Saturday, August 26, 2006

CV to resume

Being that a number of jobs I want to apply for are non-academic, I've decided it would probably be best to submit a resume rather than a CV. I figured converting my CV to a resume would be a pretty easy task. I thought wrong. It has taken me longer than expected to convert my CV to a resume and in the process I've realized that a CV is pretty easy to write compared to a resume. A few reasons why...

  1. A CV is simply a list of your accomplishments. You list pretty much everything and anything academic related on it. The more the better. On the other hand, a resume is supposed to be short and sweet and highlight only your best skills and achievements. Picking and choosing is not fun and neither is trying to reword a sentence to include as many skills as possible but still trying to maintain proper sentence structure.
  2. There is really no creativity in a CV, as is evident by the number of boring CVs I've come across. Now I know they aren't supposed to be flashy but at least some nice formatting instead of just simple lists in Times New Roman would be nice. Resumes are also not supposed to be flashy but you do have to format it in such a way as to catch the reader's eye and make it easy to read and concise.
  3. In a CV you usually don't list skills or need to use descriptive words or so called 'power words' when talking about your achievements. Just a simple list will suffice. In a resume you have to list your key strengths but not all of them, just a select few preferably related to the job you are applying for. Therefore, you have to be pretty creative in order to squeeze as many power words into only a few sentences.
  4. In a resume, simply stating you have a PhD (or a MSc or a BSc, for that matter) is not enough. You have to describe your skills and knowledge gained during your PhD. Sure it looks nice on your resume to state that you have a PhD but since PhD experiences can be so variable, simply stating you have a PhD really doesn't mean much when the person hiring is trying to determine whether you will be an asset to their company. Now this would probably not be necessary if you have work experience besides your PhD but I don't and neither do most new or soon to be graduates.
Reorganizing my CV into a resume was a good learning experience though. It made me think, "what have I accomplished during these last many years besides the soon to be title of PhD?". It made me put into words what skills, knowledge, and accomplishments I have gained from my PhD. However, it was kind of sad going from my nine page CV to my two page resume. I almost shed a little tear when I deleted all my publications, meeting presentations, and scholarships and replaced them with a few lines simply stating the number of presentations and publications and the fact that I received some scholarships. What is considered probably the most important entry on your CV behind your education has now been reduced to four lines on my resume. If it helps me get a job though, I'm all for it. One plus to making my CV into a resume - now at least I can list all those skills I gained from all the non-grad student or non-research related crap my supervisor has gotten me to do.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Here's my question...

What do you do if your supervisor edits a chapter in your thesis in such a way that you don't agree with? Do you put it back to how you originally had it or suck it up and do it his way even though it really doesn't make any sense?

The specific problem here is a section in my introduction which has an accompanying figure. He thinks that whole section should be taken out of the text of the intro and put in the figure legend, thus making my figure legend for that one figure a page and a half long. Plus the figure has two parts - A and B. You can't discuss A without referring to B and then back to A. So my lengthy text in my figure legend goes A) blah, blah, blah (for a page) then refers to B for a few sentences, then goes back to A. Then there is about half a page on B itself because it requires more of an explanation than what is in A but doesn't fit with the flow of the text for A. To me this whole page and a half figure legend just seems idiotic. Figure legends are not meant to be a page and a half let alone include info that should be in the intro text itself. I know my supervisor will be adamant about keeping it this way because he thinks including that info within the text of the intro will bore people. I think putting it in the figure legend will make me look like an idiot who doesn't understand the point of a figure legend. So, should I suck it up and have my committee wonder why I did it that way or fight with my supervisor on this?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Warning... supervisor rant ahead

Things have been going fairly well with my supervisor for the past while until now. I knew it had to be short lived. It started last week when he left me high and dry 45 minutes before a conference call with collaborators of ours. My supervisor and them are going to carry on my project, which is a nice compliment that my research is worthwhile to continue pursuing especially since my project started as pretty much a shot in the dark. Granted I know the most about my project but I'm really not sure the direction my supervisor wants to go with it so I was quite pissed off that he left me to carry our side of the call. Oh well, it went fairly well I think. Of course my supervisor wanted a recap of the phone meeting so I spent an hour typing out an email to him about it. I purposely only sent the email to him because although I didn't bash our collaborators or anything I did mention that some of the experiments they suggested I didn't agree with or didn't think they were necessary. Obviously if I didn't tell them that on the phone I wouldn't want them to read it in an email. Well guess what? My supervisor responded to my long email and cc'd it to our collaborator and her post doc. Sadly, I had a feeling he would do this so I did try to word things politely but still! The man has no email etiquette. This is similar to the time I sent him an email asking for the specifics of how an experiment was done since it was done by another lab. He proceeded to forward that email to the people who had done the experiment. Normally that would be fine but it wasn't a "hey can you answer these questions for her email". Instead he mentioned how I should contact these people and ask them these specific questions and how he cc'd them on this email so they are expecting my email. It was like I was 5 years old and afraid to talk to someone so I needed him to ease me into it. No, I just didn't know their email addresses!

