One simple step to an impressive CV – Give it a go

Along with completing my PhD I’ve recently had a promotion in title – not from PhD candidate to PhD graduand, but to the even more impressive ‘Honorary research fellow’.  It sounds fancy, but in reality it’s the lowest of all adjunct titles and gives me access to the library.  But still, it certainly looks good on my resume.

‘Well done!’ a friend told me when she found out about my newly minted title. I told her that the secret to being impressive is to ask for what you want and you’ll get it about one third of the time.  It was an off-the-cuff comment but in retrospect it’s entirely true.

Not to sound too boastful, but right now my resume looks fairly impressive.  I’ve got publications, conferences, awards and completed courses, alongside committee work, professional organisations and charities.  As well as a PhD ready to be conferred and a fancy title.  However, in my own opinion, none of these were particularly difficult to get. In my experience developing an extensive resume is more about throwing your hat in the ring and giving things a go than it is about being an expert, or impressive in any other way.

Take my awards. I have received quite a few financial awards during my PhD, which all look quite good on my resume.  There was, however, very little competition for any of them.  One required writing a full-length report on a research subject. It was an onerous task and I gave it a bash because I thought my research topic aligned somewhat with the research report requirements. I thought it was worth a try because only a few people would find their research matched the topic.  It turned out I was right.  There was supposed to be three award recipients, but in the end only three people applied so I was the only winner.

Similarly, another award required the winner to be nominated.  I wanted to show a committee that the award was too difficult for PhD candidates to access so I asked a member of staff to consider nominating me.  They did, and I went through the rest of the process in order to be able to report back on it to the committee.  Unfortunately, it turned out the wrong link had been sent out to staff and students to nominate people for the award that year, so I was, in the end, the default winner.

This ignores all the awards that there was actual competition for and that I didn’t get (ahem 3 Minute Thesis ahem).

Again, if you sit on committees, something I enjoy doing, you will find opportunities to sit on more committees. So long as you don’t volunteer for an office bearing position (which I inevitably do) then you can find that these committees don’t take up much of your time, but look great on your resume.

I even know someone who received an incredibly coveted and impressive Fulbright Scholarship.  When I was talking to her about it she said ‘just apply. Seriously. You could easily get it’.  I thought she was just being modest and undervaluing her brilliance (which I think she was) but I think there is also some truth in it.  I went along to the Fulbright Scholarship information session to see what it was all about (and to take advantage of the really good morning tea).  The event was very poorly attended and when the speakers told us about the ‘ideal candidate’ for a Fulbright Scholarship it really didn’t sound that impressive – build a relationship with an existing department in the US (and have someone from that department send a letter in support of your scholarship application), have a good standing at your current university, show that your research needs to be in the US.  That was it.

Finally, I knew that I would be heading overseas to work in China for a few months (again, a simple application process which will look great on my resume) and I wanted to be able to access the UWA library, even though I was no longer a student. I completed a two page application for an honorary position, my supervisor completed a half-page letter of support and hey presto! Fancy new title.

Sometimes I wonder how this has come about. Are we such a nation of people raised under the tall poppy syndrome that no one thinks that they are worthy of these awards?  (In which case, am I terribly arrogant because I think I might as well give them a go?) Is obtaining an impressive CV a skill in itself – not so much in being amazing and impressive as in finding these niche opportunities and being strategic about how you go about applying?  I’m not sure why I found it so easy to develop my CV, but what I am sure about is that it’s really not that difficult and you should have a go at it too.



  1. You’re not arrogant, you deserve everything you’ve gotten!

    1. Naw, thanks Micha!

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