Your CV: How It Hurts You or Helps You


Presentation - Your CV: How it Hurts You or Helps You
Kathleen Sazama, Ph.D.
Time: 26:03

Kathleen Sazama, Ph.D.
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Sazama:

Hello, I'm Kathleen Sazama . Let's talk about your CV: how it hurts or preferably how it helps you. We should start first with a definition. What is a CV? If you look to the standard dictionary such as Webster's, you'll see a definition like this: "Curriculum Vitae; a short account of one's career" - notice that's underlined - and "Qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position." Now that sounds like a pretty straight forward definition, but if you look in that same dictionary under another term that you should be familiar with - "What is a resume" - you'll see that it starts with the very same words: "A short account of one's career" and "Qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position." Well what's the difference?

The CV is for academic purposes and most scientific or medical purposes. It is the only acceptable format for you to talk about your life. It's typically very long and some critics say, "The longer the better." It is comprehensive. It must be current. At M.D. Anderson we prefer that it's within 3 months for consideration for promotion. So you have to keep it updated. Resumes - in contrast - are short. They are 1 to 2 pages and they're most often used in business.

So let's say a little more about a CV. It's literally a story or chronology of one's life. That means it's a personal story, so it can be subjective. It gives you bragging rights. And it must be in all circumstances, truthful. And most importantly it is past history. This is not a place to write down what you want to do. It is a chronology of what you've done. Now in the medical and scientific fields, there are 2 very specialized kinds of CVs: there may be others but these are very well known. The first is the one required for NIH grant submissions. The NIH grant submission has a specific format. It's somewhere between 1 to 3 or 4 pages long. There is an abbreviated number of publications. Only the most recent data is requested. And it has a very limited purpose: namely to support your current grant submission. There's a second standard CV format that you must be familiar with if you're interested in academia and that's the one provided by the Community of Science. This is a CV format that emphasizes research interests. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on either of those formats, because we want to learn the standard format first.

Your professional data that should be on your CV for academia covers 3 areas. The first is research. That is the traditional measure of scholarly activities. The second is teaching or education. And for some, this is the subject area of their scholarly activities. And the third is an area of service. For physicians this is the clinical activity services and/or services to the institution. And for researchers it is the service to the institution that should be captured here. And scholarly activities can accompany all 3 of these areas. Now in contrast if you're looking outside of academia, typically only 1 or perhaps 2 of these 3 areas will be of interest to the folks outside. And in both circumstances, add your extra institutional activities that keeps you in the field.

So first know your institution's requirements. Every institution has written guidance for faculty promotion and tenure. That's true for appointments as well. The language is usually general, but it should be divided into differences between rank and tenure. Documentation requirements vary. The process varies as well. But every circumstance for a faculty position should include peer review. Typically, they'll be a request for your department or division recommendation. Typically there's a school-wide committee, or it or it could be an institution-wide committee if you're a very large academic institution. And the dean or other academic officer is very key to this whole process.

So what do you include in your CV? Here are the basic elements. First of all: your name. Secondly, your current - and I emphasis this - not your future title, or the one you're aspiring to, but what position do you currently hold. Remember I said to you, this is a past history report. You should include addresses and contact numbers - office and home - extremely important: particularly for follow-up contacts after you've had your on-site interviews or you've prepared your packet for promotion. It is helpful to have citizenship and visa information, but you'll get varying differences of opinion about whether this should routinely be included. We ask for it on the CVs at M.D. Anderson. All of your education should be included. Any additional training, including fellowships or specialty postdoctoral training should also be included. So every CV needs to have this information on it. If it is applicable to you, you should also have your licensing and certification information.

Here's an example: purely fictitious. A CV for a new junior faculty applicant could look something like this. Name: there you put your name and your credentials. This person happens to be an MD and PhD. Present title and affiliation: primary appointment, Instructor; Department of Surgery at the Mass General Hospital. No dual or joint appointments. Citizenship: this person happens to be a permanent US resident. Home address: fictitious. Office address: equally fictitious. But here you want to put down your education. Any degree granting education: the year, the name of the degree, the year and the institution for all advanced degrees. And any post graduate training, including someone's lab, if you have trained in a very prominent laboratory. Obviously for this person who's a physician, this person also should put down board certification and/or medical licensure.

