One of the most important tools in your career transitioning toolbox is the C.V. and/or Resume. These are 2 different documents with different purposes. You need both, and each must be polished. Think of them as your ambassadors, traveling out into the world to represent what you offer to potential employers or business contacts. Often, these documents are the first chance the receiving person has to get to know you. And if your document doesn’t actively promote you, it will be your last chance to connect with this opportunity.

I asked my friend Charlotte Weeks, resume writer extraordinaire, to address some of the most common questions about the C.V. and Resume.

What’s the difference between a CV and a resume?

CVs, which are typically used when applying for clinical, scientific, and academic positions, are in more of a list format. Everything – jobs, education, publications – is included, but without much extra detail.

Resumes are the standard for most other professions. They can best be described as marketing documents, as the writer should be strategic about what is highlighted, downplayed, or even eliminated. The goal is to position the individual for a certain type of role, which means related skills and experience need to be provided with more detail than is usually on a CV.

How many pages should a non-clinical CV be?

Three pages at the most, but even the most accomplished people can write a two-page resume if they’re strategic. For recent graduates, one can be appropriate.

How do I fit all of my experiences into so few pages?

It’s not easy. There’s a famous quote (attributed to various people), “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” However, it can and should be done. Employers consistently say they want easy-to-read documents with the most relevant information included. A few tips:

-Condense or eliminate older information.

-Remove publications, presentations, etc. as they are not usually included on resumes (there are exceptions, such as when the topic applies to job at hand).

-Remember, resumes are not meant to tell the whole story. Additional details can be provided in an interview.

I’ve never done anything outside of clinical medicine – what should I write on a resume?

First, consider if that is really the case. It may be professionally, but you might also have experience from volunteering, continuing education, or even hobbies.

Next, think about additional roles you’ve held at work. Did you serve on any committees? Did you train residents? Participate in launching any programs?

Now, consider your transferable skills. These are the abilities that can add value in different professions. For example, in treating patients you are communicating and educating. In dealing with insurance companies, you’re negotiating.

How do I know what employers want?

Review job ads. They’re written by employers telling you exactly what they are looking for!

Also, talk to people who are familiar with your target job. Not only will this networking be valuable to you in your search, you’ll also learn what’s important to include on your resume.

I’m not sure what type of job I want next – can I just write a general resume?

No! A resume needs to be geared toward something in order to be effective. You can build a foundational resume and tweak it for different jobs, but you should have an idea of the position you’d be targeting.

Charlotte Weeks, dual-certified resume writer and career coach, is President of Weeks Career Services, Inc. She specializes in helping people land director-level and above positions.

Charlotte has served as a featured expert for various media outlets including, WGN-TV, Time Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. She is also the past president of The National Resume Writers’ Association.

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