Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selling Yourself (No, Not THAT)

Laptop Blond

Medical and scientific degrees give a surprising range of career options. My own path courses through academia, but careers in a variety of businesses present other options.

Jobs outside of the ivory tower, and sometimes within it, require different documentation than a faculty position.

A number of documents summarize careers, including our qualifications, experience, and fit with various positions. For faculty, the gold standard is the curriculum vitae followed closely by the NIH biosketch. The business world relies more on resumes and shorter documents that must be focused to the desired position.SummaryThe curriculum vitae or CV is an all-inclusive document. Most institutions of higher learning have a preferred format. Anything can be included on this document; if in doubt, list it. This is one time when less is not more! Your CV should be ready to print at all times. Also, include the print date on your CV so outdated copies can be readily identified. Do not obfuscate on this document; if required, separate peer-reviewed and invited papers and presentation, and make sure your status on grants is clear. Use standard fonts, minimal color, and no pictures. Any of these items may limit scannability of your document!

The NIH biosketch is a bit less complete than the CV, but far more manageable for grant applications or speaker introductions. The format changed recently, adding a  “personal statement” block (ridiculed here) that lets an investigator focus their biosketch on a specific proposal. Keep this document ready-to-go as well, other than customizing the statement section. Be sure and download the latest form and instructions from; you never know when those crazy federal employees will change things up again!

ES FormatAn executive summary supplements a traditional CV. This brief, 1 or 2 page synopsis document, provides a snap-shot of stuff tailored to your current career objective. The summary is always printed in portrait format. Following contact information, the objective statement is a brief (2-3 lines) description of what you wish to do, your top strengths, skills, or talents, and a summary of results that can be expected if you join an organization. Qualifications follow in a short paragraph or a few bullet points. This section in why you can do what you say you will do. The achievements statement is a priority list, tailored for the position you seek, of accomplishments that illustrate your objectives and qualifications. This section should be constructive strategically, not exhaustively  (your CV will do that). Use action words and quantify results when possible:

  • Bad: Profits appeared to improve after my actions.
  • Good: My actions increased profits 25% over 12 months.

The final document, the prospectus, also supplements a traditional CV. This instrument is very focused and limited to a single page printed in landscape format. Contact information and objective statement are similar to those of the executive summary. A profile section is similar to the qualifications statement of the executive summary. The difference is the final section, areas of expertise, which highlights skills, accomplishments, and personal characteristics applicable to the desired position.

Example of an Executive Summary:

ES Example

Example of a Prospectus:

Prosp Example

Providing summary documents appropriate to your job search can highlight relevant accomplishments. Their inclusion may help your new boss find that critical factor that gets you hired.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress. Other materials created by Pascale H. Lane, MD.

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