Last year, Helen and I ran a "Job Market Boot Camp" series offering current and future job candidates in academic philosophy advice on a variety of issues. Reading through the series again this morning, I still stand by the advice we offered. However, it also occurred to me that since running the series, I have had some career experiences that might warrant revisiting some of the topics in the series to potentially add some relevant information to advice previously given. In particular, I have worked at a mid-sized liberal arts [MLAC] university for about seven years now, and served on my first search committee last year. Although I do not think it is appropriate to share anything about how I or my committee deliberated [or what "I look for" in a job-candidate], I think my overall career experience may have provided me with some additional general information that job-candidates may find helpful.
So, what I hope to do in this new series is to simply revisit the topics Helen and I covered in the boot camp, adding information and suggestions that I believe candidates may find potentially relevant/helpful. As always, I want to emphasize that the suggestions I give in the series is just that: my suggestions, not necessarily the best or "correct" suggestions. As with most things, people will presumably disagree on what job-market advice is good. All I can promise to do--and, I think, all anyone can really do, given that there are few clear facts [viz. scientific study] regarding what makes candidates competitive/successful on the philosophy job market--is provide concrete evidence for the suggestions I provide.
As in the Boot Camp, I will begin today by discussing the issue of building a competitive CV. In last year's post, I focused primarily (though not exclusively) on publications, arguing that my evidence suggests that all legitimately peer-reviewed publications--not just publications in highly-ranked journals, but lower-ranked journals as well [though not "vanity" journals]--can improve one's competitiveness on the market. I will return to and add to some of the evidence for this conclusion below. However, my post last year focused only a little bit on other aspects of the CV, such as teaching experience, university service, and letters of recommendation. In today's post, I will spend most of my time adding to the previous suggestions I made on those issues.
I'd like to thank everyone who responded to my first call for volunteer reviewers for this year's Philosophers' Cocoon Philosophy Conference. Your help reviewing papers has been invaluable, and I am very grateful! Alas, I still have some papers that I need to review, and am hoping a few more people might be willing to chip in to evaluate a paper or two. As of today, I still have unreviewed papers on the following topics:
Feminist philosophyReviewers found
Moral philosophy [contractualism]
Emergence [in biology and philosophy of science]
Non-cognitivism in metaethicsReviewers found
If you have any background in any of these areas and might be willing to give a paper a quick look, all I am looking for is a recommendation [viz. "thumbs up/include" or "thumbs down/don't include"], relative to the conference's primary aims [of being a "workshop"-type conference where early-career philosophers, e.g. grad students and early-career faculty, seek to help each other improve promising professional-level work]. If you're interested and willing, please just email me at email@example.com-- again, I'd be very appreciative for your help!
I’m a postdoc so I do not have a permanent or tenure-track job yet, and I am wondering about publication strategies. I’ve noticed that there are some "hot topics" in philosophy that seem to get a lot of airplay in general high-prestige philosophy journals. Given that publications in such journals matter for job applications, my question is to what extent I should redirect my research to write on these topics. Or do you think I should rather write on topics that I care deeply about, even though these topics aren’t the most easy to get published?
I thought this is a great question and I would be interested to hear what readers think. My sense for this stage of career is that a mixed strategy is best. If you notice that a topic is trending in philosophy journals, and you have an idea of an original contribution in that field, I would recommend to go for it, write that paper up, and submit it to high-prestige journals that have a publication history on the topic.
But I would recommend against abandoning the philosophical topics one cares deeply about because they would not be marketable. There is a danger that one sacrifices too much in the pursuit of a permanent position, and abandoning the things that led one to be passionate about philosophy to begin with seems a sacrifice too much. In the quest for a permanent job, it is important not to lose the joy of philosophy.
Moreover, the deliberate redirection of one's own interests to make them more marketable sounds like an instance of what Kristie Dotson has termed "testimonial smothering", whereby a testifier truncates her own testimony to those things that others are willing and able to hear. It is concerning that topics such as philosophy of race or feminist philosophy, or philosophy from non-western traditions hardly get any airplay at all in general journals, and do not routinely form part of strong graduate programs. If specialists in such fields deliberately smother their own testimony, that exacerbates the problem and we risk increasing insularity and decreasing connection with other fields and society at large. So there is also an ethical dimension to our publication choices.
What strategies have readers tried to grapple with this problem?
