A mystery of the CV

One often sees CVs with “areas of specialization” and “areas of competence.” One also sees them without. How does one decide whether to list them? Further, how does one determine what to list in each area?

I was pondering the latter question while walking the dog, and I came up with a theory — an area of competence is where you’d feel comfortable teaching an intro class or writing a conference paper or article; an area of specialization is where you’d feel comfortable teaching an advanced seminar or grad class or writing a book. As for the former, it struck me that if one’s CV is not immediately legible (like someone who’s written a book on Zizek, one on atonement theory, and two on pop culture), one might want to include them as “quilting points,” so to speak.

What do you think, dear readers?

6 thoughts on “A mystery of the CV

  1. I’m not in the humanities, but I’ve found that “what can this person teach” is actually a category many faculty members latch on to in the hiring process. Most university level research projects are so specialized that this an easier (if not necessarily better) way to organize candidates.

  2. The faculty folks with whom I work most closely think that “areas of competence” are related fairly directly to the comprehensive exams one took. I wonder if people taking them off their CV’s is a function of getting further away from their graduation?

  3. I was under the impression competence/specialization was a philosophy thing and not widely practiced outside that discipline. I don’t think I’ve seen a sociology c.v. that uses it, but I have seen teaching/research interests used in a similar way.

  4. Adam,

    That is the familiar division with which I am familiar.

    That only works if the institution’s exams are set up in that fashion. At my alma mater, we took master’s and Ph.D.-level exams in history and recent philosophy in all major fields despite what we could teach. The practical effect was that many of us gained much broader areas of competence, but that’s somewhat specific to that institution.

  5. I think that’s a reasonable way to split them, and from what I’ve been told, what’s required as “proof” is some type of indication, either in presentations and publications, or perhaps coursework, elsewhere on the CV. I haven’t heard what Eric mentions, but that sounds like a reasonable “proof” as well. I’d guess that this is one distinction between training in philosophy and theology, based on what I know of theology comprehensive, which are more issues focused, right? Some philosophy programs tend to test on the entire history of (usually only western) philosophy, although in my program the comprehensives are driven by a portfolio of one’s own work, so it’s a bit of a feedback loop with CV materials as “proof”, assuming that someone is doing a bit of conferencing, etc.

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