Jan 302009

Now is a good time to update my resume (cv), and I’m having a little difficulty in figuring out the best way to present it. The classic “say what you did for the employer” tends to assume that your involvement in projects is bounded by your employment, but that’s not always the case. For example, I’ve chaired technical committees and been involved with conference organisation for time periods that overlapped both employers and being self-employed. For example, I chaired the XML Conference from 2001 to 2005, working for (in chronological order) SoftQuad Software, my own consulting firm, and Sun Microsystems. It’s the overlapping time periods that I’m having difficulty in figuring out how to present. I guess I could go to a pure project-based resume, except for, some of what I did was on behalf of a particular employer and thus was bounded within that time period.

I can’t imagine I’m the only person with this issue; anyone contributing to open source software over a period of time has it, as well as people who volunteer at other organisations in their spare time. How do others present what they’ve done in a way that suitably highlights the important stuff?

  9 Responses to “Projects and Resumes”

  1. I have two sections to my CV; the second talks about what I did specifically for companies I was involved in. The first talks about what I’m looking for and my skills in general terms; and then has a narrative about the development of those skills with reference to extra-company activities, such as open source, personal projects, standards participation, conference work that wasn’t directly representing a company and so forth.

    However I’ve never seen another CV like it, so I don’t know for certain that it’s the right approach 🙂

  2. (By the way, with Javascript turned off you get an error page after submitting a comment.)

  3. How about a two-column layout with parallel timelines?

  4. Oh, boy. I’ve wrestled with this same problem a fair bit and never really been perfectly satisfied with the results, but nowadays willing to live with what I’ve got.

    My approach has been somewhat similar to the way James mentioned, although I mix paid employment and Open Source a fair bit in the skills and general bit, since they’re of equal importance. I’ve received a bit of feedback along the lines of ‘it’s too long” or “it doesn’t look like other resumes” and I’ve decided I’m fine with that. If it was close, but not quite the same as a formulaic resume, I’m worried people would think I’ve aimed for that and missed. Instead, I’m aiming for the slighter more interested reader who wans to know about me, rather than do keyword searches. Frankly, though, I struggled to be formulaic with lots of professional-related extra-employment stuff, so went this route out of desperation, somewhat.

  5. The tired paper-based resume is due for an update. I don’t think you can highlight these complexities properly on paper. Add a reference to your web based resume in your paper based one. Surely any employer interested in what you have to offer will use the web.

    I think you could get a pretty interesting visualization with SIMILE Timeline for the overlapping periods.

  6. I don’t worry about overlaps. I list things in the order of when they finished, and show start end dates (usually to the nearest quarter). For things that are still current, you can list them in the order of when they started. I find that works well enough.
    Chers, Tony.

  7. Unfortunately, innovation in a resume layout is frowned on.

    Consider your audience: a group of harassed agency people trying to juggle umpteen thousand applications for several dozen jobs.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of ruthless filtering goes on, with anything that can’t be immediately assessed (like non-standard formats) going into the rubbish bin with the ‘later’ label on it.

    So, keep it on paper, keep it brief, and keep the work history in chronological order. Tailor the application to the specific job requirements in a cover letter.

    And (*sigh*) ALWAYS use Microsoft Word format, so it can be scanned into their databases ‘for consideration’ (as Bernard Woolley would have put it).

    (Having offered those bits of advice, I can also guarantee that the next agency you talk to will want your autobiography in PDF. Which is to say that there is no standard format)

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