If you’re thinking about creating a non-academic CV the most important piece of advice is to have a clear role in mind! If you don’t have a specific type of vacancy in mind there is little point in creating a CV as you won’t be able to tailor it well. Rather than writing a CV for the sake of it consider spending some time trying to identify sectors and roles of interest. This might mean researching different industries in order to get a feel for the sorts of jobs on offer. See the Handbook from the IAD’s Changing Direction: Exploring Options career development workshop Changing Careers Handbook – Workshop 2 Exploring Options for more on researching different sectors and generating ideas.
It is a misconception that creating a “non-academic CV” that can act as the basis for all applications made outside academia is a good idea. A CV always needs to be tailored to a specific role. If you send an employer a generic CV you run the risk of not highlighting your relevant experience or making it clear to the recruiter why you are a good candidate for the role.
Researchers often ask if there is a template that they can follow. Before you start researching templates make sure that you have a clear role in mind before you even put pen to paper! Without a role in mind (and better still an actual vacancy) you have no idea what to prioritise or what information to include. There are norms to follow when creating/adapting a CV but the most important point to keep in mind is that you need the information that you present to be relevant. What does the recruiter need to know about you? What will they find interesting (and ideally relevant)? Remember that the CV is a marketing document (intended to get you an interview) not a life story!
CV norms for non-academic roles:
CV’s outside of academia have a two page limit so you need to be concise in presenting your information. Standard formatting rules also apply. Make sure that you have a clear structure and that you separate information into different (and relevant) sections. Ensure that the document is easy to read at a glance (no large chunks of unbroken text).
It is important to demonstrate that you have relevant skills and experience and an understanding of the role. You need to convince the recruiter that you would be a good fit within the organisation. The CV is only part of the story you also need to consider the covering letter too. See the blog post Tips on Writing a Covering Letter.
When undertaking a career change a personal profile can really help convey your goals for moving into a different sector. Cover what you are seeking from this new role and sector. Highlight prior experience and skills that are relevant in some way to this new role. A personal profile can be a few brief sentences or you can choose to use bullet points and create a “Key points box”.
Using power verbs and dynamic language is important in your bullet points and experience section as you want to convey the significance of your experience and key achievements. Don’t play down your experiences because you think that they are not official. Many researchers engage in lots of activities that don’t feature in their job descriptions. For example, line managing PhD students or writing grant applications and draft proposals are often routine.
Depending upon the role and sector that you are targeting your job title as a researcher may not mean much to the recruiter. It is therefore, important to mirror the language used in that particular field and make it clear what your responsibilities entail. In such instances it may also be worth breaking your experience down into a mini skills section on your CV (your list of employment can follow next). You can also present your PhD / research experience using sub headings to demonstrate the transferable skills gained. Be sure to back these up with evidence as to how you gained these skills.
Follow up steps:
It is important to seek feedback on your CV from as many sources as possible. If more than two people tell you the same thing then this probably needs addressing. It is also extremely advisable to try and seek feedback from those working in the industry of your choice to gain as much inside knowledge as possible on what they are looking for.
Further Resources for CV guidance:
Eleanor Hennige is the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultant, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options. Eleanor runs our 1:1 career development consultations, she delivers our suite of career workshops and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops. Eleanor works on a part-time basis (5 mornings a week) and can be contacted at ResearchStaff.Careers@ed.ac.uk