By Keara Cormier-Hill
Trying to pin down your fellowship experience to one resume category and one succinct interview response can be a challenging task. While you want to explain your time as a fellow in a way that conveys concrete transferable skills and directly applicable experience, you also want to express the immeasurable learning and growth that a professional or academic fellowship provides. So, how can you best present these unique experiences in a way that shows you are the well-rounded candidate employers seek in the application process? Here are 4 questions to consider to serve as a guide.
1. Was it a competitive opportunity?
The title “Fellow” in and of itself indicates a level of distinction in a position; fellowships go beyond volunteer positions and traditional jobs with focused professional development, networking, and mentoring opportunities, and many are highly competitive. The fact that you were awarded a fellowship position will speak to your capacity to stand out, but you want to make that point explicit. Your description of the fellowship on your resume should highlight the competitive nature of the fellowship, in a quantifiable form if possible, and also give some indication of why the opportunity was competitive. Whether it be a certain amount of grant funding, exposure to networks, or collaboration with renowned thinkers, take a line or two to spotlight the accomplishment. For instance:
Sample Organization – Fellow
- One of three awarded campus-wide from over two hundred submissions
- Received 1-on-1 career coaching from top civic leaders and collaboratively designed projects
Additionally, the job interview gives you a great opportunity to frame the importance of your fellowship experience. Some of the most common questions you will encounter in a job interview are “What is something that you are most proud of?” or “What was your greatest accomplishment?” In response, share not only why your fellowship experience was an achievement, but also how you prepared yourself to be a qualified candidate. Make sure that the key ingredients to success you mention are aligned with the responsibilities of the job for which you are applying.
2. How long was the fellowship term?
A common point of confusion in listing the fellowship on a professional resume is often where is it supposed to be listed. Volunteer experience? Awards and honors? Work experience? Considering the duration of your fellowship time and hours spent as a fellow can help you place it where it makes the most sense. If you were awarded a fellowship but did not have any duties, projects, or work as a result of being awarded a fellow, this would be most appropriately listed in an “Awards” section. On the other hand, if, as a fellow, you were giving full-time responsibilities and spent a significant amount of time working to complete projects, acknowledging your fellowship as a work experience would be a better fit. If your fellowship position fell somewhere in the middle and you do not want to detract from any full-time professional experiences from the same time, you might consider placing it as a volunteer experience or under an additional “Professional Development” section.
3. What were the outputs?
You’ll want to mention what you produced, changed, improved and mastered during your fellowship(s) both in your resume and throughout the application process. If you are stuck trying to determine the most valuable key points to share to emphasize impact, revisit the marketing and recruitment materials of your fellowship organization. Seeing what has been celebrated as an applaudable outcome from past fellows can serve as a template as you list your own. However, this should be just a template. Remember that you want to emphasize what makes you different and highlight the experiences that you bring that others can’t.
Additionally, if you are applying for a professional job after an academic fellowship where you conducted research or published articles that you would want to mention, a hybrid CV/resume would be a great way to showcase your work.
4. What were the inputs?
Last, but certainly not least, you want to illustrate what you put into your fellowship experience. Employers aren’t just looking for someone who has related experience and an impressive pedigree; they need to see candidates with employable traits. The top characteristics employers look for are leadership, a willingness to take calculated risks, creativity and flexibility. These are all traits that fellows typically possess and display throughout their term. Take your cover letters and interviews as opportunities to shine a light on moments where your work as a fellow demonstrated the kind of thinking and behavior that they need.
Fellowships do not always neatly fit into the same category as traditional jobs do, but that is exactly why they should be celebrated. Take the time to highlight how your unique accomplishments align with the ambition employers seek and you will be on your way to the next big step.
Keara Cormier-Hill is an alumna of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (HGSE), there having completed her Master’s of Education, Certificate of Advanced Studies in School Adjustment Counseling, and Child Protection Certificate from the Harvard François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights. Prior to HGSE, Keara collaborated with youth-centered international organizations in the Dominican Republic for two years as a Princeton in Latin America Fellow. Keara currently works with schools to support partnership among the school, parents and the community to improve student academic achievement and bolster positive development.
© Victoria Johnson 2019, all rights reserved