What else do you include? Well you put in all of your prior experience, including academic appointments, administrative roles, consulting activities, military or public health service. All research: the first thing you list, are your grants and/or contracts, particularly those that are bringing in lots of money. You list all the protocols. This is particularly important on the clinical side. If you happen to hold patents, or have patents pending, you should list those. If you have done things of service on a research scale such as being a grant reviewer or served on a NIH study section, this is also very positive. You need to include all of those things. And most importantly, your scholarly activity has to be included. First are your publications. Publications should always include abstracts. Secondly, grants and contracts: any scholarly activity related to them. Presentations such as the one I'm doing right now. Invited lectureships. Awards for educational efforts. If you've gotten teaching awards: if you're the best teacher or the best fellowship director. Teaching should list both formal and informal positions.

Now here's some examples from my own CV. The first top of this is publications. And you'll notice, it says "published and accepted in refereed journals." That is by far the most important publications to list. If you have other kinds of publications, they should follow after. The second part of this slide shows you abstracts. And you notice under the term "abstracts," it says "selected." In most institutions, the only abstracts that are important are those that have been recently accepted and presented. Actually be careful about this because you don't want to list a lot of abstracts and no publications. That could be something that would hurt you. So you include only published or accepted articles: not articles that have been submitted; not articles that are in preparation. Start with peer reviewed, then any invited articles, then your abstracts, book chapters - and I'll say a little bit more about this for junior faculty - books that you've written, and anything else. And they should be in that sequence because that's the priority in which the reviewers will look at them. And then if you're an editor or if you have any other review activities such as reviewing manuscripts for journals in your field.

Teaching: what sets us apart in academia is doing education. So first highlight what you're doing inside your current institution. Start with formal courses: these are courses that students register for and get credits for. Then any supervisory work that you're doing: for example, if you have training programs for allied health professionals and you're a supervisory directory of that, or if you're overseeing someone's postgraduate work, list that. Then look at your teaching outside the institution. Here's where you can put down organization, national or international conferences. You can put down presentations at national and international meetings: invited presentations, lectureships and visiting professorships, and any other kind of presentation or conference including local, state and regional. The last thing is to include your professional memberships and activities. This is a gauge of how well you are recognized in your field. So start with membership in international and national organizations, then list your state and regional, and then your local. Well, that's a pretty hefty list of what to put on your CV.

Now let me tell you what you never put on your CV. You never put your date of birth. You never put your marital status. You never put your ethnicity. You never include family data. You never put in any unnecessary or redundant data. That's known as CV padding and it's very severely frowned on. And be very careful. There have been recent publications and some of the scholarly literature about fabricated CVs. Do not write anything that's not true. No matter how much you wish that you had earned a Nobel Prize, if it's not true don't put it there.

So how can a CV help you? Well, it's a record. It's a record of your achievements. Now I grant you, it's a pain in the neck to keep it currently. But here's tip: update it at least annually. Most institutions require some sort of a performance review or some sort of a record of what you've been doing for the past year. So that's a good signal for you to update your CV. It's also invaluable. Some of us who've been around the game for awhile will tell you that you simply forget. And if you haven't made a record of it, then it's very hard to get credit for it, because when this is being reviewed in most places, it's only the paper that gets reviewed. You don't get a chance to be there in person. It permits you to brag legitimately.

I was honored this past summer with a very important international award in my field. I want people to know about that, so I put that on my CV and others then will know about it as they review my performance. It should stand alone. If you've done this right, people can just read your CV and have a very good feeling for who you are and what you've been doing and what you've accomplished. It should be instantly available. You never know when that phone call will come that says, "We're considering you for an important activity and we need to have your CV." So if you haven't done anything to your CV for 2 or 3 years, even though people know that you've been active in your field and you've been doing some good research, it's going to cause some pain, because at that moment you're going to have to stop and update it. Otherwise, the opportunity may pass you by.

So how can they hurt you? Well, people pay attention to what CVs look like. So if you carelessly prepare your CV, meaning it's sloppy in its appearance, or you haven't organized it - and the format that I'm suggesting to you is a very nice way to organize it - it's not the only way. But it is a nice way to do it. Too much or even worse, too little data are included. It is not kept current. That can hurt you more than anything else. You use a CV when a resume is what you're supposed to prepare. That can be a big penalty. If you really are in a situation when people say, "We want a short bio because we want to introduce you" or "We just need the essential facts," don't bore people by sending them your 95 page CV. Send a resume, and you should know the difference. A resume will hurt you significantly if it's not truthful. Do not fabricate anything on your CV: or if it's not in the required format for the position or for the promotion that you're looking for. That's why we started this by saying, "Find out what your institution requires and make sure you do it that way" or "Find out what the new institution requires and do it that way." And once you have the data in place, it's pretty easy to reformat it.

