professional environment. Your resume can be a good tool for making it clear you're not one of those.
- Every single adjunct gig? Probably overkill.
- A strong publications record is wonderful, of course, but I have found over time that it doesn't correlate very well to success in consulting, or even in terms of writing. On the other hand I have found lit reviews (whether standalone or from a dissertation) to be a pretty good predictor. Just don't go on for pages and pages with the pubs and presentations.
- I'm always curious about why people leave academia, but there are so many good reasons for doing so that you don't need to explain yours, certainly not in the cover letter. Talk about why you want to do consulting at this firm, not why you want to stop doing research.
posted by genug at 9:44 AM on September 27, 2013

I have a PhD and have worked in a variety of non-academic settings.

Generally I've used a two-page resume and have included a "Selected Publications" portion towards the end of the resume.
posted by statsgirl at 9:54 AM on September 27, 2013

Just to second wolfster's point above that a functional resume based around the skills they ask for may be the way to go. This has worked for me. I think it is a common difference between a good business resume and good academic resume.
posted by Albondiga at 8:45 PM on September 27, 2013

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