You are reading through a job description, which starts with the following: “We are seeking an accomplished researcher to lead our transgenic mouse program.” You think this job is perfect for you! Your research project uses a transgenic mouse model, and for the past two years you’ve been Chair of your institute’s student led Career Symposium. You include in your resume the research you did in transgenic mouse lines, add a one-line bullet “Chair: Career Symposium Committee,” and send it in with your cover letter. Done. Now you just have to wait for them to call you!
When employers advertise an open position, they are trying to find someone that can produce results and match their needs. While you were correct to add your committee experience to your resume, simply listing it is not enough. Your resume needs to describe, in words, the results of your work as leader, and how you achieved them. So how do you do that? Start by simply writing, on a piece of paper, what you did as the committee chair. Use active phrases that describe what you did and what you accomplished. Here are some examples:
- Met weekly with other committee members to identify topics of interest and produced 9 seminars during a 12-month period
- Led meetings, set agendas, and ensured task completion
- Led a team of 15 committee members and distributed people to 3 teams based on skills and expertise
- Contacted potential speakers, providing details about your committee and the goals of the Career Symposium series
- Coordinated travel arrangements for speakers, created itinerary, and confirmed travel & hotel arrangements
- Managed finances to ensure the series stays on budget by tracking costs for receptions, honorariums, travel expenses, and processed reimbursements
- Marketed seminars to NIH community, using email, websites and other social media and achieved average attendance of 150 people per seminar
Now you have a detailed description of your leadership and the results of your work on the committee. The next step is to read through the job description again, paying attention to where there are examples of the requirements or duties of the position. As you re-read the description, you see the following sentence: “Successful applicants will be able to lead a small group, create timelines, communicate priorities, and manage staff to ensure deadlines are met.” The final step is to condense the list above into two or three short, active, bullet points that describe how your experience leading the committee matches what they want. (Editor’s note: Give it a try by writing your version of the bullet points in the comment section of this blog). This speaks directly to how you meet the position’s requirements, and is much more informative than listing “Chair: Career Symposium Committee.”
You can learn much more about career options in industry, and how to build your resume and cover letter to be competitive for these positions at the “Industry Careers Overview” seminar on January 24th, in Building 50 Room 1227 (also videocast at videocast.nih.gov). Click here to register.