Now the hardest thing to deal with is the format -- the CV that can hurt you can be a truthful CV, but it reflects poor choices. And I want to talk a little bit about that. If you're going to have an academic career, the goal of academia is promotion and tenure. What do these mean? Well, to be promoted, everywhere I've been - and I've been in 6 different academic institutions - you're expected to be expert in something. You're going to be rewarded for your innovation and creativity. So you should think about how you can develop a unique niche for yourself, how you can become necessary -- that is the discipline can't go forward, or the activities in your institution can not go forward - without your participation, or you are an ultimate authority in a particular field. These are just examples of how you can become unique, but you should be thinking about this as you begin your careers. How can you differentiate yourself from all the other assistant professors who are looking to get promoted?

You should demonstrate independence. As a researcher, this is typically measured as having an RO1. That's a very strong fore plus for your CV if that's what you've done. But you don't need to have RO1s. In today's world, there's a lot more, SPORES and other kinds of collaborative efforts going on. But the goal of it is to show that you are being able to follow your own interests and getting funded and being supported for ideas that are yours uniquely.

If you're a clinician and you wish to be promoted, this can be gauged in other ways as well. For example, you're invited to speak because you're the ultimate authority in your field. You've developed the newest procedure or you have led the clinical study on a new drug breakthrough. Patient referrals and consultations can be the way that you might show independence. Or perhaps you're the director of THE residency or fellowship program in your practice area and so forth. Think in terms of that what you are bringing uniquely to the table, and you're independent of your prior mentors and of the current department chairs and other leadership in your institution.

Now in contrast, the requirements for tenure are - I'm going to paraphrase this - are basically how are you valuable to the institution? Tenure reflects the institution's wish to keep you at the institution. And so these are in addition to the promotion criteria. Typically, these are gauged by what the organization needs. What skill sets do you bring and how does that reflect favorably on the institution? You can show this by service on key committees. Certainly anyone serving on the Institutional Review Board or Human Subject Protection's Committee, or the Animal Use and Care or important medical staff committees, those all reflect that the institution values your input and sees you as a leader. Innovation for the organization - not just for your own benefit; not just because you are getting known to be THE expert in your field - but it brings something to the institution that is very favorable for their goals as well.

Leadership: if you are a leader, a department chairman, or if you're the person that's asked to chair the committees for the most difficult issues for the institution, such as space management, faculty compensation, how to resolve conflicts or if you're the person that's looked to, to propose new solutions when problems arise, those are all gauges of what the organization needs from you, which is where the decisions around tenure usually are made. Also, collaboration: you have to live the "team" concept. In this case, collaboration is institutional. This is not just in your research field, or not just to deliver medical care, but this is collaboration because you understand what the institution as a whole is trying to achieve, and you are working with the right people to achieve that.

So how do review committees measure each of these CVs and the other papers that come in for appointments or promotion? Well first they look to see what makes you an expert. Typically it's what do your referees say? Think carefully about this as you're going through training, if that's where you are. The people you're now working with are the people who are going to say things about you ultimately. And what they say will have a profound influence on you for the rest of your practice life. So think about it as you're going through your training. You're viewed as an expert if you're asked to come and make presentations: if you're given invited lectureships or professorships. This means that people in your own discipline - in other academic institutions - want to hear from you. If you are asked often to organize national or international symposia, again it reflects that you're a leader and other people are looking to you.

How do you demonstrate that you're independent? Those are the two criteria to remember: the most strong criteria you can give for promotion. If you're going from an assistant professor to associate professor, you're goal should be to be first author of the majority of the papers that you're an author -- any author of. This changes when you go from associate to full professor, where it becomes much more important that you become the second or senior author or last author, demonstrating that you're mentoring the junior faculty. The second gauge of independence is when you publish without your mentors. Since you've already told people earlier in your CV where you trained, people in your same field know your mentors. They know who they are and when they see your mentor's name with you on every single paper that's published - whether you're first author or not - that is a strike against you in terms of whether you're independent. So one of your goals as you begin your career, is to figure out how to separate from your mentor: particularly if you both are still in the same institution. Track record of success in grant funding: we've already talked about the RO1 game. But any kind of successful funding activities will be very helpful in demonstrating independence: that your ideas are being rewarded.

