Five things to know about narrative CVs

Posted on: 15 March 2024 by Dr Elizabeth Adams (Number of words: 381; Read time: 1 minute, 54 seconds) in Blog posts

Portrait of Elizabeth Adams
Dr Elizabeth Adams

Dr Elizabeth Adams, Career and Leadership Coach, explores the five key things you need to know about narrative CVs.

Narrative CV formats have recently been introduced by funding bodies in the UK and internationally, as part of efforts to broaden recognition practices, acknowledge the diversity of career paths and contributions, and move away from narrow indicators or proxies for quality such as the journal impact factor.  However, any change can feel daunting, even more so if you feel your future career hangs in the balance, and you don’t like ‘talking yourself up’, or don’t feel skilled in writing narrative. Here are a few things that it might be helpful to know:  

  1. First of all, narrative formats aren’t totally alien, many employers and sectors look for narrative elements in a job application process. Expanding your skills in this dimension can only help you in future, no matter what job you are looking for.
  2. Positive disclosure of facts and evidence isn’t the same as bragging. If you think the research project you are proposing is worth doing, and that you have the right skills and expertise to do it, then you need to say so, and let the funding body make an informed decision. Don’t feel you have to use superlatives for everything, or words that make you feel icky (definitely don’t describe yourself as 'paradigm shifting').
  3. Narrative doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to use any metrics – just be careful of how you use them, and provide the context. The metrics toolkit website can help you with selecting metrics.
  4. Don’t overthink the different sections on the UKRI template. Don’t stress about whether your highly industry-engaged research project belongs in box one or four. The important thing is to communicate your research strengths and expertise, demonstrating how one thing built on the next, to equip you to be the right person to deliver their project. They’re not marking each question separately.
  5. Finally, get someone to help. It’s always easier to write things like this with someone else asking you open and appreciative questions about the things you are most proud of. Who can you offer to help with this? 

I hope you find the reflective process of writing the narrative CV gives you opportunity to connect with what you love about your work and research, and use this thinking to inform your next career steps.  

Elizabeth is delivering a workshop as part of Making an Impact 2024 to help take the fear out of narrative CVs and get participants started with writing one. 'Don’t know where to start with a narrative CV?' is taking place on 10th June 2024, 12:30-14:00 BST in person at the University of Liverpool. Find out more and reserve your place here:

About the author

Dr Elizabeth Adams is a coach with over 15 years’ experience working in researcher career development. Her passion lies in helping build academic cultures where individuals and creativity thrive. 

Further Reading

Developing a narrative CV: guidance for researchers, University of Oxford

Writing a Narrative CV Workbook by Elizabeth Adams & Sandra Oza