In the last week or so I've sent my supervisor my intro and the revisions on two chapters. The ultimate plan is to publish three of the chapters from my thesis. This wasn't done earlier in my program due to the whole supervisor leaving issue and potentially getting kicked out of our lab so I focused on getting my experiments done and not publishing my results. Now, however, I really want and need those publications. I sent my supervisor an email saying we should really get on this and here's what I'm thinking for where to submit the manuscripts, etc., etc. I get an email back saying how he's busy and has other things to do and can't focus on my stuff 100%. Ok I understand that but the fact that the last thing he sent to me was almost two weeks ago I'm guessing he hasn't been working on my stuff much since then. Also, one of my chapters has been written since December and has pretty much just been sitting there with a few minor revisions here and there. My supervisor keeps saying he wants to have another look at it but hasn't. Dear lord! Now I know why so many former grad students in my lab left without publishing.

To top it off, I've been pushing to defend before the fall deadline so I don't have to pay tuition. My supervisor said he wanted to see my intro first before making a decision on a date. I sent him my intro a day after that conversation. I also told him that perhaps we should at least set up the external examiner since that has to be done quite some time before the defense. Has there been any more mention of this? Oh no. And by now there is pretty much no way I'm going to make the fall deadline so I'll have to pay tuition.

I've been extremely patient with him throughout the whole writing process and haven't really bugged him about getting revisions back to me. I even left him alone for the whole time he was writing a grant. At one point he was sitting on three chapters of mine but did I say a thing? No. Now with being so close to the end I just want to get done and not have this drag on forever.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Alternative Careers in Science

As is evident by my previous posts, I've all but decided that I don't want to go the academic route. The reasons for which are numerous so I won't bore you with that. Trying to decide what career path I would like to pursue outside academia, however, has been quite nerve racking. I really don't have anyone to turn to for advice who isn't an academic and most academics and even other grad students look at you like you've gone crazy when you mention that isn't the career path for you.

In a weird twist of fate, the other day while looking for some book or journal article for my thesis on the university's library website I came across a book called Alternative Careers in Science. I figured I may as well have a look at it since it seemed like the help I was looking for. It was actually already checked out so I had to request it and the other poor person looking for something other than academia had to return it. Funny thing was, when I went to pick up the book the librarian said that she is also trying to leave the ivory tower. That lead to a discussion of which would be better - joining Circ du Soleil or becoming a WestJet flight attendant. It was nice to hear I'm not alone in my quest.

Anyways, the reason I bring up this book is because I highly recommend it. I've only read a chapter and a half so far and skimmed through the rest of the book but so far this book is excellent. Each chapter is written by a different person who chose a different career path outside of academia. It goes into how they ended up there, why, and what their job is like, among other things. The little I've read so far has been very helpful. And it's nice to know that I'm not alone in all my confusion over what to do next and my guilt of not going the academic route. One of my favorite lines I came across when skimming the book was in the chapter written by Genevieve Haddad when she was talking about her decision to not go into academia and getting flack from everyone around her. She says, "[Everyone] thought I was crazy at best, a traitor at worst, for wanting something different... Why would I want to do anything else? It must be because I was a woman and not really serious about science". Yep, that about sums up my experience so far when telling people my choice of finding something outside academia.

So if you are confused like me and want something outside the Ivory Tower I highly recommend checking out this book. And good luck in your quest! I'm right there with you.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Alright science experts, I need your help. I think the thesis writing has caused me to slowly lose brain cells. Where do you insert a reference if the whole paragraph you are writing is taken from one source? Do you put it where you first mention information from that source (so at the end of the first sentence of the paragraph) or at the end of the last sentence of the paragraph? I've Googled and so far haven't found the answer. Help!

Thesis writing = crappy summer

I've realized, now that it's August, that I really haven't done anything this summer. No real vacations, sure there was the odd weekend away here or there but those were mainly to visit families, go to weddings, that sort of thing. I didn't plan any vacations or anything for the summer since I knew I would be busy writing and at first that was fine with me since I did have a vacation at the end of April. Now that summer is coming to an end I'm thinking I maybe should have enjoyed some of the nice weather instead of sitting at my computer complaining how hot it was outside. I did think of working outside, which I did for a few days, but I would always been going back inside to get some paper or some book. Then the wind would pick up and things would blow around. Or the sun would be shining too brightly to really be able to see what was on my laptop screen.

Today someone mentions to me how it's a good thing there's a long weekend coming up and I'm thinking, "When?". How sad. Half the time I don't even know what day of the week it is. Oh well, I'm kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I've finished all my paper chapters with my results and data and now I'm on to the intro. It sounds backwards, doing the intro first, but it works for me. Plus, I got a chapter back from my supervisor today, too bad there was no attachment with the email. So, really I guess I didn't get a chapter. Whatever, I still have the intro to do so it's not like I'm at a loss for something to do.