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CVs and Resumes for Fellowships

Submitted on February 2, 2017

The beginning of a new year is a good time to update your curriculum vitae (CV) and resume. As most of you know, the main difference between a CV (from Latin for “course of life”) and a resume (from French for “summary”), is length. Whether you have a CV or resume will depend on your discipline and your professional goals. I will refer to CVs in this article, but the ideas apply to both CVs and resumes. You should have a template version of the document that you keep current and adapt to opportunities as you apply to them. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when you are working on a CV for a fellowship.

Collect examples:

Conventions for CVs vary according to your discipline. Ask faculty members and graduate students if they would be willing to share their CV with you. Pay attention to what they include and exclude, how they organize and format information, and what terms they use. Do not even consider comparing your CV to another person’s CV; that is a dark and unproductive rabbit hole. Use it as an example and then write a note to the person to tell them what you liked about it.

Secondly, CVs and resumes vary according to the organization to which you apply. Find examples from people who have applied to the same organization. A resume for a federal internship application will look very different than a CV for the Inter-American Foundation. Many organizations ask for a very specific document, such as NSF’s biographical sketch. Be sure that you follow both the explicit directions and implicit conventions for the document. You will only become aware of the conventions by reading examples from people who have applied to opportunities to which you would like to apply.

Make the CV/resume part of your argument:

Your fellowship application is an argument (you should fund me). Every single part of your application, including the CV, is part of that argument. The central task of the CV is to convince your readers that you are the best person to do the proposed research or work. When you are revising your CV for a specific fellowship, be sure to pay attention to the review criteria and to demonstrate how things you have done or achieved speak to that criteria. If you integrate the language of the organization and RFP into your CV, you will make the reviewer’s job easier. 

Be specific:

For example: How many people came to that workshop you organized? How much money did the fundraiser generate? What percent of the area was surveyed? What research methods did you use? What software did you use to manage the data?

Only include essentials:

Always remember that your reviewers will spend very little time looking at your CV. So remove whatever is not necessary for the fellowship to which you are applying. For example, when you apply for the Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, it is important to state that you took Latin American Musicology in the first year of graduate school. However, when you apply for the NSF DDIG, you can remove that information and include the fact that you volunteered at a local music museum for a year. Neither one requires that you include your experience in a commercial kitchen (unless, of course, that relates to your research).

Knowing what to include and exclude can be tricky. Dr. Karen Kelsky has an excellent blog post on essentials of a CV here:

Her logic around the CV may be helpful when you revise the document, just remember that her audience is people who are applying to tenure track jobs and not fellowships.

Working on your CV can be a nice way to reflect on the things you have done. Go ahead and open up your template version, add a few things that you did last semester. Then send a few emails to people who have applied to opportunities you would like to apply to this semester and ask if they would be willing to share their materials. That will take you all of ten minutes but will pay off when you are in the middle of an application. Good luck!

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