My ‘Shadow CV’

I am becoming increasingly aware of the gap between how academic careers look from the outside and how they feel from the inside. I have been exceptionally lucky in that I have not yet had a period of unemployment and this can make it look as though I’ve achieved everything I’ve aimed at. This simply isn’t true. The ‘rejections’ file in my job applications folder is so large I’ve had to split it by year.

I recently came across the idea of building a ‘shadow CV’ (on this blog, pointed out to me by Sarah Punshon), in which all of these failures, as well as rejected journal articles, conference papers and funding applications are listed. This Shadow CV will inevitably be many times longer than your real CV – no matter how sparkling!

The idea is that the Shadow CV is hidden away in a secret folder until you are in a secure position – academically and institutionally – and can afford to reveal that the path wasn’t as smooth as it may have seemed. I am going to do this, but I just wanted to give a little taster here, in the midst of what has been outwardly a particularly successful autumn, but which, secretly, has been marked by as much failure as triumph.


I got a permanent lectureship BUT was rejected from ten jobs this summer alone, nine without being shortlisted – one of these was re-advertised.

I had a lovely book launch and got a tiny amount of media attention (BBC Parliament and Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed) BUT I put myself forward for two categories in the Political Book Awards and was not shortlisted in either. I also proposed a couple of radio programmes based on my research which were rejected.

I have had three conference papers accepted and been invited to give a couple of talks BUT had a journal article rejected. As this was based on the research I’d been working on for the past year (and the criticisms were all spot-on), it was particularly galling.

BUT – and the biggest BUT of all – that rejected journal article was also (bar the job!!) the best thing that happened to me, as all of that painfully incisive criticism gives me the means to write it again, and to write it better. Yes, it puts my schedule out and means I won’t complete half the things I’d aimed to this year. But at least I’ll have one damn good article to show for it…  At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Do any of you have shadow CVs? Maybe it is something History Lab Plus could encourage…


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