Start building your CV now

June 2018

by Roger Ashmus, Simon Fraser University

Are you a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow that is primarily focused on research, publications, and attending or presenting at conferences, with the occasional community engagement activity? If this sounds like you, I encourage you to get more involved and start building your CV now.

From personal experience in applying for scholarships and fellowships, a common theme that I have noticed in my reviewers’ feedback was my lack of activities beyond the research setting. This became especially apparent in my first postdoctoral fellowship application in which reviewers commented: “Applicant’s activities beyond strict academic research are limited…” and “Applicant has some community engagement and knowledge translation activities.” Since receiving the feedback, I have worked to build and broaden this area of my CV. Aside from the traditional approaches towards building your CV (i.e. joining an association or committee, volunteering, tutoring, etc.), I want to share two unique ways that you can do this.

Become a manuscript reviewer

Did you know that you could become a reviewer for a journal as a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow? The eligibility requirements vary from journal to journal. Some journals require a PhD while others only require proof of expertise in a certain research area, usually a first authored publication in that journal or a journal of similar calibre is enough.

Check the journal’s website under the ‘author and reviewer guidelines’ section or contact their editorial office to see if you qualify and for more details. If you do not meet the requirements, I encourage you to talk to your supervisor to get involved in reviewing manuscripts with them. You can still add this experience to your CV and more importantly, reviewing articles with your mentor could help you become a better critical reader. More information can be found here:

Create a professional online presence for non-traditional knowledge dissemination

There are a number of ways to increase your online presence (i.e. ImpactStory, ResearchGate, ORCID, LinkedIn, personal online CV) and they can be quite beneficial to getting you and your work noticed.

The tool I want to focus on is social media (Twitter) for the sole purpose of knowledge dissemination. Knowledge dissemination, which is the active process of communicating your research to potential users and to specific publics, has become increasingly important for research grants and fellowship applications. Traditional practices include publishing your work in journals and presenting your research at conferences. While these are important, all researchers engage in them and they may not help you stand out.

On the other hand, Twitter is a non-traditional communications approach that everyone can use. I know Twitter is not for everyone (I am even struggling to get actively involved), but we cannot deny it is a powerful tool to share information and I think scientists are starting to recognize this.

For example, I mentioned using Twitter as a tool for knowledge translation in my postdoctoral fellowship application the second time around and two of three reviewers gave positive feedback on this. While you can do the same, I believe you can make a better impression if you have the followers to back this up.

To give you a more unique example on how using Twitter can be beneficial, have you ever heard of Dr. David Shiffman? He was named one of the top scientists to follow on Twitter by several media sources including Business Insider and Huffington Post in 2014 and he came in third for the 2015 Shorty Award behind Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. So who is David Shiffman? He is a science writer and a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University. Pretty crazy, right? The point is that researchers can use Twitter for knowledge dissemination while providing an opportunity to stand out among other researchers.

So, there are many ways to build your CV and I encourage you to start doing this sooner rather than later using these two methods.


Roger Ashmus is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Laboratory of Chemical Glycobiology (Vocadlo Group) at Simon Fraser University. He is a Michael Smith Foundation Health Research and Parkinson Society British Columbia Research Trainee and a former recipient of Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, and National Science Foundation Graduate Scholarships.

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