What else? Well for tenure, the review committees are looking at institutional service, committee chairs, committee membership, have you been asked to develop new programs, or have you volunteered to develop new programs and services? Are you program leaders - for example - in education or if you're a clinician in the operational side and so forth.

What are the measures of leadership? Well obviously if you're a department chairman or a key committee chair, that's a very good gauge of that. This is where your organization of institutional conferences will come to play as well. And innovation: if you're the person leading the performance improvement efforts - for example - or other kinds of initiatives for your institution, this will help you. And collaboration: in many of our organizations today this is even between institutions. You're asked to participate to accomplish things that go even beyond your institution. So the choices that you make can either enhance or destroy your CV.

So how can you enhance it? Well, you keep writing grants. And you write them over and over and over again, till you're sick of it, but if you're a researcher that's the coin of the realm. So write the grants. Don't be discouraged if you don't get funded: keep writing them. Then when you've done your research, write the abstract and write lots of abstracts, if you can: and as many as possible, write the complete paper that the abstract represents. That's probably for me the hardest thing. Select key committees for service. It's very easy to get trapped into service for service sake. But if you're asked to serve on the IRB or on key clinical committees or on committees where cutting edge issues in the field or in your institution are being decided, those are key committees. And those are good places for service. Ordinarily an assistant professor is not invited to many of these committees because we look to the more senior people to provide the service. But occasionally, you get invited. And so think about it and if you can, answer yes. Teach: I just said earlier what sets academia apart from all other kinds of employment is that we teach. And when you teach, be the best: revise the curriculum, introduce new methods of teaching, try always to differentiate yourself, look to be unique, to be expert.

Well in contrast, there are choices you can make that can hurt you. Junior faculty - and this can sometimes be gender biased as well - are asked to serve on too many committees. And most of us Type-A types have a hard time saying "no" when someone asks us to do something. Don't do service for services sake. That can really hurt you, because you won't have time to write the grants. You won't have time to complete those abstracts into publications. It becomes a time drain not just in at work, but it can also be a time drain into your personal time. Avoid the chapter trap: the chapter trap is when a senior person in your organization is asked to write a chapter and it's very easy - and I'm guilty of this as well - to turn to one of the more junior people and say "Would you like to write this chapter with me?"

Well that sounds like a really good deal, but what are chapters? Chapters are reviews of already existing information. You don't have a chance to develop any new ideas. You don't have any way to become innovative. So my strong advice to junior faculty is, until you have tenure, try to avoid getting into the business of writing chapters. Now 1 or 2 may be okay, but think about it. It's taking time away from you writing about your own ideas, about you getting credit to differentiate yourself, it may cause you to sacrifice the promotion that you're looking for. So think about the chapter trap and try very hard to minimize that part of your CV.

I don't know of any academic institution in the last few years that hasn't had a huge demand for clinical service. If you're a physician, this is going to be a challenge for you. Try very hard to always have time to do the rest of what you do, that supports your promotion. And interestingly enough, failing to accept invitations to speak or organize conferences can also be a choice that will hurt you down the line. When you start being invited to speak at national conferences, and when you're even more importantly asked to organize important conferences, it's a way of showing that your peers view you as being a leader. They view you as being expert and you have innovated to such a degree that your ideas are very important. If you don't do those things, then the rest of your CV better be very, very strong, because one of the things that really helps you here is to be known nationally. And if you don't teach at all, I guess I would ask you, "Why are you in an academic institution?" Because that's what makes us academic is doing teaching at all levels.

So here's a few tips I'll leave you with. Plan your career with milestones in mind. You have to know in each institution, what does it take to get to the next step? What is the time frame that's expected? And what specifically will help you to get there? So plan your career. Don't just let it happen to you. Frequently review your CV. And look at your accomplishments relative to the needs of that institution in terms of your promotion. If you're off on a tangent, then don't expect the institution to rescue you. You're going to have to find a way to get back on track yourself. Keep your CV updated as significant events occur. And here's something I would advise every junior faculty to do, find a senior faculty mentor who has been successful in that institution and have that person critique your CV and advise you - not just on what's on your CV - but what should you be doing to make your CV reflect the accomplishments that you have? My last tip for you is to pay attention to opportunities. It's been my experience that it's just at the time when you have absolutely no time to spare, you're at your most busy, that the best opportunity comes along. And what you need to do is to recognize that opportunity and be sure when the best opportunity comes, that you always say "yes". And that means you've got to pay close attention to all the other ones for which you should say "no" appropriately. Thank you.