When I was nearing the end of my graduate degree, I visited the career center on campus.
Yes, the career center, which many PhD students don’t use. I heard that there was a particular individual at the career center who had experience improving the resumes of PhD students.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the service, but I knew I wanted a resume that I could use outside of academia. My resume certainly improved, and I highly recommend going to your career center, but because I didn’t have a particular job in mind, my resume’s content was probably too generic. It was really a much better looking record of my past, and it looked a lot more professional. At the time I didn’t realize that I wasn’t done with my resume and that it needed to be more concise and specific to the job of interest.
Fast forward some six or so months later, and I was at another graduate program-a Master’s program in International Science and Technology Policy. I strategically applied to a couple of Master’s degree programs while I was finishing my PhD because I wasn’t sure I would find a job right away. Also, I thought the program was a good fit for me at the time, but I realized later that it really only focused on space policy.
Anyway, I visited that university’s career center and got another look at my resume, which, at the time, I thought was amazing.
It got edited and changed quite a lot.
The career center counselor really focused on shortening my resume and focusing on what was important. My PhD degree wasn’t seen as that important and was put near the end of my resume.
I just spent the almost seven years working towards earning a PhD and it was put at the end of my resume-I was shocked.
Again, my resume improved quite a lot in appearance and was shortened quite a bit (2 pages), but it really wasn’t written for a particular job position.
Fast forward some three months later and I was at my first place of employment-the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA). The resume revamp from my first career center appointment was apparently not too long or generic, but I also think it helped that the organization focuses on hiring PhDs with the intent on training them for employment.
After almost five years at CNA I transitioned into another company, Avalere, which focused on providing advisory services to improve civilian health care. Before applying to this position, I wanted another review of my resume because I had worked in a completely different sector for almost 5 years and I was making a career transition. I found out that if you are a part of an alumni association you can get free resume reviews.
The process at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor took about two weeks. I got some great feedback on how to write my resume to specifically fit the job description. My resume for this opportunity really focused on my science degree and my experience conducting health care policy research at CNA. Even though I only spent a year at CNA conducting this kind of research it didn’t make sense for me to write about the other four years of work because the projects were so unrelated to what was described in the job posting.
That was hard. It’s hard to spend a lot of time doing something and then to only focus on what appeals to the job you are applying for. I was proud of my accomplishments and it didn’t seem fair to leave them out, but I had learned over time that people look at your resume for 5-10 seconds, and if something doesn’t fit then it’s trashed.
More recently, I found a couple of coupons for resume writing services. I was really hoping to get some help writing a resume for usajobs.gov because I wanted a position at the FDA or NIH.
When you send your resume to a company, you can list job descriptions and/or job titles to help customize your resume. What were my results? Well, one company sent my resume back with spelling errors and silly formatting changes (e.g., remove a bullet and place text into above bullet description). They used the thesaurus a lot, but came up with words that I never even heard of (e.g., strong-minded instead of determined). I tried another company and I loved their formatting, word changes, and summary description-probably the most professional looking resume I’ve ever had. I’d recommend checking reviews for any company you are thinking of using for resume writing services.
Do I have my dream job yet? I think I’m getting closer and having a strong resume definitely helps. My yearly alumni association membership cost me around $150, which provides you more than just resume writing services, but that’s all I used it for. The resume writing services cost about 70-80 dollars with the coupon, but normally the price is $150 or more. If you upload your resume to monster jobs they will provide a free critique, which I found very useful.