Academic CV Tips

For academic CVs, all the advice from my previous post about CVs still apply. However, there are some specific tips for academic CVs that I have listed below. 

  1. List Everything!!!! And remember to put details, what did you do? Put numerical values whenever you can, and describe the competition if you can (ie. National Competitive award for $20,000/year for 5 years), if it is a publication what was your role for the publication.  
  2. Example of some categories to include in your CV 
    • Academic: Education History, Research, Publications, conference abstracts and presentations, interviews, research funding, grants, scholarships and awards, employment related to research?, patents, organizations you are part of (ie. American Society of Human Genetics).  
    • Non Academic: non research/non academic employment, mentorship, leadership, teaching, volunteering (both at the university/college or in the community) and if you were part of any committees (graduate committees, chair of a society?, graduate student rep?, union rep?). Just to name a few categories that I have seen. 
  3. Remember academic positions want you to have research excellence (you can show that with your publications, conferences and scholarships/awards). 
  4. But you can also demonstrate leadership abilities and management/ mentorship abilities. (you can show this with listing who you have mentored, or do you have any leadership activities?)
  5. My biggest tip of all!!! Compile a list of activities you have done for your CV when you start or complete an activity. You can do it when you have a bit of time, even now, years before you are thinking of applying. These CVs can be used for scholarships/grants/awards etc. It’s easier to compile a list of activities slowly as you are completing these activities than writing a CV from scratch. 

These are some of the tips that have worked for me. I would also check your institution/granting agencies for more institution or award specific CV criteria. Hope these help you. Best of luck! 

Advice for writing CVs (for jobs outside of academia)

I have been applying for jobs for awhile. I have noticed that CVs are different when I am applying for jobs outside of academia (jobs outside of research institute/ jobs in industry) compared to jobs within academia (lab/teaching/researcher positions) .

I have listed some tips that I have used when writing my own CV. I hope this helps you! Be sure to look on my instagram page (@life_of_learning) in the next few weeks for tips on writing the academic CV.

For jobs outside of academia… typically they want a shorter document (1-2 pages). This limit however will definitely depend on the job. But, be sure that the activities you have listed are relevant for the job! The tips I have listed below are fairly general and can be applied to most CV/resumes. 

  1. Read their job description and figure out what qualities the job is looking for and think of things that you have done to match those qualities. Make sure to list these relevant activities in your CV.
  2. Use their terminology in your CV (ie. they want someone with leadership, list that category in your CV). 
  3. Keep it concise, but give them information. For example if you lead a team, what was this team for? How many people were in this team? Was it an interdisciplinary team? 
  4. Use action words! Instead is saying “I did this”… change it to  “I initiated this fundraiser that raised over >500$ in funding above our goal.” Having action verbs in your CV gives the reader a clearer idea of what you achieved in that role and it makes you stand out! 
  5. If you are ever stuck and don’t know what the proper formatting is for your particular job, I would ask others in the field! Some fields are pretty particular about how they want their CVs. ( ie. for a teaching position, they want you to demonstrate that you have taught classes, and sometimes they want you to demonstrate your teaching effectiveness with student feedback and/or teaching awards).
  6. Be consistent and be sure to proofread and align your document. Be consistent with formatting, titles, fonts, grammatical tenses etc. You just want the CV to be readable and not have grammatical errors. Your CV is your first impression with the company, you want to make it as easy for the hiring managers to read as you can. 
  7. My main tip for when you are applying for multiple different jobs is to have multiple CVs! Make sure to tailor your CV to the job in which you are applying for. I have one master CV with everything that I have ever done. Then, when I apply for jobs, I will pull activities into a separate CV document for that particular job.

Hope this helps you. Best of luck!

How to wake up early?

You have a meeting and need to wake up earlier than you normally do?

I have needed to wake up early in the morning when I just don’t want to get out of bed. And I find it hard to now wake up when it is still dark outside. The transition from summer to winter with the daylight savings is particularly challenging.

