–written by Megan Lucy, a current graduate wife
For many of our families, the graduate student is not the only one whose career is deeply affected by the decision to enter graduate school. Partners who choose to re-locate with their student often face a difficult job search of their own. This series brings together tips I have learned from my experiences studying public personnel management, working with hiring and promotion in the university setting, and my own job searches throughout our graduate school journey. The series is in five parts:
Part 1: Building a Career You Can Move With
Part 2: Preparing a Solid CV or Resume
Part 3: Planning an Efficient Job Search
Part 4: Telling the Story of Your Career
Part 5: Maintaining Your Sanity During a Job Search
Part 2: Preparing a Solid CV or Resume
Anyone who has seen a graduate student spend hours pouring over journal articles and staying up into the wee hours of the morning writing a dissertation knows the power that a paper can have over lives. The day my husband hit send on his doctoral program applications was the day I started revising an important paper of my own- my resume. Considering the importance a document such as a resume or CV plays in our lives, it is no wonder there are so many competing opinions on what makes a killer resume stand out. Should it be one page or twenty? Should you include every job, or only the most relevant ones? Should it be creative or standard? Enter a search for resume advice and you will get all sorts of conflicting answers to these questions. The truth is, that while confusing, I have found all of that advice to be correct, just not for everyone. The best way to make sure your resume is solid is to make sure it is a good fit- a good fit for the field you are wanting to enter, a good fit for the way the document will be reviewed, and a good fit for you as an individual. Here are some questions to consider to help you find that “fit.”
1. What do the resumes of others in this line of work look like?
Different careers require different types of resumes. Academics often have 15-30 page long Curriculum Vitae, while careers in business may require short 1-2 page resumes. A graphic design firm may value an artistic resume or a tech company may be “wowed” by a resume with an online component, while such extras might get overlooked or looked down on in another field. To figure out what is expected of a resume in your line of work, look at the resumes of others in your field. If you have friends in your line of work, ask if you can see their resumes. You can also find examples by looking at sites like LinkedIn, but remember to search specifically for people in jobs similar to the one you want.
2. What is expected for a specific job vacancy?
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is only having one resume that they use to apply for every vacancy. This is a mistake because what is valued by one organization for a specific vacancy, may not be what another organization is looking for, or even what the same organization is looking for in a different vacancy. You should read job ads carefully to find out what that specific ad is asking for, and tailor your resume to fit that specific ad. In the previous installment, I mentioned keeping a long form CV from which you can cut and paste different experiences. This is where that comes in. A summer job as a barista might not be helpful if you are applying for a web-design job, and could be left off that resume. However, if you are applying for a job in sales, the barista gig could demonstrate good customer service skills, while the fact that you know C++ might not be as relevant. In most cases, especially where space is concerned, it is okay to pick and choose what to include on your resume.
3. What format does the document need to be in?
There are a lot of different ways to apply for a job these days. Some organizations will still accept paper resumes mailed to their P.O. box or hand delivered. Others want applications attached to an email to a specific address. Still, others won’t accept your pre-written resume at all, and will require you to paste information from it into their web form. It is important to look in the job ad for this information, and follow it as closely as possible. Chances are, if you do not submit your resume via the preferred method, it will not be considered.
4. Are any additional documents needed?
Depending on the job you are applying for, you may be asked for additional documents. You may need to provide transcripts, licensing paperwork, proof of car insurance, letters of recommendation, or other field specific documents. Check the job posting for this information and be sure to provide all of the required documentation, all at the same time so nothing gets separated. One additional document that may or may not be mentioned in a job ad, and is often controversial is a cover letter. When I worked in politics I was told to never include a cover letter, because it would be ignored. When I moved to university administration, and was seeking jobs where writing skills were valued, my cover letters became very important. If you are unsure if you need a cover letter, ask others in the field, or look for examples from your field online. Remember, like the resume itself, it is essential that cover letters be unique for every application you submit.
Next up, Part 3: Planning an Efficient Job Search