How do you write a Curriculum Vitae?

Most of us make a Curriculum Vitae or CV. We need a CV when we apply for a job or when we apply for a competition or award. Some use the terms “Resume” or “Bio-Data”. But all these terms essentially mean the same.

In a CV,  you tell who you are and what have you been doing in brief. Brevity is important. Today most prefer to prepare a one page version of the CV. A two page CV is perhaps the limit! People don’t have time.

There are exceptions, however. I came across a CV of a Researcher/Professor that had 60 pages! Most of the pages of the CV were used to list major publications, reports, books etc. Unless people read my list of publications, they wont know about my research contributions, he explained.

There are now several smart templates available for writing a CV. Some CVs sport a photograph. When I receive such CVs, I attempt to “read” the face. But there are surprises when you meet the applicant in person. Some prefer not to mention the gender because they don’t want any bias. Some don’t mention the date of birth in the CV as they are often uncomfortable and feel that this information is rather personal to share. Its some work then to “estimate” the age of the applicant based on qualifications and experience.

The first thing I like to read in the CV is section on “other interests” or “hobbies” or “extracurricular activities”. This information tells me about the other part of person’s life that is equally important. You generally find “standard” stuff like reading, listening to music, painting, swimming, trekking, cooking, dancing etc. I get excited when I see something more elaborated and a bit unusual stuff like watching owls  in the night, paragliding in the hills, doing upcycling (i.e. making products out of waste) etc. CV that list Spanish and Chinese in the languages known also impresses me. Interest and ability to learn these languages tell so much about the personality.

My Professor friend does not accept typed or printed CVs. He insists that CVs submitted to him must be handwritten. According to him, handwriting tells a lot about the person. He may be absolutely right.

Of course, CVs glitter when they state qualifications from Ivy League universities and institutes of IIT type. When stated with GPA’s above 3.8 or Honors or with a top Rank or medal, the story becomes outstanding and compelling. I however get worried when I receive CVs that shine – as I question whether this person will gel well with my team and whether this person will stay long enough with my organization? And whether he or she will be affordable to us?

Most in the early age and looking for job or for a better change, make significant efforts to “dress up” the CV. Apart from technical details such as qualifications and experience, they list voluntary work (e.g. teaching children in the slums) and work done in honorary capacities (e.g. member of the sustainability committee of a chamber of commerce). It is often difficult to know however how much of this voluntary and honorary work is done in seriousness or is it only a “fluff”.

Apparently, CVs are now scanned using Artificial Intelligence and these algorithms look for the right “keywords”. Some buzz words like sustainability, circular economy, resource efficiency thus get into many “environmental CVs”. There are consultants who provide services on charge to make your CV – customize your CV  for the job you are looking for.

Some people don’t need to make a CV at all. People owning family businesses for generations and those involved in politics don’t need a CV. Do you think Mukesh Ambani or Rahul Gandhi ever made a “standard” CV? I will be curious to read if there was one.

When I was around 17 years of age, my father asked me to get his CV typed. There were no PCs, laser printers and Microsoft Word then! I remember I went to a shop near our house that had a board “Typing Services”. I sat down next to the Typist who typed my father’s CV in the format he was used to – on a Remington Typewriter. As my father wanted 20 copies, he typed the CV on a cyclostyling stencil sheet – fixing the errors encountered in typing with a red colored correction fluid. The cyclostyling stencil sheet was then processed in a cyclostyling machine to make copies.  Most of you today may not know this amazing duplicating machine.

A Cyclostyling Machine

I think what was exciting for me was to know who my father was and what he did in his life while getting his CV typed. He had never told me or discussed several of the details of his life and career that were listed in his CV. I don’t think my elder sisters know about his work and achievements in detail even today as much I know.

Have my children read my CV in detail? May be they have but I wonder.

Generally, number of pages of the CV increases as you grow older because you have perhaps a lot to say. How can a person with 30 years’ experience compress every achievement of his/her life in just two pages! Quite understandable. But then there are exceptions again.

During my doctoral research, I did a course with Professor Fude at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok. In his last lecture of the course, Professor Fude distributed his 2 page CV to all of us. “You should know little bit about the Teacher who taught you”. He said in his characteristic Chinese-American accent.

When I looked at his CV, it was very different from the CVs I had earlier seen. Of course, the CV had his name and contact detail but below qualifications that listed only his Ph D from University of Iowa in Water Resources  in 1939, there were just two columns. The first column listed the year and second column described the “achievement” or “highlights”. Only years with achievements or highlights were listed  such as

Year   Achievement/Highlight

1953  Received Cloud and Banner Award

1960  Founded Computer Society in Taiwan

1970  Established School on Flood Control to serve Mekong region

And so on so forth

I found this style of writing CV was both intriguing and challenging. Summing up your life in only key milestones of achievements required both maturity and an honest self-assessment.

Last week, I looked at my 20 page CV with all the gibberish – that gave details of my qualifications, experience, memberships and publications and ofcourse the blah-blah. I remembered Professor Fude’s “simple CV” and realized the huge clutter and fluff that my CV was carrying. Whom was I fooling?

