Top Tips for Writing an Academic CV

Writing an academic CV for the first time can be tough, but it's incredibly rewarding to see all of your achievements listed together. I've got 3 top tips to help with your writing and make the process easier.



It's the start of the new calendar year. 2022 is here and I'm back, sat at my desk and feeling refreshed! I have a few weeks before teaching begins and I've decided to make the most of this time by getting up to date with some admin tasks I've been putting off and (hopefully) making a dent in writing my next paper. As such, I decided to dedicate some time to writing an academic CV. It's a task I'd been putting off for a little while. It's also a take I thought wouldn't take long and I'd hoped to be able to tweak and update the one I created in 2020 when applying for PhDs and research positions. I was wrong. It took me a whole days worth of work (split over a few sessions) to create my CV as it is now. The process involved thinking back over my time as a PhD student and creating a list of experiences that I wanted to talk about, writing reflectively about what I learned from them and what skills I showcased, and organising them into logical groups to make it easy to present. While I wouldn't claim to be an expert on creating CV's, I definitely learned a few tips that I can share with you here.

  1. Something is better than nothing.
    My CV is not perfect, but it's a good start. As with everything in life, you'll never make progress if you don't start. I cannot recommend enough to just sit down with a spare afternoon and create something. Even if it's not polished, even if you don't look at it until you come to apply for new positions in a few months time, you'll be very glad to have this first draft and framework to build upon. This is particularly the case if you're applying for a range of different positions. This first, possibly rough draft will give you the framework to tailor how you express your experiences to highlight different skills and fit different job briefs.

  2. Little and often!
    Building upon the idea that each iteration of your CV is just a draft until the next time, you should be updating your CV often. This is a practice I'm determined to stick to. I've set myself a recurring reminder in my calendar for the first week of every quarter to update my CV. Any longer than that and it becomes quite an undertaking to add in everything new. In the meantime, I have a notes page where I make a list and some rough notes of important experiences as they happen during those three months so I have an idea of what to write about when it comes time to update my CV. If you don't have time to write your CV today, at least start a list of important experiences that you want to write about and keep adding to it until you do have the time. This will avoid you having to trawl back through your hard drive or calendar looking for things to add to your CV when you finally sit down to do it (trust me, that's a real pain!). Make life easy for yourself: make notes of events when they're fresh and update your CV often enough that it doesn't become too time-consuming.

  3. Look to other people for inspiration.
    When I came to write my own, I felt completely lost about where to start. I'd created lots of CVs for part-time jobs as a student, but I knew talking about the 7 years I spent stacking shelves at Asda or my time working as a bartender weren't the most relevant things to discuss in my academic CV. So I looked to other people for inspiration. I found academics I follow on
    Twitter with websites similar to this one and looked to them for inspiration. I was particularly interested in the types of experiences they'd discussed, how they expressed themselves and how they formatted and organised the document. It was an invaluable resource. Again, I'm not claiming I have the perfect academic CV, but I do think it could be a useful resource to take inspiration from regarding the headings/structure I've used and the type of experiences I've written about. You can find my CV here.

Overall, writing my CV was a positive exercise in reflection. Thanks to imposter syndrome and looking at other academics CVs for inspiration, I was worried I wouldn't have much to write about. While I'm still looking forward to publishing more research and presenting at more conferences that I'll add, I was left feeling very proud of how much I've achieved in just over a year of my PhD. It was very validating to collate everything I've done into one document and reflect on it all. I highly recommend it as an antidote to imposter syndrome!