Number One Approach for Transforming Your CV into a Resume: Show Don’t Tell

A young white woman sits behind a desk with her head in her palm. She appears to be a dejected job seeker wearing a suit and sitting behind a computer.

Anton Chekov had a famous mantra that you should keep in mind while transforming your academic CV into an impactful resume: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Remembering the “show don’t tell” mnemonic as you are transforming your CV into a concise, visually appealing two-page resume will help you land the job.

According to Google Trends, the holidays are a key time when people conduct searches like “CV to resume” and “leaving academia,” so here’s our advice to save you from falling down the Google rabbit hole while eating Thanksgiving leftovers.


Tip 1: Use a resume template. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are beautifully designed resume templates on Canva, Etsy, and elsewhere that will show off your professional style and organization. Choose one that has numerous sections, such as skills, highlights, accomplishments, and hobbies.  

Instead of a list of your entire academic accomplishments, your resume needs to describe work highlights using an active voice and emphasizing what value you brought to each of your positions (listed in reverse-chronological order). The importance of a crisp, visual appearance and an easily skimmable format cannot be overstated (studies show that your resume will likely be skimmed in six or seven seconds, so make it pop!).


Tip 2: Include your personal website and LinkedIn page (if not also Twitter or Github, if you have those in professional shape). Building a website without code has never been easier with numerous options to choose from. And creating a LinkedIn page with active posts, recommendations and endorsements from your colleagues, and a robust network can be accomplished fairly quickly by spending a few minutes a day on it.

Basically you need these tools to demonstrate that you are a professional in the modern era and not the academic stereotype of an ivory-tower egghead conducting obscure research surrounded by a moat and living like a hermit. Anticipating strongly held stereotypes some industry folks have of academics and highlighting your professional brand will help shed that image.


Tip 3: Emphasize your accomplishments, not job duties. Paint a picture by detailing what expertise you demonstrated, how many students and classes you taught, how many TAs you supervised, and even a summary of your course evaluation metrics.

Narrate what you accomplished and how it improved your team, workflow, business outcomes, budget, or department. In industry speak: What was your value-add? Did you save the department money? Did you exceed goals? How many people did you impact?


Tip 4: Less is more; action trumps description. Keep the Coco Chanel mantra “less is more” in mind (don’t wear the necklace AND the scarf, as she was known to have advised). Use action words (e.g., spearheaded, designed, generated, analyzed) and don’t repeat the same ones. Keep some sentences short.

Your bullets under each job should be kept to approximately five to seven. Spell out what skills it took to publish, teach, organize conference panels, and do committee work. Underscore the unique value or quantifiable benefit you contributed to each.


Lastly, but perhaps just as significantly, as an academic you may feel some type of way about limiting your resume to two pages and tossing aside the impressive years of work that it took to fill your thousand-line CV. Telling is not inherently less valuable than showing, except in the context of getting a non-academic job via a resume! (Or writing like Chekov.)  

Changing your mindset to “show” from “tell” is an adjustment but not an erasure of your academic achievements. Reinventing your talents and accomplishments into a sleek, action-packed, Chanel-approved two-page resume will help you show employers that you bring smart, professional savvy to a wide array of fields. And you’re no hermit.

Ready to turn your CV into a resume?