By Kate Duttro
Every academic needs to invest in a kitchen sink resume/portfolio! There, I’ve said it. It still feels radical – but right. So, what do I mean, and why do I say that?
First, a definition: a kitchen sink resume includes every job (full- or part-time, even paid or volunteer internships or temp gigs) you’ve ever had, and any other experiences that gave you joy, satisfaction and pride – even including hobbies, vacations and family activities. Forget the page and time limits. The kitchen-sink resume can occupy many pages, and the more detailed the information, the better. It’s almost certainly an electronic file that you can simply add to, as you complete jobs and projects, and as you add education/training and skills/abilities to your list of accomplishments. If you can expand it to include actual examples or representations of your work (evidence of your skills, abilities and knowledge), it’s called a career portfolio.
Second, the why: you’re keeping it more for your own record (especially if you write your own resumes), than for anyone else to see. But, it’s also vital to anyone you would hire to write a resume for you, because they need that information to be able to write the best resume. If you ever apply for government jobs, especially any that require security clearances, you’ll need the detail of specific job information, such as employer name(s), address, exact dates of employment, managers’ name(s), phone, email, etc. Keep a description of the job responsibilities, the skills required to fulfill them, and list what you did to go beyond the job descriptions, and your accomplishments in each job.
Even if you never apply for a government job, you can refer to your kitchen-sink resume information to keep your resumes and applications accurate, so you don’t accidentally give false information that could confuse (or lose) a potential employer who suspected the worst. This information also can be the foundation of your analysis (with or without the help of a career professional) of your own preferred skills. You’ll be able to look at your work history and recognize your work preferences. As you engage in that process, you may come to recognize and be able to more fully articulate your strengths and transferable skills, which you can use in future, more specifically targeted resumes.
As an academic, you already have a greater skill in analysis than most people. This kind of data collection gives you a unique perspective on your own career history, and you may come to see patterns you hadn’t noticed as you were living your work. You can use that information to help structure your work to fit your strengths more closely, and you’ll be able to work more efficiently, and at least equally important, happier.
Of course, considering this time in the history of academic institutions, when the number of tenure-track jobs is decreasing and the number of higher-degree graduates is increasing, knowing how to articulate your career skill patterns will be a significant advantage if you decide (or are forced) to look beyond the academic job market. You need to be able to articulate your skills to an audience of employers who don’t know enough about your world to understand it. Do it for yourself – your future self. Your investment of nothing more than time may pay off big for you.