Dear Diary, I mean CV

Your CV should list all the activities your current or future employer finds interesting. As you cannot know what – and why – is important for them, please record all your activities irrespective of how important you think they are.
Dear Diary, I mean CV
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I’m writing a short essay for the FEBS Networks. I insert that line into my CV immediately, so that I do not forget it. Why? It is not a peer-reviewed paper, it is not even a conference abstract, so why should I care?

You put into your CV things that someone else cares about, mainly your current and future employers.

My CV as a PhD student had some personal data, education, papers, and conferences. The standard stuff. I never included hobbies, albeit now I prefer to work with students with whom I have a shared interest. Makes the years we are going to work together more enjoyable. So, hobbies should have been included.

Conferences were already split between international and domestic (Hungarian) ones, and talks and posters were listed separately. I do not think that posters are worth less than a talk (posters are more work, so I like them much less), and I definitely do not think that a national conference is less interesting than an international one. But employers beg to differ. For my Hungarian employers, at least back in the early 2000s, a lecture at an international conference was more important than a poster at a Hungarian meeting.

Now my CV has information on positions (my employer changed quite a few times, while my desk has not moved an inch); education; international visits and fellowships; funding ID; awards and honors; conference organization; membership in committees; teaching activities; media appearance; science communication; reviewing for journals and grant agencies. The publication list is divided into journal articles, book chapters, textbooks, popular science books, popular science articles in print, and conferences. In my Hungarian CV, international conferences and Hungarian ones are still listed separately. Sometimes I also list all the science blog entries, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, etc. that I have done over the years. I still do not list my hobbies. Odd.

You should record pretty much everything you do as a scientist/educator. You might not know what your current or next employers want to know about you, what is important for them.

This is the key: it is important for them. It might not be that important to you, but for them it is. Some of it is understandable, and some of it is more obscure.

For example, my university asks us to list talks or other science-related activities we do with high schoolers. Universities recruit their future students among the high schoolers, so lectures given by their staff to this age group show that they are active in recruitment. You might not actively beg them to enroll in your program, but if they like what you do, they might consider it or recommend your program to someone they know who is interested. Also, as an “insider” (most high schoolers know relatively little about university life and studies) you can even give them good advice about your university in general. Your head of the institute, dean, or whoever, will be happy that they can say that university staff is busy recruiting new students.

Appearing in the news – and in a small country like Hungary that could very well mean the big news outlets, national radio, or TV – is also important for your institute, even if you think it is not important for you. Your experiment won’t become any quicker after an interview, reviewers won’t accept your manuscript more (or less), and you cannot expect to get a better grant. But your institute likes good press. For most of us, our workplace is publicly funded, and media appearances can strengthen the feeling that investing money into science is worthwhile.

You gave a talk at an institute seminar. You were just there to do some work with one of their staff and it is common to ask visitors to give a talk. You selected one of the usual presentations (the one titled EverythingImportantInTheWorld-AndIDidIt.pptx), changed the date and location, and maybe checked that your latest paper appears in it somewhere. You gave the talk. Now you put that fact into your CV. For you, it might not be as important as being the invited speaker at the Biannual Big Meeting of Your Field, but it might be important for your current or future employer (see, there is a pattern here). When the Minister of Education of another country visits your university (or visits just your country’s minister of education, but there are some rectors present at the customary speeches), 'high-ups' like to tell them that our staff has many connections with their country (and that there should be even more connections). So, there will be an email from the administration asking you to list all connections you have with that other country (and please do it by yesterday). If you have it on your record, you can easily pull that information out. Of course, the administration could also obtain it from your CV, but they are too busy thinking up new ways to burden you.

The whole issue came up during a winter school for PhD students. For a report on a European project (This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 955708.) we are required to list all talks, events, pitch speeches, flyers, policy recommendations, media appearances, retweets, likes, etc. And we also had to list the number of people we reach through these activities. Yikes! To be honest, so far I had not been recording the number of people listening to my conference talks, or the class sizes when I give a presentation in a high school. There might be limits on the details one can give on their activities. My CV should not be a detailed autobiography volume XVIII to XLVI, but it should still be reasonably complete on my professional activities.

And by the way, please hit the like button! I then can report the number of likes, and you can report the fact that you regularly read the FEBS Network 😉


Photo by Thomas Franke on Unsplash 

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