Wednesday, 18 June 2014

My Negative CV

I present to you my negative CV. Rather than list all my successes (as I do here), here I’m listing all the jobs I haven’t been offered, all the papers I’ve had rejected, and all the awards I haven’t been given.

Before I start, I should probably note that I’m not doing badly at present. I had a successful PhD, and am in my third year of a five year post-doc. I have several publications, and was even lucky enough to win a prize for my PhD work. It would be dishonest to claim I’m not doing reasonably well, but I certainly know individuals with ‘stronger’ CVs – prestigious fellowships, publications in ‘big’ journals etc. My point in opening up my CV is more to show the extent of rejection that has gone with the successes I have had. This might offer hope to PhD students, suggesting that rejections don’t spell the end of their career, or it could provoke anxiety, wondering how they could put up with so much rejection (or even that they've been at the recieving end of a lot more rejection). Regardless, I hope that the information is useful for some. Whether or not potential future employees will regard it as ‘useful’ is another matter, but one I will have to cope with when the time comes.

Educations & Jobs:
Apply for PhD position @ Cambridge – rejected
Apply for PhD position @ York – rejected
Apply for post-doc position @ Cambridge – rejected
Apply for College fellowship @ Cambridge – rejected
Apply for Wellcome fellowship – rejected
Apply for MRC fellowship – rejected
Apply for ESRC fellowship – rejected
Apply for post-doc position @ Oxford – rejected
Apply for post-doc position @ Birkbeck – rejected
Apply for British Academy fellowship – rejected

Awards and Prizes
Nominated for BPS postgrad award – nope
Nominated for BPS postgrad award – nope
Nominated for EPS Frith Prize award – nope
Nominated for BPS postgrad award – nope

Submit to Neuroimage – rejected
Submit to Neuropsychologia – rejected
Submit to Nature Neuroscience – rejected
Submit to Neuron – rejected
Submit to Science – rejected
Submit to PLOS: Biology – rejected
Submit to PNAS – rejected
Submit to PLOS: Biology – rejected
Submit to PNAS – rejected

As can been seen, I’ve been rejected a few times since 2005 (this doesn't include undergrad courses I was rejected from). I’ve no idea what the average rate of rejection is for someone at a similar stage in their career. I was relatively selective in applying for post-docs in or around the London area (for personal reasons), so perhaps applied for fewer jobs than others might do when finishing their PhD. Who knows. What is clear is that in order to have even a small amount of success you need to keep banging on the door until someone lets you in. The only reason I got into Cambridge to do a PhD was because I went away, did an MSc, and reapplied the following year with a stronger CV. The only reason I won an award for my PhD work was because my PhD supervisor was willing to repeatedly nominate me over three successive years.

I think two points stem from this: (1) get used to rejection, it is part of the job and (2) find a way to channel rejection into something productive. The easiest thing to do when you have a paper rejected is to sit on it for a few months – the best thing to do is to work on it straight away. That exasperated annoyance you get when reviewers/editors haven’t realised the brilliance of your manuscript? Use it to make your paper better and submit it somewhere else (although perhaps wait a day or two just to calm yourself down a little bit first…).

Note – although every attempt has been made to ensure this CV is accurate, it was actually surprisingly difficult to retrace my steps (at least is terms of rejection). It seems even electronic memory has a positive bias.

1 comment:

  1. This will be useful to many folks, I think. Sometimes students in particular seem to get the mistaken impression that they're the only ones who ever get rejected.

    I did my own 'shadow cv' a while back, prompted by a suggestion from another blogging scientist: