24 Becoming a Professional Historian
The CV or Resume of a Professional Historian (or History Major)
When applying for a job, the first thing to consider is what the employer is requesting. If they are requesting a curriculum vitae (aka – CV or vita), you should not – under any circumstances – send them a resume, or vice versa.
A CV is intended to be an exhaustive record of your academic work, service, and affiliations (i.e. – professional experience, published works, scholarly and public presentations, fellowships, service, academic memberships, and references). CVs are generally required in the academic world. It is useful to keep a “long form” CV for your records so that you have an accurate record of everything you have done.
Create a new CV for each new job application. Especially as you gather more experiences and accomplishments, you very well might want to excise items from your CV as you apply to specific postings if you deem certain of them to be irrelevant or distracting from the narrative you are trying to create about yourself. If you are seeking to apply to a professional conference, the organizers very well may ask for a 1-page CV along with your paper abstract. Again, you can quickly pare down the long form CV to emphasize certain qualifications.
Another point worth mentioning is that most CVs follow a standard format at the top. Contact information at the top, followed by information about your education. After your education, you should consider what you would like to emphasize the most in your overall application. So, if you are applying to a history MA or PhD program you might want to list your ongoing research projects, and one of them should directly relate to the theme of your statement of purpose. While graduate programs also consider other things like your writing sample, GPA, GRE scores, and recommendations, the core of your application will be a CV and statement, and programs tend to favor students with a tight focus and an idea of what they would like to pursue. Such “focus” – rightly or wrongly – is important to receiving funding, especially at the MA level as fellowships are highly competitive. Since history programs are so focused on developing research, if you have done any archival work, written an undergraduate thesis, or won any grants/fellowships to do such work, those things should be prominent in the CV. If you go on to write an undergraduate thesis or major research paper in the history department, you should also be aware of the different awards you might be eligible for by your senior year.
If you are applying for positions outside of academia, you are most likely going to be asked for a resume. The first thing you should be aware of is that law schools and businesses are in desperate need of people to perform research, scrutinize evidence, and effectively analyze and present it; not to mention employees who will be prepared and ready to learn new things quickly (the growth of AI makes this especially crucial). Over the few years, politicians from both sides of the aisle have routinely mocked the liberal arts, but if you are paying attention to what CEOs and organizations like the Andrew W. Mellon foundation are saying, you can see that the skills liberal arts majors possess are precisely what companies need; and they pay off, especially in the long-term for students. One other factor to consider is that internships are an excellent entrée into the business world, and you should spend your junior year interviewing people about their jobs and researching internship opportunities that will work with your situation – financial and otherwise.
When it comes to crafting your resume, it is customary to begin with a statement of your objective, then detail your education (list your GPA, any honors, and the title of your undergraduate thesis), your working/leadership experience, skills, personal qualities, and references. Again, similar to the CV, you will want to craft a new resume for each job you are applying for as you might want to change various elements depending on the job opening. For an undergraduate, your resume may not be longer than a page or two, and that is fine. Try to write in phrases using strong action verbs and keep things succinct. Do not use “I” as it is understood. In detailing your accomplishments in your cover letter, you will want to highlight the skills you have developed through your training and demonstrate how they are broadly applicable and transferable to a new environment. You are likely adept at learning languages, manipulating databases, performing research, and writing/editing effectively. Let hiring managers know because – trust us – they truly need you.
For UTA students, the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center can help you put together a CV or resume that presents you in the best light. Other universities often provide these services through career centers as well.
Summary of the recent report released by the Mellon Foundation on liberal arts schools/degrees.
The first in a series of articles on the AHA’s blog about entering the job market with a BA in history.
A couple of situations that could have been avoided by having someone with a history background on staff.