Here are some of the ways that I use to wake up early.

  1. Make the morning easier for yourself by setting out clothes that you will wear for the day the night before and pack your bag and lunch.
  2. Try a light alarm app. These apps help brighten your room in the morning to mimic the sunrise.
  3. Change up your alarm sounds. Once I get used to the alarm, I find that I am able to sleep right through it. By switching up the alarm sounds, your body doesn’t get habituated to the alarm and ignore it.
  4. Put your alarm far from your bed so that you have to physically get out of bed to turn off the alarm. This physical act of moving out of bed really helps me wake up.
  5. Have a morning routine. Be nice to yourself. And start slow.
    Start off your day with brushing your teeth and relaxing a little bit. Drink some water. Slow down. I find that its the act of rushing in the morning deters me that from waking up.

Best of luck! I hope this helps you.

Coping with anxiety

I didn’t know what anxiety meant. For a long time, I thought that anxiety had to be where you see someone feel short of breath, where they were paralyzed by anxiety so much that they felt the walls closing in. I didn’t experience this, and I thought that I didn’t have anxiety. I think anxiety happens and manifests differently for everyone. Also, for a long time, I didn’t want to think about anxiety. Just the thought of anxiety made me nervous. I didn’t want people to see me differently. But people live with anxiety everyday, and the ways that they are able to cope with anxiety makes them all the more stronger. Anxiety happens. Panic attacks happen. Stress happens. And it may manifest differently in everyone. For me, sometimes I don’t know when or how I come to feel anxious… but here are a few ways that I use to cope with my anxiety.

  1.  Acknowledge and tell someone about it. For me this really helps to say it out loud. It is very cathartic to talk to someone about my problems. Tell a friend, write in a journal… talk to a therapist or counselor. My university has free mental health counseling for students. Maybe yours does too?
  2.  If you can identify why you feel anxious, that’s a start. Sometimes for me, it’s about feeling inadequate or feeling like I’ve failed…
  3.  Once I identify why I feel anxious, I can try to alleviate those feelings, by acceptance. It’s okay to feel like you failed, it’s okay to feel like you didn’t do a good job… it happens! And that’s okay! Let yourself have those feelings…for me when I let myself feel those emotions then I can accept it and it will feel like a huge weight has lifted.
  4.  Take a deep breathe and remember that everything will be OK. Maybe take that break. Don’t beat yourself up about not accomplishing your goals today! You got this!

Remember that everyone can be affected by mental health and that these can manifest and look different for everyone. Your mental health is unique to you. Embrace it. It feels good to talk about it.

These are things that have helped me and I hope they help you as well.

Post interview reflections

Let’s talk about post interview stress.

I don’t know about you, but for me I stressed out after my interviews. I kept thinking about all the different ways that I could have answered the questions. I ran through all of the scenarios in my mind again and thought about all the places that I could have answered the questions better. While it is good to have some post interview reflections, it’s bad when you start having nightmares about your interview after the fact.

Write down your post interviews reflections, but try not to think and rehash the interview day over and over again. The interview is already over. Whatever happens now is out of your control!

To try to stop thinking about post interview since I will not find our the results of the interview until May-June…To mitigate my post interview stress I am tracking 5 habits this month to better my self care. I am tracking:

  1. Water intake (8 cups/day),
  2. Yoga (or any exercise),
  3. Vitamins,
  4. Sleep (7-8 hours),
  5. Celebrate the little wins (any success that I have had).

