Does this belong in my CV?

Over the years, I’ve found myself involved with a number of activities promoting and advocating for LGBT people. I’ve developed many skills based on these experiences, but it has been tricky to figure out how to relate them in a professional manner when applying for a position. I’ve asked, and been asked, of how out one should be on their CV. After all, you don’t want to be passed over on a job for the simple fact of being a sexual or gender minority, but neither do you want to work somewhere that would consider passing you over. It’s a tricky balance, and I wanted to discuss a little of how I’m trying to handle it personally and would love to hear your thoughts and comments on different approaches.

Everything that’s on my CV is there to sell myself as an academic scientist. It might not be immediately obvious how doing volunteer work for LGBT organizations would overlap, but through this work I’ve learned how to efficiently run meetings, how to put together conferences, how to engage students, and how to manage large groups from remote locations. All of these skills are directly relevant to being a successful faculty member who does research with national labs.

The most obvious place to put them in for me has been under “service”, especially as some of the groups look specifically at LGBT issues in STEM. There I can list not only that I volunteered, which puts in a placeholder and could on its own be seen as space-filler, but also mention the role I played in co-organizing a conference or running meetings. Since I’ve been invited to speak on LGBT issues in STEM, I’ve started a new section under my presentations heading of “Synergistic Activities.”

In discussing my “work that I don’t get paid for” with others in my field, I’ve been encouraged by the number of established scientists who tell me that the work I’ve done is impressive and directly related to the responsibilities of faculty. So even though I risk being passed over for the mention of my involvement on my CV, I bring something to the table that many in the same position in my field don’t have – experience in outreach and conference planning. In the end, I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to work for a group that would pass me over simply for who I am but would rather show my entire skill set to stand the best possible chance of finding a faculty position.


2 thoughts on “Does this belong in my CV?

  1. Very thoughtful post, thanks. I faced a similar issue when returning to work after a move and a break (and an third baby). I had done significant voluntary work in various community activities which, like you, taught me about managing groups and meetings etc. In the end, i put it under ‘community outreach’ or ‘community service’. I then used to encourage others (mostly women) who were returning to the workforce to make sure they put all their similar experiences in their CV too – because when i was working with them as volunteers, I was super-impressed with their skills (some in managing volunteer groups which is worse than herding cats; some in fund-raising; some in managing finances and some just being politically savvy ….etc etc). I thought their potential employers would be impressed too.

    I think you raise an important point that we need to push these skills forward on our CV – no-one else is going to do it for us.

  2. That sounds like great advice. I like the ‘synergistic activities’ idea. Those extra experiences really do enhance your main skills or area of interest. I think I may learn a lot from your posts as I go back to tackle the academic world again. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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