Overcoming the curriculum vitae coefficient of static friction

I recently completed an exercise in listing all of the courses I participated in during my eight years working as an industry geoscientist. I knew I had participated in a lot of learning events, but had never meticulously catalogued and categorized them. This effort required a whole evening sitting in the center of a cardboard box Stonehenge, sorting through the dusty archives of my former job. In the end, I counted thirty-three courses. All complete with titles, dates, locations, and instructors of record. The full list included classroom-based and field courses, international and local events, detailed geology curriculum and more broad health and safety and project management topics. I realized that I had been hoarding a wealth of experiences and transferable skills that I barely even mentioned on my resume. The comfort of job security had progressively eroded the discipline of even this duteous list-maker and I found myself cursing – why didn’t I just keep track of this at the time?

Now, I’m being a bit hard on myself. Building my metaphorical detective web of strings and photos to reconstruct almost a decade of learning experiences was an enviable accomplishment, but it required less effort than expected. In 2013 the home that I rented was inundated with floodwaters from the unruly Bow in the infamous southern Alberta floods. Unfortunately, the result was a lot of lost intellectual resources –soggy course work, textbooks, and lab notes that were destined to mould and decay. So in comparison, my disorganized piles of papers and field guides were actually not that bad!

Updating an out-of-date CV can be a daunting task and I had been suffering from resume-writer’s block for some time. But my inability to spruce things up was not really related to disorganized or missing documents. It was fear. Fear that I would discover that I couldn’t produce detailed proof of the activities I participated in. Fear that I had forgotten key accomplishments and that I wouldn’t be able to access my own memories of these experiences. And fear of discovering that I had not effectively made use of the opportunities that had been presented to me.

It turns out, none of these fears materialized and after biting the bullet and spending the upfront time required to inventory my archives, I actually felt pretty good about tackling my extreme CV makeover. Although the courses and workshops were not academic in nature, properly including them in my list of accomplishments added diversity and depth to my portfolio and will provide nuclei for discussions in future interviews. I even experienced an unexpected whirlwind armchair vacation reminiscing about stratigraphy in Utah, carbonate platforms in Spain, and estuarine processes in Washington. And the lost notes and texts are just that. Gone. There is no way to restore them and although thinking about them still causes periodic flutters of anxiety, all I can do is continue stocking my cache with the new skills and knowledge I am acquiring now.

© SF Jones, 2017

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