The Curriculum Vitae, or CV is one of the most important documents you will develop during your time in graduate school. A Latin term that translates to the “course of [one’s] life,” this document reflects your academic journey, the experience you’ve accumulated along the way, and what you have to offer future institutional employers.

But is a CV something you only write once? How can you make sure it’s the best possible reflection of your expertise? What are some steps to begin taking, even when you think you won’t need a CV anytime soon? Today’s article will offer some answers to those questions, as you begin crafting this academic narrative.

Don’t Stop at One Draft:

Your CV is something that should undergo multiple iterations as you progress through grad school. Whether it’s updating your sections on fellowships and grants, adding a new conference, or simply giving it a fresh review once in a while, it’s important that this doesn’t become a static document. So, make sure it’s always updated to reflect your latest experience and qualifications. Then, whenever a new opportunity comes your way, your materials are always ready and you’re not scrambling to get everything in order.

And if you haven’t put together an official CV yet, then wherever you are in your graduate journey, go ahead and begin drafting that document. Even if it doesn’t end up being a draft you ever use, the process of going through your experiences and putting it together will help to grow your confidence as you assemble later versions for actual job applications. It can also be helpful at this stage to go ahead and begin keeping two versions of your CV: a longer one for applications, and a shorter form for websites, professional social media, and online forms.

Get Another Pair of Eyes

Don’t be the only person who’s ever seen your CV. Just like with any other academic document, it’s important to gain the feedback and insight of others. Perhaps you have peers with experience in the job field, a faculty member who’s willing to offer input, or you book an appointment with the Graduate Writing Center, but wherever you can, make sure that you take the time to seek out as much assistance as possible while you are refining this document.

Additionally, remember that a CV doesn’t look the same in every discipline, since different fields have different priorities. So, if you’re a STEM student, perhaps don’t model your CV off of an English grad’s, and vice versa. Find relevant documents from your field and use these to form an accurate assessment of what you need to prioritize. And of course, check out the Graduate Pathways to Success workshop on CVs here; you’ll find this page also includes sample CVs from across various disciplines, so take advantage of these available resources.

Bring Your Best Work

Perhaps most importantly, make sure to bring your best writing to the table. When you think of a CV, it can be easy to label it as something which requires more effort for organization than writing. However, it’s still one of the central documents that potential employers will use to gain an impression of you. As such, avoiding proofreading errors, practicing brevity, having a good system of organization, and demonstrating ability to prioritize what is relevant for an institution are all traits that will show the effort and care you have invested into the job application process: in other words, it shows that you value the time your reviewer is investing in reading these documents, something which you always want to communicate.


And finally, one of the most important things you can do while crafting your CV is to be confident. As a grad student, you’ve had tremendous opportunities to study and perform research and cultivate expertise in many areas, so don’t hesitate to bring those accomplishments into the light. Because as a job applicant (whether now or in the future), your goal is not simply to receive an offer from someone else, but to find a place where you have the opportunity to share what you have learned with others through teaching, mentorship, and exploration, as you guide them in the process of finding the course of their own lives.