From reading the many questions on here that relate to CVs it seems that some items are necessary on a CV and others are more appropriate at the persons difference stages within academia. As someone at the very early stage, masters student with no publications, is conference volunteering a plus or minus on a CV?

In my own situation I helped out at a 2 day conference that my department held. I assisted presenters with setting up their presentations and video recorded the conference for the university. As a smaller conference I was the only grad student that assisted.


As a general rule: anything which is clearly academically related can go on your CV. As you say, there are certain things that are required or nearly required on your CV, but even these vary by discipline and sometimes people in the same discipline have divergent ideas. (For instance, every once in a while I find a CV which doesn't list the candidate's undergraduate institution, or lists it without indicating the years that they spent there. I would have thought that was strictly required. I guess I was wrong.)

What to fight in adding "academically related" information to your CV is clear: if you put in too much routine stuff, you'll get a bloated mess of a CV that few people will actually read. Drawbacks of a lengthy CV can be mitigated by very careful and clear organization. Nevertheless, you can compare CVs of two absolutely cognate people -- e.g. who attended undergrad and grad at exactly the same time and arrived at their current institution at the same time and with the same seniority -- and you'll find significant variations, including up to at least 1/3 in the total length. It's really your choice how much detail to put on your CV, and I would be skeptical of anyone who tells you too stridently what you must and must not do.

Having said that: yes, very early career academics (especially students) really struggle to have a CV that doesn't look unhelpfully skimpy. Conference work sounds like a great thing to put on a junior person's CV -- and in fact, even on a senior person's, although a more senior person might be more selective about the kind of conference work that goes on your CV.

One tip: "conference volunteering" might be an undersell. Most conference organizing is unpaid, hence is volunteer work. "Conference assistant" sounds like your work was really on the level of secretarial work / technical support. If that is an accurate description of what you did, great. If you do such things more than once or twice, you should think about asking to be let in on some of the more content-related aspects of the work. For instance, if you had a say -- however small -- in choosing or recruiting the speakers or attendees, then I would go for something like "co-organizer" rather than "assistant".

| improve this answer | |

In general, it's a bad idea to put things in your CV that look like they are there exclusively to make it look longer. It gives the impression that you haven't done enough "real" stuff (teaching, publications, etc) and you are just digging for menial things to pad your CV up. The problem is that, as you pointed out, what counts as "menial" vs. "significant" depends to a certain extent on your career stage. If you are a grad student and your professor asks you to give a guest lecture in one of his/her undergrad classes, it's ok to include that in your CV, but if you are in a tenure-track job, you might want to only include courses for which you have full responsibility.

In the case at hand, I would say that it's ok to say that you helped at this particular conference, but keeping in mind that this line will have to disappear from your CV at some point in the future.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.