If and when you apply to a faculty job listing, or when you “cold call” various college’s English programs seeking adjunct (part-time) work, and even sometimes when you apply to PhD programs after earning the MA, you will need to send them your curriculum vitae, or CV for short. A CV and a resume are similar but not the same, and in any academic job setting you will be expected to know the difference and to submit a CV, not a resume, with any job application. Both a CV and a resume have the same role: they present in a single document your work experience, educational experience, and other relevant background information to potential employers. A CV though needs to contain information and organize that information in a way that is relevant to professional academia. I’m going to share with you some basics here about how to organize your CV. For students in ENGL 599, the final course in the path toward the degree, it’s not a bad idea to put together a CV and share it with your 599 mentor, and ask for feedback.
You always want to have your contact information at the top. Make sure you list a phone number at which you can reliably be reached, and an email that you check regularly. Make sure that your email handle reads professionally. If your email is a nickname, or an odd series of letters and numbers, or anything other than simply your real name, you should consider creating a Gmail account that is simply [yourname]@gmail.com. The simple truth is that, as with any job, the hiring consideration begins the moment a person lays eyes upon your CV. Does it have a silly sounding email address? Not good. And on that point, recognize that your CV should be formatted cleanly and crisply, as the format too sends a message to your potential employer. Take ownership of that message.
After your contact info you typically list your education, with your highest degree at the top of the list. Only list your institutions of higher education (do NOT list your high school). If you’ve transferred around to a number of institutions, it’s often appropriate to list only your degree granting institutions. But this is an area of debate, with some thinking you should list every single institution at which you earned credits; so investigate the ethics of it on your own and figure out what seems right to you.
It’s appropriate beneath each degree to include bullet points listing pertinent relevant information. So for example under you MA degree’s mainlisting you should include the title of your master’s thesis (the one you write for 599). You might also include a line listing the literary fields, if any, that you concentrated on during your time in the program. Did you take all of your electives in American literature? Well you’d be justified in noting that you concentrated on American literature here in this part of your CV.
After education you typically want to list your relevant work experience. By relevant we mean teaching experience. The seeming catch-22 of college-level teaching is that you need college-level teaching experience to get a college-level teaching job. But then how is one to gain college-level teaching experience? Adjunct work is usually the answer. Before you get adjuncting work you won’t have much to list here on the CV. If you’ve got experience teaching any K-12 that can be useful and is definitely something to list here. But getting even a course or two of college adjuncting work under your belt is your main goal after securing the MA, if you’re aiming to teach long-term at the college level. See the links in the first sentence of this post for more on how to go about finding work.
Be careful about what else you list in your work experience. Once you get some teaching under your belt you want to list nothing else except that teaching on your CV. A CV that includes your time working at Barnes & Noble, the two years as a contractor, the three years you were a barista, is a CV that risks being tossed into the “no” pile immediately, because it bespeaks someone who doesn’t understand that a CV is not a resume. A resume lists every single job you’ve done; a CV is supposed to list work relevant to professional academia. When you’re just starting out, though, when you need to list something for your work experience, it’s not a bad idea to list significant jobs you’ve held as long as you can frame them in a way where you make it clear how this information is relevant to your potential employer. Use the space on the CV to provide a succinct explanation of your duties, and make sure those duties somehow coincide with things that might relate to teaching and academia. If for example you’re applying to a community college, and have experience working at a community center in the area, that can be relevant work experience to list if you take the time to describe how. You don’t want your CV to turn into a book, but it is okay to give several sentences that narrate how the work experience connects to the job for which you’re applying.
Your next section tends to be scholarship. Whenever you do get something published, you will want to lead with that in this section. Publications are the coin of the realm in English. List any publications first, making sure to employ a documentation style when you do (MLA, Chicago, etc.) and then list any conferences at which you’ve read a paper. This section might be empty for you right now: that just lets you know that you should really try to get out there and read a paper at a conference somewhere to earn an item to list in here.
You might include a section after this on other relevant activities, such as conferences you’ve attended, professional workshops you’ve been a part of, perhaps service you’ve done in the world which doesn’t quite fit under work experience or scholarship. That sort of thing. Make it relevant. People reading these can smell nonsense a mile away. If you’re working on turning your thesis paper into a published paper, or working on a book, or anything like that, you might take a few lines here to describe this. If it shows that you’re actively working toward something relevant and academic, it might be useful.
You want to include a section listing any awards or grants or scholarships you may have received at any time during your college career. For example each year we award one thesis paper with the Thesis of the Year award. That is something you would want to list here, if you were awarded that.
You want to include a section listing whatever professional associations you might be a member of. The Modern language Society is standard one that most professional English academics join, but there are dozens if not hundreds of others out there. Find organizations that are relevant to your area of interest, and join up. It shows potential employers that you’re committed to your field: e.g., if you hope to be an expert on Irish literature, well find and join scholarly societies related to Irish literature, and list them here.
Finally you’ll want to include a list of at least three professional references, which should be professors or other people in the field. Make sure that you’ve asked your references if they would in fact agree to be references, and whenever you apply to any job it’s a good idea to email your references and just let them know that you’ve applied. This way it won’t be a surprise if/when someone calls up asking to provide a reference on your behalf.
So that overall is how a CV tends to be structured. There are variations of course, and over time you often add categories to this, and move these around. But the main lesson here is to recognize that a CV and a resume are not the same thing, and that when you’re applying to any faculty position in higher education, they will expect you to send a CV and not a resume.