Improving Your CV at Waterloo

Most graduate students have an idea of how to create a curriculum vitae (CV). However, many want to know how they can improve certain sections of their vitae. In particular, graduate students are concerned with the “teaching” and “publications” sections of their vitae, as these are probably the most important sections when it comes to being competitive and marketable for academic positions. Below are strategies for improving these sections.


At some universities, graduates students are expected to teach courses or tutorials as part of their degree requirement. However, this is not always the case due to budgetary restrictions or department policies. While teaching assistant (TA) positions are available in almost every department, these may be limited, or go to the most qualified people. Below are some strategies to help increase your chances of gaining some teaching experience.

  • Make the head of your department aware of your desire to teach. Submit your CV to him or her and indicate what courses you would 1) be willing to teach and 2) be willing to develop. Some department heads like to know who is available to fill in for a course in the event of illness or an increased demand for a particular course.
  • Complete the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) program. This program is provided by the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the dean of graduate studies. The CUT program will help you to: become a more effective and reflective teacher; increase your knowledge of teaching and learning; have a forum in which to discuss teaching issues with others; and develop skills that prepare you to compete in today’s academic job market. Some department heads are nervous about considering graduate students for teaching positions because graduate students are viewed as inexperienced. However, showing that you have completed the CUT program demonstrates that you have teaching experience and have reflected upon your teaching. This may give you an edge in getting additional teaching experience. Visit our Certificate in University Teaching page for more information.
  • Search out opportunities to give guest lectures. This is a great way to gain teaching experience, particularly when there is little opportunity to teach a full course. Giving guest lectures gives you teaching experience as well as exposes you to a variety of classroom settings. Following are some ways to get guest lecture opportunities.

    • If you are TAing a course, approach the professor and ask if you can give a guest lecture. When approaching him or her, be specific. Look at the course outline and identify one or two lectures on materials that you feel comfortable teaching.
    • Ask your supervisor if you can give a guest lecture in one of the courses he or she is teaching. Again, be specific and identify which topics you can teach in which courses.
  • Be creative in your tutorials. Tutorials can be wonderful opportunities to improve your teaching and to try new teaching techniques. For example, you may wish to be a facilitator and have students be responsible for the discussion content, or decide to use a more formal lecture format. Gaining experience practicing in front of a group of people can help you overcome any nervousness you may have speaking in group settings as well as give you teaching experience in general. You can also ask the course professor to have the students evaluate your performance, resulting in data which you can use in your teaching dossier if appropriate.
  • Get involved with your department or faculty TA orientation sessions. Volunteer to organize the TA orientation session, contact guest speakers, or facilitate the actual session. Helping to train your peers as teachers indicates that you are recognized as a model by your department or faculty. You may list this volunteer experience under the “service” section of your CV, demonstrating to potential hiring committees that you are thinking about teaching and that you are involved outside of class time in building your teaching skills.


Many departments are interested in hiring individuals who combine a demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching with the potential for independent research and scholarship in an area that complements existing departmental research strengths. Your CV can be a valuable tool for demonstrating your potential for independent research. However, it is not an easy process to publish articles in scholarly journals or find the opportunities to publish book chapters. There are a few strategies listed below that can help.

  • Talk to your supervisor. He or she should know about the process of publishing and the appropriate publishing outlets for your work. Your supervisor can give you advice on your research and the best format for publishing it (e.g., book chapter, journal, monograph). It may be appropriate to ask your supervisor to co-author your first publication so that he or she can mentor you through the process.
  • Find out what the journals are in your field. Go to any Internet search engine and type in “<your discipline> journals list” to see if a list exists in your area. Also talk to your supervisor or a librarian to see what journals are available. As well, find out more about the journals from which you collect articles. Do not just find out the titles of the journals, but also find out their mission statements, areas within your discipline that they focus on, preferred research methodologies, and submission guidelines (i.e., page length, reference style). For example, a journal focused on statistics would probably not publish research based on qualitative methods.
  • Learn the process of publishing. The publication process (for a journal) can be summarized in four steps.

    1. Select an appropriate journal - study other articles to identify style, and review the submission guidelines carefully.
    2. Prepare a manuscript and submit it to that journal - you can only submit the manuscript to one journal at a time.
    3. The editor of the journal sends the manuscript to anonymous reviewers to review and give comment on the manuscript. Recognize that this whole process can take many months to complete.
    4. The editor of the journal then determines whether the manuscript should be published in that journal or not and returns the reviews and their decision to the author(s).
  • Write up your thesis as a series of articles. In some departments, you have the option to write a series of journal-ready articles rather than a full dissertation. In following this option, you will have developed articles that can be submitted for publication (or submitted during the writing process) rather than developing articles from your completed thesis. Investigate with your supervisor to see if your department offers this option.
  • Do book reviews. This is a good way of getting a short publication while getting your name out in print. Many scholars look at book reviews before considering whether a book is worth reading. In addition, in most cases you get to keep the copy of the book that you reviewed.
  • Participate in conferences. Conferences are good arenas to share your ideas and receive feedback on them. While most conference presentations do not make it into published form, if you do prepare a publishable manuscript from your presentation, you have gone through one round of reviews already. Also, at many universities (particularly in the United States) a conference presentation is considered the equivalent of a published paper. If you feel your presentation may warrant publication, conferences are also good places to meet journal editors and suggest your ideas to them.
  • Always submit a very polished version of an article to journals or a conference abstract to conferences. An article or conference abstract that reads well will make a better impression on an editor or a conference committee than a poorly written one.


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact.


  • Becker, H. S. (1986). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Boice, R. (1990). Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. Stillwater: New Forums Press.
  • Booth, W. C. et al. (1995). The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Luey, B. (2002). Handbook for Academic Authors. 4th Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • O’Connor, M. (1993). Writing Successfully in Science. London: Harper Collins Academic.
  • Parker, C. et al. (1998). Graduate Students and Publication in Scholarly Journals. Comparative Education Review. 42(3): 247-252.
  • Powell, W. W. (1985). Getting into Print: The Decision-Making Process in Scholarly Publishing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
teaching tips

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