Turning a Professional Resume into an Academic One
By Angela Sanders Tuesday, September 03, 2013, 02:27 AM EDT
There may have once been a time when a resume consisted merely of everything you’ve done, a time when only one resume was needed for a variety of jobs and other applications. Those days, of course, are long gone, as resumes are now often tailored towards a specific profession.
If we’re applying for a job at a restaurant, for example, we’re naturally more likely to tout our previous food serving experience over our job as a freelance writer. Nowhere is this specificity more pronounced than in tech-related industries. With cloud computing all the rage and the Internet being accessible from seemingly every cell phone, technicians, designers, and web developers are especially pressed to create a resume that best highlights their skills in a fast-changing sector.
But aside from drawing distinctions between different jobs and industries – distinctions that are clear to most applicants – are the much more substantial differences between professional and academic resumes. All too often, an applicant to a graduate school program asks me if his resume for past jobs can simply be updated and resent. And, slightly less frequently, a person seeking employment chooses to recycle a resume they created when applying to colleges.
While such shortcuts may be appealing and convenient, they absolutely must be avoided. Applying for a job is ultimately far different from applying to an academic program, and vice verse.
The fundamental difference between the two is that employers care about proficiency while academic programs care more about accolades. If you’re an expert in Adobe or Microsoft Publisher, there’s a good chance a potential employer would want to know about it, even if the job is not technology-based. But very few employers will care to read about your fellowship, your science award, or your honor’s society membership – these should be saved purely for academic resumes.
Similarly, a healthcare program may not give a hoot that you were an assistant physician. But when they see on your resume that you are proficient with industry tools like Contract Logix’s healthcare contract management software, you stand a better chance of acceptance.
Resumes intended for both academic and professional applications will, of course, care about your education and prior work experience. But the desired details vary tremendously within those two categories. In education, everyone will be impressed to learn you graduated summa cum laude, but only an academic institution will be moved by your 3.8 GPA or the title of your honor’s thesis.
When it comes to work experience, an employer will want to know most about your title, your responsibilities, and the company for which you worked in the past. An academic elevator, however, will care more about your intellectual activities and the knowledge that you gained.
Finally, if you have room, it is always good to include some personal information on all resumes. This can stay fairly consistent across professional and academic applications, but there are still distinctions to be drawn. Academic programs, for example, want to see volunteer activities and extracurriculars here, if applicable. Employers more likely only care to learn about some of your personal interests and hobbies.
While it may seem onerous to refurbish your application when applying to a job or to a grad school, the change is well worth your effort. After all, a resume is one of the best ways to advertise your strengths, and those strengths vary depending on the path you intend to take.