I applied my mind to list only those years where there was “some achievement”.

I found that it was really easy then to bring my 20 page CV into a CV of just 2 pages !

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Is it worth to get angry?


[This is a satire – as usual]

I am generally a quiet person. My Professor friend on the other hand is a rather volatile personality. Often, he gets angry, raises his voice and that elevates his blood pressure. There have been occasions when I have to request him to calm down. But Professor is not convinced. But does anger help?

Last week, we were together in Delhi. While landing at the New Delhi airport, we realized that our aircraft was descending into a grey chamber – full of dust. We felt chocked. On landing, we looked into  the screens of our mobile phones. The app showed dangerous levels of the air quality index.

When we were navigating through the messy Delhi traffic; Professor turned to me and said “Dr Modak, look at the poor state of India’s capital. With all the mighty politicians and administrators living there the situation on air quality is not improving and perhaps getting worse. The air quality outdoors and indoors continues to be alarming and people are facing a slow death. No one seems to be serious. Don’t you feel angry?” His voice was quivering.

I looked outside and saw people with masks like doctors in the operation theater or like astronauts on the moon. I realized that by the time we reach Chanakya Puri, Professor was going to lose his temper.

I spoke quietly “Professor, there is no need to get angry. You can wear a mask and protect yourself; or  install air purifiers at home. Delhi government is already implementing outdoor air purifiers in several places. Soon there will be a network of sensors reporting status on air quality on the cloud and information on air quality will be available on the fly”

“But that’s not the solution to the problem Dr Modak!” Professor raised his voice. Sure, he was getting angry. I tried to calm him down.  There was no use to get angry when you know that nothing was going to change.

Back in Mumbai, we went for a dinner with an American friend at the Sea Lounge of Taj. Chief at the Lounge greeted us and politely asked “Regular or bottled water sir?”. I said “bottled” as I didn’t want to risk the health of my American friend. When we were returning from the Taj, Professor asked me “Dr Modak, I saw that you asked for bottled water and not the “regular” one. What a shame. We can’t guarantee safe drinking water to our people. May be we treat water well at the Bhandup Water Treatment Works, but then when the water is transported to our taps, it gets contaminated because of leakages and sewers crossing the water pipes – something not unacceptable”

I realized that Professor was getting angry.

I spoke quietly “Professor, there is no reason to get angry. You can always install a water purifier at home. There are so many options available, just filtration, filtration with UV light, filtration, UV light and activated carbon etc. Once you fix the purifier, the regular water becomes as good as a bottled water. We all must do our bit and can’t put all the responsibilities to the local government. We  must do cost sharing to pay for the inaction”

Professor lost his temper after listening to my justification. “Dr Modak, if you continue like this, then the situation is not going to improve. People like you have to question and put pressure to get a “solution: and not work on the “symptoms” . Pity that you don’t get angry”

“But Professor, think about the business we are supporting in this process – the water purification industry is growing rapidly, generating employment and supporting livelihoods of so many people . And I am not considering the increased business of doctors and hospitals. These benefits are enormous. There is no need to be angry” I responded – rather in a lighter tone and in some humor. But the Professor was in no mood to calm down. He left in a huff.

Last Sunday, I invited Professor for lunch at home. Knowing his weakness for freshly prepared vegetables, my wife was preparing a nice concoction of Jaal frazie (simmered mixed vegetables) While she was in the kitchen, Professor asked me whether I had read a recent report published by Centre for Science and Environment on the contaminated vegetables and fruits in India.

“Its simply horrendous Dr Modak, today the vegetables we eat are mostly contaminated. They carry heavy metals, carcinogenic compounds and bacteria like E Coli. You think that eating leafy vegetables is healthy, but it is actually contrary. And remember, mere washing does not help”

He read out some worrisome statistics from the report. His voice was raising. I could sense that he was getting angry.

I said “Don’t you worry Professor. I have installed a vegetable purifier in the kitchen that generates ozone to treat the vegetables and gets rid of the contamination. Why don’t you take a look? There is always a solution to the problem”

Professor did not give up. He screamed  “That’s not the solution Dr Modak. You have to address the source of contamination. People like you are responsible as you don’t protest – you keep shut and never get angry”

But the Professor did relish the Jaal frazie along with pudina paratha during lunch that my wife served. He couldn’t resist. While going home, he took the flyer I had on the ozone based vegetable purifier. He was going to show to his wife. I was happy that Professor was learning how not to get angry and accept the solutions of Type II.

Many of us know now how we should live life if you don’t want to waste your energies in getting frustrated, becoming angry and losing in the process your peace of mind. By simply becoming angry you are not going to solve the mess around that we live in.

After all, as many of our sages say, what we see, breath, eat and drink is not real – its all “mithya” – something untrue, imaginary or spurious. We should not attach ourselves and get emotional to the problems of pollution, poverty and injustice that we see.

Indeed, there is no point to get angry.

The world around is not going to change.

Or will it?

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