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Skills Inventory

I'm preparing for an alt-ac workshop for grad students on this campus, and I came across this unpublished blog post from last March when I was in the throes of looking for an alt-ac job.

November 19, 2014

I'm preparing for an alt-ac workshop for grad students on this campus, and I came across this unpublished blog post from last March when I was in the throes of looking for an alt-ac job. It's relevant and useful, and I hope others will find it useful and helpful, too.

One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do (or, more appropriately, am still in the process of doing) is turning my CV (which is adequately epic in length for an aspiring academic but completely inappropriate for any other job) into a Resumé (a painfully brief document that every other job in the world wants from you). Because it’s what I do, I crowdsourced a Google Doc full of annotated resources. But by far the best resource I’ve found is the chapter on this topic from the book So What Are You Going To Do With That?

(If you have access to ebooks through your university library, it will be available. At least, it was for me. And if you have a Mac, like I do, you could do worse than figure out what Command+Shift+4 can do for you. It’s also selling for less than $4 used on Amazon.)

While the Resumé is still a work in process, one of the first things the chapter has you do is “Reimagine Your Past,” listing off all of the jobs, both paying and non-paying ones, academic and not, and then list all of the tasks you were performed as well as the skills that you developed. Once you’ve done that, you look for patterns that emerge in terms of your strongest skills, making sure that you give them the proper names.

I did this long-hand, and it ended up being longer than my academic CV. I have done A LOT, both formally and more informally. But there are some clear skills that I have developed over the years, some that even surprised me.

- Event Planning: My mother ran the swim meets my swim team held twice a year, as well as the weekly meets we competed in over the summer. When the meet involved the younger kids, I would come along to be my mother’s helper, her eyes-and-ears on the ground with the coaches and swimmers. I organized my first event when I was 16, a massive water polo tournament, and during the five next summers I ran swim meets, special events, and fundraisers of all kinds. That carried on into my undergraduate and then graduate experience all the way to today; I have organized a number of international conferences, journal launches, training seminars, more fundraisers, and plenty of events in between.

- Public Speaking: This one didn’t surprise me (my mom used to tell me that I should be a motivational speaker), but I struggled with how to express this. I was on the debate team in high school, and that experience has carried over into my teaching and my conference presentations. This, of course, isn’t a guarantee; just because we teach and give conference presentations doesn’t mean that we’re good at them. But my more recent experience doing webinars shows that I am an effective speaker, and I have evidence that I can point to now as well.

- Strategic Communications: I can write. But I can write for multiple audiences. I can read complex materials and quickly and effectively communicate what the say. I can research. But I can also use a lot of different platforms for my communications. And I am good at figuring out how to reach various specific audiences with those communications. I am adept at SEO (or at least I understand how Google finds stuff online and translating that into writing online). From teaching writing to Freshmen to creating technical documents for software, I can get the message across.

- Leadership: Outside of my year-long stint as Graduate Students’ Association President, I wasn’t sure if I could legitimately think of myself as having “leadership experience.” But, to go back to “event planning,” I was usually the person who came up with the idea and then shepherded it into fruition. Or, I was put in charge of it. I’ve shown foresight in terms of my approach to teaching (thanks CHE for not noticing); a leader, if you will. I wasn’t the first, but I was ahead of the curve. Same thing with using Twitter to be a more connected educator, through the co-creation of #FYCchat.

These are just the less obvious skills that I discovered being a part of a larger pattern. I’ve been doing a lot of these things since I was a teenager. Now that I know what I can do, I need to figure out how to whittle it down to two pages or less.  


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