Creating a CV when you are a graduate student, ECE or CS

academia curriculum-vitae graduate-students

This post will give some tips on how to get started when you are a graduate student and do not have a good CV. Or you may have a CV you don’t like. Or you may be trying to figure out how write a CV, since you are applying to graduate school. Welcome! This page is for you. Another resource, a general post on CVs with an example, is here.

You may not have very much to put on your CV when you are an early graduate student, or looking to apply to graduate school. That is expected. Do not compare your CV to professors’ CVs. In fact, make it a habit now not to compare yourself to other graduate students or professors.

However, do not make this fact of your existence worse by not including key sections. Some sections may not be relevant to you; if you do not have experience in a section, do not include it. But if you do have experience or something to add, include it!

Related topics:

Typical Sections.

  • Education.

  • Professional Affiliations/Work Experience.

  • Honors and Awards.

  • Grants (doubtful for an entering graduate student, but I am including it here for completeness).

  • Publications.

  • Invited talks.

  • Features in the press.

  • Service.
    • Reviewing.
    • Positions in organizations, including graduate student organizations or within the university. Are you a graduate student liaison? That goes here.
    • Community involvement (this could involve scientific communication/scicomm to community organizations).
  • Teaching (this can involve mentoring activities, T.A. positions, supervising undergraduate research).

  • Related Professional Skills (programming language of choice usually here).

  • Professional Memberships.

  • References for a private CV.

Optional Sections.

  • Focus areas (make this short).

  • Software/Data releases (I think that Dataset releases are incredibly important).

  • Synergistic activities (seems to be for shortened CVs, more on this on TBA).

  • and a whole host of other things.

Why create a CV as an early graduate student?

By creating a CV early, you will have this document ready when it is time to apply for:

  • travel grants.

  • fellowships.

  • awards.

and when someone needs to write a letter, they will ask for your CV. You already have one. Since it is already in existence, you have an idea of what goes on it, and you can continuously update it. By the way, apply for the above three things when you have the opportunity!

A strategy when starting from nothing.

Find a template you like, and can compile (if using latex). Fill in the education bit, and the basics. This is a U.S.-specific guide, so do not put your birth date on it, and the same goes for a photo – leave it off. Why? And then, over time, every time you think of something, or do something new, update your CV. My tip – put it in a private repository, so you can update it wherever you are, or figure out another easy way to update it.

Once you have gotten started.

Once you have a template, keep on updating your CV.

Suppose you have submitted a paper. You may think you have to wait until it is accepted to put it on your CV. Wrong! Get it on a preprint server, and then you have a publication! Preprints are evidence that your work is being packaged into publications and is ready to be viewed by the community. These are important, and should be listed on your CV. I also list the preprint link, so readers can access the work with minimal effort. Make sure your advisor and/or co-authors are in agreement with the preprint strategy before doing it, though. For more details, check the next section.

Gradually, by listing everything you are doing, professionally, and using preprints, all of your work will be listed on the CV and it will grow. Then, when it is time to submit your CV for a travel grant, or some other deadline, you are ready to go!

The importance of metadata in the Publications section.

If you have a few publications, my feeling is that it is fine to group them all together as Publications. However, once you are applying for a fellowship, travel grant, or faculty job, I think you have to be clear about what is what. So divide the publications by type, and peer review. Usually in my field this is: Journal articles, Refereed conference publications, Book chapters, Non-refereed conference/workshop publications, and Preprints, and many other combinations.

For me, when a paper is accepted by the journal (not accepted with minor revisions, but finally accepted), then I move it to the relevant category (journal, conference, etc.). I think it disingenuous to list submitted papers as journal papers to particular journals – you could list them instead as preprints – as there’s no guarantee that work will be accepted to that journal.

Other questions and answers:

  • “My .edu address is about to expire, but I am applying for jobs. What do I do?”
    • Answer: Create a free email address and list that one. If you don’t like an existing address, create a new one for this purpose and forward.
  • “I want to post my CV online, but I don’t want to list my phone number or other private information.”
    • Answer: Create private and public copies, but don’t list some details on the public copy. This is typical.
  • “Should I have a website as a graduate student and post my CV?”
    • This is up to you. Usually universities give students space for websites, or you can set one up at Github, which as of 1/2019, has free private repositories. I do highly suggest that graduate students get a Google Scholar profile as soon as they have one preprint or publication. This takes little effort, and allows people who know of your work to easily find it. (Read here for more information about my position on Google Scholar profiles.
  • “Why are you so intense about CVs?”
    • It seems that there aren’t many resources for students on how to get this critical document started. I’m not a professional development expert, but I do review things from time to time, so I end up looking at a lot of CVs across disciplines. I know what I like, essentially.
  • “Who can I ask for help?”
    • You can ask professors in your department for feedback on your CV, particularly before applying for a fellowship or job. They may have experience evaluating candidates and can provide you with some ways to alter your CV for a particular application. An observation with my own time: writing precisely takes more time than a conversation, so they may not want to critique your CV over email. If this is the case, make an appointment (even over video chat), send the CV beforehand, and pay attention when they give you feedback.
    • While you may be nervous about your CV, professors will not be. This is something they can analyze with little effort. It is best to keep requests direct, short, and what you want from them clear. “I would like some feedback on my CV. I am applying for X fellowship on Y topic. I want to have it finalized by Z date. What is a convenient way for us to meet about this topic?” And have the CV on you in case the prof. says “Now! let’s have coffee.”

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