Let’s talk about CVs

Places flashlight under chin.239

I’m going to tell y’all a story. So once there was a library student just like you, sitting at this computer that was very much like yours. It was the second year of a two year program and the end was in sight. Jobs, they told this student, were right around the corner. The library student found a position they thought they’d be a good fit for. After clicking through the maze of links, they found what they needed to submit in order to get this job….something in a far-off and long dead language… a Curriculum Vitae. #Boo

I’m going to confess that I’ve had a CV for about 7 years now, and every single time I open the file on Word it changes just a tiny bit. My first one was awful, the one I have today is uh better? That is 7 years of small, and sometimes huge, changes; it hardly looks like the same document that I wrote as a wide-eyed undergraduate prior to my grad school adventures. For me, CVs were things academics just kind of had….like it came with the degree. “Here’s your diploma and here’s your CV. Good Luck.” All of them looked so similar and yet so different, and each was daunting in their own way. Even the name, Curriculum Vitae, does not sound particularly comforting. But here at HLS we’re all about shooing away the scariness of particular parts of the library school experience and I’m here to help you get your CV into shape to go out and get all the academic jobs you want.


“Curriculum Vitae” on the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall- from Flickr Fabrizlo, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

  1. Tip #1: Data Dump

You’ve done a lot of things in your life. The first thing you need to do is remember all of those things. Some of them will be relevant, and some won’t but don’t worry about that at this stage. The first step is to remember everything library-y /academic-y that you have done, every presentation, every assistantship, every volunteer job, every talk, every award you’ve won, every blog you’ve written for, every conference you’ve attended and write all of them down. Once you have this list of all of your accomplishments, you can then start parring them down to things that are specifically important to your library career. You’ve done a lot and the CV will tell everyone all about those things.

Because this isn’t a resume where you need to be concise enough to put your entire life on a single page, you can really tell a lot more of your story.

  1. Tip #2: Look at CVs.

Okay, so this is kind of a no brainer. You can’t learn to walk unless you see other people walking? I’m not sure that is how it works, but if I learned one thing in library school it is that learning is partially built looking at current and successful projects. Did your friend just get a job? Ask them to see their CV. Have a favorite academic librarian in your life? Ask them to see their CV. Have a crush on a major library superstar? Bet their CV is available online somewhere, go look at it.

While the content will be your own, hopefully, the style and the organization of these different CVs will give you an idea of how yours should look. I’m not saying to directly copy these styles, but see what all is out there and pull a little from here and get inspiration to make your own entry into the CV world.

  1. Tip #3: Talk to Professionals

Last Wednesday, I met with the LIS Librarian here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and we talked about my CV. He read it, and critiqued it, and helped me improve the document. This is an invaluable resource that every single one of you reading this has in their own little worlds. Send your CV to all the people you trust and have them read it. It is a pretty sure bet that people like them will be reading it for real when you apply places. So get their input and don’t be surprised when they fill it with red ink; you definitely will need that help and it will make you a better candidate.

These people will tell you to include “bullet points” or no “bullet points,” skills and tech or no skills and tech.

The bottom line, and perhaps most important advice I can give you, is that every single CV is different and yet the same. Everyone’s advice will be different and you shouldn’t freak out about that. Each document has it’s own “style” but basically serves the same purpose. It is a document, 2-6 pages long, that sells you to prospective buyers.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 23, 2016.

6 replies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s