I am happy to report that Helen and I have now matched a good number of the mentors and mentees that have signed up so far for this year's run of our Job-Market Mentoring Program. Currently, we have around a half-dozen mentees and a half-dozen mentors we have not yet matched, as there aren't any clear matches between their respective research areas, job-market needs/specialties, etc. So, in the hope of arranging some better matches and helping a larger number of candidates in need, Helen and I would like to extend this second call for signups. If you are a job-candidate in need or a tenure-track or tenured faculty member who might be willing to devote some time to helping a job-candidate in need, please do sign up here!
I am a first-year placement director at [redacted]. I recently got a question from one of my graduate students, and while I have pretty strong leanings about the answer, I'm wondering if you might float it to your readers to get more feedback. I looked around through the archives and didn't see this question discussed, but I very well could have missed it.
The student in question has not had any success on the job market for the last couple of years, and he has now completely exhausted his funding from the university. This year, he has a shot at a one-year position that is a 4/4 with little research support and low pay and is located on the opposite side of the country. Taking into account moving expenses, the loss of his wife's job and time it would take to find a new one, and his salary, this would be a net loss financially. Further, it would inhibit his ability to improve his CV for the next go-round on the job market.
His question was this: how much worse off would he be on the job market next year if he did not take a philosophy position this year, instead using the time to work on getting pieces of his dissertation published, presenting at conferences, etc., versus taking a VAP or adjunct position? My sense is that it would be much harder to get a long-term (or even a cushier short-term) position after being "out" of philosophy for even a short period of time. But I could be wrong!
I will be curious to see what readers think--especially, any readers who have served on search-committees: so, if you have served on a search-committee, please do weigh in!
In my experience, one thing early-career academics [and some non-early-career people] often struggle with is getting things done. In fact, I had serious problems here in the past myself. In graduate school, after I completed my comprehensive exams I got basically nothing of any consequence done for about two years. It wasn't for lack of trying. I did "work" just about every day: reading, writing [or, at least, attempting to, often unfruitfully], etc. I just struggled actually getting stuff accomplished. And my problems did not end when I finished my degree. In my first year at my first job [at UBC], I remember spending my entire first semester messing around with a couple of paper drafts for months on end, never finishing either of them. I was wasting a ridiculous amount of time, but, for all that, I just didn't know a better to approach things.
My wife, who is an early-career academic in another field [and who happily encouraged me to mention her in this post], reminded me of these issues when she approached me yesterday asking how I manage to get things done. You see, right now she is struggling with many of the same things I struggled with early on in my career: getting papers drafted or revised in a reasonable amount of time while studying for her comprehensive exams and doing all of the other things she needs to do [respond to emails, meet with collaborators, etc.]. My wife approached me with her question because, whatever limitations I have [and, as with most people, I admittedly have very many], not getting stuff done is no longer one of them. I get stuff done now--I get papers drafted and revised quickly, and manage to get all of the other things I need to get done [teaching, assessment duties, volunteer work, etc.]--without missing deadlines. This isn't meant to be self-congratulatory. It's simply a descriptive fact: I used to struggle mightily to get things done, and I don't anymore. As I explained here, I recognize that in sharing my perspective there is always a risk that saying things like this may come across as self-congratulatory--but, for all that, my sincere aim in sharing is to try to be helpful. I hope readers take my remarks in that spirit. I don't "know it all" by any means, but what I can do is share some of my struggles and experiences grappling with them, in the hope that my remarks can potentially help others facing similar struggles.
Anyway, because I used to struggle with these issues, and know there are others out there who probably struggle with them as well, I thought it might be a good idea if we shared with each other some of our strategies for getting things done. I will begin by sharing mine, and hope some of you share some of your strategies as well. As always, I do not suppose that "my ways are the right ways." I fully recognize that we are all different, and that what works for one person might not work for another. Still, be that as it may, I think it may be useful to share our strategies with each other--as, from experience, I can say that simply trying to find effective strategies through little more than personal trial and error isn't...well, all that effective. Sharing our strategies with each other may, at the very least, help us see how other people do things, and perhaps try out their strategies to see if they are useful in our own case. In any case, this is my hope!
I will begin by sharing a general macro-level strategy for getting things done that I have found very useful, and then turn to some much more specific micro-level strategies. The macro-level strategy is simply this: I have found that, for me, the single most important strategy for getting things done is having effective daily routines. Allow me to explain.