I picked these 5 because I found that in the past few months trying different things, these 5 help my physical and mental health the most. Water intake helped me skin feel much better and staying hydrated helped with my chronic headaches. Yoga and exercise release endorphins that help with my physical and mental health. Also, getting up and stretching after sitting at the computer for an extended period of time has helped a lot with my back and neck pain. I tracked my sleep in December, and found that my optimal amount of sleep that I need was 7-8 hours to feel rested the next day. The amount of sleep that you need definitely varies between individuals. To find out how much sleep you need to feel rested, the best way is to track how many hours you sleep and track it for a few days (minimum 3 days). For the days you are tracking your sleep, do not set any alarm clocks and sleep until you naturally wake up. You need a few days for tracking your sleep because you need an average number and also the first night that you track your sleep, sometimes if you have been sleep deprived for a few days prior, you tend to sleep more. Use the last two days of your sleep tracking and take the average. This will be how much sleep your body needs. If this number fluctuates quite drastically over the three days you are tracking your sleep or you still do not feel rested when you wake up, test and try sleep tracking again. Try it out! Let me know how it goes. Hope this helps you!

Tips to calm down before an interview

So I have been gone from the blog for awhile. But, I have been active on my Instagram posting thesis writing tips! Check it out! I saving these tips on my “Writing” highlights on @life_of_learning

For today’s post, I will be talking a bit about interviews. I have an interview coming up soon! I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous.

I got really great tips from chatting with fellow interviewees and others who have gone through the process and I’d thought that I would share and add some of my own.

Two days before the interview:

Try to remove as much stress as you can for the day of the interview by preparing beforehand.

  1. Make sure you have all your documents ready
  2. Map out your route to the interview and maybe test out the route? (Know how long it will take and when you need to leave to make sure you can get to your interview on time)
  3. Be sure that you have a way of getting to the interview (Public transit? Driving?)
  4. Re-read the interview instructions and documents you need to ensure that you have everything.
  5. Make sure that you have comfortable clothes and shoes for the interview. Try them on.

The day before the interview:

  1. Don’t talk about the interview. It’s like fight club do not talk about fight club.
  2. Have everything you need (clothes, wallet, documentation) ready to go and put out so that it is a quick grab and go for the day of the interview
  3. Puppy or Pet therapy? Browse through instagram feeds of puppies!!
  4. Take a warm bath.
  5. Make yourself a warm cup of non caffeinated tea.
  6. Pamper yourself. (Facemasks? Your favorite meal?)
  7. Read a book?
  8. Do some bedtime relaxing yoga?
  9. Try to stay away from screen time an hour before your bedtime to ensure that you are not too anxious before sleeping.
  10. Journaling? Sometimes writing your fears down can help. Or talk to someone about it.
  11. Meditate?
  12. Get a good night’s rest.
  13. Imagine all the things you can do when the interview is over!! All the stress from the interview will be gone!
  14. Imagine yourself succeeding and getting that offer letter!
  15. Be kind to yourself!
  16. You have made it this far! You got this!!

Day of the interview:

  1. Relax. You have made it this far! You got this!!! Have fun with the interview. It is a chance for you to know them as much as it is for them to know you!!
  2. If someone told you that it’s only a matter of WHEN you will get in, not IF. Not this year, then next year!! You are able and fully capable of doing this!! Remember this sentiment. It will make you feel a whole lot better! Remember that it’s not IF you get in, it is WHEN!!!!! Go get them!! Have fun with it! Enjoy the day!


The holidays have really got me thinking. I am not religious… but there are some family traditions that I follow.

When I go to Hong Kong, I would visit a Buddhist temple and pray for my grandparents. Buddhists believe that when people pass away they watch over their family members in their after life. It has always been such a comforting thought for me.

I also prayed for success in education. As I am wrapping up my PhD and defending soon, I prayed that things would go smoothly. People tend to pray for anything that is on their mind at temples. Good health and good fortune are very common ones and they sell lucky charms at the temple for these prayers.

So visiting a temple and paying respect to my ancestors has always been a tradition in my family. What are some of your family traditions? I would love to know!

Gift guide for students

These are some of the things that have made my life easier as a student or are on the top of my wish list!

