Academic jobs are incredibly specialist and in high demand. Job seekers and recent PhD graduates can dramatically improve their current CV and credentials by shining a big, bright light on their major achievements.
This is how to infuse your CV with valuable achievements and impress any reader.
Why employers care about your achievements
Your CV tells potential employers who you are and what you do. It also helps the reader decide whether you’ll be a good fit for a role and what you could bring to the team that no one else will.
Achievements demonstrate the impact you’ve made throughout your career in education, research and employment, and also show how you’ve used and developed your skills and qualifications. This shows you’re committed to learning, adapting and progressing, which is attractive to employers in any field.
Which achievements make the biggest impact?
The most meaningful achievements you can list on your CV will demonstrate growth and positive change. This can include:
- Increasing revenue
- Making financial savings
- Saving time
- Improving efficiency
- Measurable growth
- Meeting goals and targets
Academic achievement examples:
Academic job seekers should showcase specific achievements that set them apart from their peers and demonstrate their most attractive skills. These can be similar to the core achievements listed above, with a few academia-specific variations:
- Devising and developing new research methods = you’re progressive and inventive.
- Improving efficiency within your department = you can make the most of timescales and budgets, and even improve them!
- Student satisfaction and retention data = you can make an impact on attendance and engagement.
- Funding awarded = your work is valuable and needed in your field.
- Impact of completed research = your work has made a difference to your field.
- Awards from the university, school, or faculty = your work is valuable to your institution.
Where to list them
Achievements should be listed with the relevant job role, underneath your main responsibilities. This will help the reader understand the context, as well as the ‘when’ and the ‘why’.
2-3 will be enough for each role. If there are more achievements to mention, you might need to prioritise the most relevant and interesting. You can edit later if you’re running out of space.
Which achievements should you avoid?
In many industries, internal awards and promotions are generally ‘weaker’ achievements, because they don’t make contextual sense to a new employer. If your recent promotion was awarded because you surpassed all targets, the employer or recruiter would much rather hear about the targets themselves and how you exceeded them.
In academia, awards can illustrate how valuable your contribution has been to the university. However, any personal accolades or more light-hearted awards from peers (e.g. The ‘Always Last To Leave the Lab’ Award) should be left out of your final draft.
Make sure your achievements are tangible
Corporate employers aren’t the only ones that like to see numbers and concrete statistics – they matter to universities and academic institutions too. They still have budgets and resources to manage, after all.
The most powerful achievements can be backed up with facts and numbers. The reader will be able to clearly see the impact you made, whether it’s in currency, time, a percentage, or numbers of students.
Improved student satisfaction by 40% is a lot more illustrative and tangible than Improved student satisfaction.
Strong academic candidates list their skills, qualifications, experience, and achievements. These key milestones help recruiters positively compare you to other candidates, improve your chances of landing a job at a top university, and give you access to dream studies and research projects. Just a few bullet points can make the difference.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV