Writing about your achievements in a research lab or during an independent study can be difficult, especially when you want to add this experience to a resume or CV. Here are some tips and examples to help you get the most out of your hard work!
In our lab, we use our running agenda to keep track of the projects you’re working on every week – this is a great place to check when you’re not sure you’ve listed all your achievements. Maybe you forgot that amazing literature review you pulled together at the beginning of the semester, or a collaboration with another research assistant that resulted in a beautiful finished product. Reviewing the agenda when writing your resume will ensure you list everything you actually did in the lab!
Here is an example of how this experience is listed on a resume used to apply for library positions (hence the focus on search techniques, they care about that skill):
University of Arizona South, Research Assistant, Tucson, AZ Jan 2015-May 2015
- Created comprehensive literature reviews using EBSCO, Google Scholar, & Summon
- Presented project and results at college-wide research showcase
- Participated in drafting of research article for peer-reviewed journal
- Mentored other students in coding protocols, research skills, and online programs to facilitate research and collaboration
Note how each one starts with an action verb, while describing knowledge, skills, or abilities that those reviewing this resume for the job would be interested in.
COVER LETTER EXAMPLE
And here you can see this same experience re-framed on the cover letter. This is again for a library position, and this one was precisely mapped to bulleted KSA’s mentioned in the job ad:
- Throughout my time in college I’ve focused on developing research and computer skills. Over the past year I’ve been promoted to Lab Assistant in the Leadership and Mentoring Collaboratory with Dr. Brown and Dr. Lunsford, These skills translate to modern library systems effortlessly. For example, I utilize library and online databases regularly and efficiently to find the best research for the project and have reached a level of skill where I am trusted to draft literature reviews for inclusion in future publications.
Cover letters give you a chance to give them a short targeted story which points up your achievements or things you know they REALLY care about from the job ad. This is where you must not be humble. You should SELL your experience to them as hard as you can. That can be extremely hard, so get help writing it if you need to.
Often a close peer or friend who thinks highly of you is great for helping with this if you struggle. I also try to channel a ridiculously egotistical alter ego when I write these kinds of things for myself, and that helps too, but it took practice to be able to do it well.
P.S. For those intending to pursue an academic career you’re going to need to begin creating a Curriculum Vitae when you’re in grad school (and maybe before for some applications), not a resume. That’s a different topic, but the cover letter information still applies.