  1. Ventev global wall charging hub : this charger is really cool. It is super compact and it is has all the universal charging heads. I don’t personally have one, I have a bulkier one. But if you travel a lot or want to save space in your luggage, this is the charger for you.
  2. Laptop stand: I used to use a pile of textbooks as my laptop stand but the angle was never right, and I liked having my laptop at eye level so that I don’t slouch as much. I invested in a really cheap laptop stand and it has changed my life. Also, if you spill coffee, chances are that it won’t it the laptop if your laptop is on the laptop stand.
  3. Contigo autospout waterbottle: This has encouraged me to stay hydrated. I have a huge bottle of water next to my desk when I am writing now, instead of my tiny coffee mugs filled with water.
  4. External LCD monitor for your laptop: THIS IS AMAZING. When you are reading papers and referencing them and writing and switching between a ton of different screens. Having an external monitor has been a game changer.
  5. Muji pens… these pens write really smoothly! But I have been told there are others.. But these are cheap and mostly widely available now?
  6. External Battery LOVE THIS as well. If you are at a long conference and are writing notes on your phone or are using your phone a lot… the battery drains quickly, but there are not enough outlets at a conference to charge your phone, an external battery has come in super handy. Or if you are commuting long distances into work and your phone runs out of battery in the middle of the day. These external batteries have really saved me a few times.
  7. Science gifts! For the friend who seems to have everything! Check out Teresa is a real scientist who crochets and sells her creations on Etsy!! She is awesome!

These are a few things I haven’t been able to live without or have wanted.

Happy Holidays!!

Things to do to fall asleep

Things to do to relax and fall asleep:

Do you ever have trouble falling asleep after a long day?

Sometimes I can’t fall asleep because I’m going through the day over in my mind thinking what I should have done or what I need to do tomorrow.

Here’s a few things I try when I can’t fall asleep:

  1. Do some sleepy time yoga. ( I love following Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. The bedtime yoga video helps me relax)
  2. Read a book. ( I find reading a book rather than being on your phone helps because the light from your phone may trick your brain and circadian rhythm into thinking that it is day time)
  3. Try to stop looking at your electronics before bed. ( Or I use apps that adjust your phones brightness according to the time of day. I use the f.lux app.)
  4. Drink some warm tea or milk! ( I don’t know why this works. But I’ve tried it a few times and something about the warm drink makes me sleep better. Camomile tea with a tiny bit of honey is the best for me).
  5. Try meditation? ( Focusing on something else really helps you to relax. I was recommended these apps: Calm and Headspace. I have been trying out insight timer. Lynn (@createyourdailyflow on instagram) had made a mediation group! I really like all the guided meditations on there and the customizable meditation timers as well.)
  6. Write it down. ( Journaling helps before bed to go through what has happened during the day or help you write down what you are unhappy with. Or if journaling is not something that is in your routine, try writing down whatever is bothering you and there is always tomorrow to figure it out!)

Hope this helps!

How to fail forward

Failing forward is when we learn from what happened and move forward. We all make mistakes, and that is OK! I fail all the time. Recently, I had to change my dissertation submission date because I couldn’t finish in time. I made a goal that was too ambitious and too short of a time frame for me to finish writing my dissertation. But I learned something and I tried!

As Dr. Randy Pausch (author of The Last Lecture) once said,

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

We need to remember that we are all human, and we are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

The next time I feel that I have failed… I will try to remember these few things.

  1. It is OK to fail at something, what did we learn from it? Try not to think about it as a mistake or as failing at something. Own your mistake! Instead think about it as learning. We learn the best by making a mistake. As a researcher I am constantly testing out new ideas, and most of the time I am wrong. But, we wouldn’t know that we are wrong unless we try. So make those mistakes!! Make them into learning moments.
  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is really easy to put ourselves down for failing at something. We feel horrible. We feel like imposters. But I think we need to remember that everyone started somewhere!
  3. Be flexible. Sometimes, things happen. Tomorrow is a new day.
  4. We are all human!

Hope this helps you!