On (Not) Writing A Post-Academic Resumé

Resumés….how do they work?

I sat down the other day to write one because my bank balance is slowly dwindling on account of the fact that a) I only have a part-time job and b) I refuse to drink cheap liquor. A post-academic has to have some standards, after all.

First, I Googled around and found some “sample resumés,” but they weren’t very helpful because I couldn’t figure out how to categorize my skills. I know everyone says you have to break down your academic experience into stuff you’ve done that people will understand. Like, instead of listing my teaching jobs, I have to say, using strong action verbs, that I “Managed a Class.” Then I have to include some bullet points about what “Managing A Class” entails.

It was difficult for me to complete this simple task for some reason. Don’t employers know what “Teaching” means? Do I really have to say that I “graded 100 essays a week” or whatever? What about my dissertation research? Do I use the headline “Conducted Independent Research” and then list some of the skills I employed? Like what? “Synthesizing Information” and “Writing Persuasively”? I have no idea. Seems to me that “Synthesizing Information” and “Writing Persuasively” are even less clear than “Conducting Research.”

In the end, I felt a little blue about the whole thing. I know I did a lot of stuff as a proto-academic. But what was it exactly? I don’t know how to explain it except by saying, “I wrote a scholarly book on X and I also taught some classes on Y and Z.” But no one wants to hear about that. Good God, I don’t even want to hear myself talk about it anymore.

So what about the resumé? Well, after a few days of not having a clue what to do, I paid somebody to write it for me. I couldn’t really afford this luxury, but it seemed like a better option that staring at a blank Word document in despair for weeks on end.

My next step is to actually look for a job. I admit I am procrastinating the “apply for jobs” part of the post-academic process.

I am going to try to land a temp position first. I have modest goals. Maybe I’ll wait until after the holidays though. Or after I get back from a short trip I’m taking in January. Yeah, that’s it. Or maybe I’ll wait until my good liquor finally runs dry. Then I really will have no choice.

The other night I was consoling a friend who is freaking out because the college where she has been adjuncting for years did not offer her any classes for next semester because, if they did, they would have to provide health benefits, as per the new union contract. Of course, they couldn’t let that happen because they’re assholes.

I was trying to convince her to get off the adjunct train. I said, “There really is a world out there beyond the academy.”

Now I will find out if I have to eat my words.

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7 Responses to On (Not) Writing A Post-Academic Resumé

  1. jeanybeany says:

    You should check out the book, So what are you going to do with that?: Finding Careers outside Academia (2007) for examples of sample non-acad resumes and job hunting tips.

  2. recent Ph.D. says:

    On “Do employers really not know what teaching is?”: No, based on the 4 interviews I had before getting my current job, they do not. They’re pretty damned clueless about what goes into planning and running a successful class, as they are equally clueless about what researching and writing a dissertation entails. Spell it out.

    On writing the resume, I did it myself (though I can understand why one might pay someone), but it went through a number of revisions between the time I started sending it around and started getting interviews. I had to figure out a structure that represented my background best. I do have teaching jobs listed, though I don’t list specific classes, and, yes, my bullets are packed with “action verbs.” What changed mostly in the later revisions was less the structure of the document than the language I used. After reading loads of job ads, I started to get a better feel for what someone reading my resume would want to hear.

    On maintaining liquor standards: Hell yeah!

  3. Currer Bell says:

    Just found your blog thanks to selloutyoursoul’s recommendation.
    As a fellow English PhD, who has decided to become postacademic, a lot of what you’re saying resonates with me. I’m looking forward to catching up with your old posts!
    As a side note, I’m teaching Business Writing this winter and I’m finding the experience really clarifying when thinking about my own “skill set.” As basic (and maybe stupid) as this sounds, the course text I’m using _Successful Writing at Work_ has been really helpful in reminding me how “the rest of the world” creates a resume, rather than a CV.

    ~Currer Bell,

  4. post-ac says:

    Hi, I am going to get this book right now. Thank you for the recommendation!

  5. Currer Bell says:

    @Post-ac–I hope I caught you before you ordered the book…a student just sent me a link to the entire course text in PDF. I’d send it your way if you have a particular email you’d like it to go to.

  6. post-ac says:


    That would be amazing and generous! Thank you very much.

  7. Currer Bell says:

    Sent! (just in case it goes to SPAM, now you know it should be there)

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