A number of philosophers in my social media feeds have raised questions recently about anonymized journal reviewing: specifically, about cases where they suspect the identify of the paper's author, given the author's manner of citations--specifically, the manner in which it appears that the author may be citing themselves throughout their manuscript. The standard case of this is something like the following:
One gets asked to review a paper. The paper repeatedly cites a not-very-well-known author X, placing that author's previous work at the center of the paper under submission, developing X's previous work in new directions. Since X is not very well-known, it seems likely to the reviewer/potential-reviewer that X is the author of the current paper.
A number of different people in my social media feeds have recently raised cases like this, asking social media friends what they should do. Should they decline to review? Should they alert the editor that anonymized review has potentially been compromised, and let the editor decide? Etc. Although there have been disagreements in my feeds about what the right answer to these questions are, the most popular answers seem to be that reviewers in this kind of situation should either go ahead with the review if they are not certain who the author is, or alternatively, let the journal editor[s] know of the situation and let the editor decide. These both seem like reasonable answers to me, especially the latter--as reviewers are tasked with reviewing manuscripts by the journal editors [who therefore, it seems to me, should be consulted if there is any doubt].
However, I'd like to step back from these questions to some broader questions about how anonymized review can be compromised, and what ought to be done to "protect" anonymized review. As readers will see, I think there are some very serious puzzles to grapple with here that seem to me inadequately addressed at present--and indeed, I am not sure that anonymized review can be protected in a way that is either [A] effective, and/or [B] fair to authors. Let me explain.
It's summertime, which [as in past years] means it's music time! As longtime readers of the Cocoon may [or may not] know, I used to be a musician -- so I like to share music I like from time to time. Today I'm going to share a few songs by my favorite Swedish group [well, besides the obvious]: the band Kent, who just released their final album after 26 years together. Enjoy!
An anonymous early-career reader submitted the following post:
Three Tips for Departments Interested in Economically Diverse Graduate Students
Departments interested in having a socioeconomically diverse graduate student population should work with the APA to develop a thorough guide to admissions and send it out to every Philosophy department they can reach. Sharp undergrads from poor backgrounds are far more likely to be at a state school close to home. These departments are much more likely to be outside the mainstream of philosophy and be unable to offer helpful advice to applicants. For example, I thought (wrongly) that the GRE mattered. I spent hours with my mom quizzing me on vocabulary and spent hundreds on test prep materials. When I scored in the 99th percentile I was thrilled and thought surely some programs would be impressed. I wish I had known that all those resources would have been better spent elsewhere. By the way, as an undergrad at a state school, I found the PGR very useful, as I didn’t have access to faculty that were plugged in to the culture of the profession in the same way that faculty at top research departments would be. Hopefully this guide would be true to the process and not mindless platitudes.
Graduate schools should either abandon the GRE (since many ad comms will bend over backwards to say it doesn't matter in decisions), or at least not require an official score report until an applicant is provisionally admitted. That's an enormous expense for underprivileged applicants. I happen to think, however, that the GRE is the one level playing field for poor undergraduates. Underprivileged students will be far less likely to have letters from famous philosophers, extensive feedback on their writing, or inflated grades. The one uncorrupted component of the process might well be the GRE. Maybe the quantitative section shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but the verbal section really should count for a lot. I know many faculty are keen to prioritize their own “expert” judgments over objective metrics, but surely we understand that this is one of the ways in which bias in favor of privileged applicants operates.
Admissions should omit the institutional affiliation and the names of the letter writers until the later rounds of the process. This way, at least, reasonable applicants from state schools can survive, and no one can squeak in based on pedigree alone. Now, here is an admittedly radical suggestion: reserve a spot for an applicant coming from a less prestigious school. I guarantee that there are enough excellent applicants that a good program could get a phenomenal student coming from a state school. Many state school students go to terminal MA programs as they aren’t able to get into a PhD the first time around. My own impression is that the well regarded MA programs are a goldmine of excellent applicants, many from non-prestigious backgrounds. It does seem odd to me that the US has not adopted the standard of the UK in making an MA a prerequisite for a PhD.
This is just a quick update on the Cocoon's Job-Market Mentoring Program, as well as an announcement and request [see below]. I am happy to report that since the program's relaunch a little over a week ago, Helen and I have matched seven mentor-mentee pairs. We are currently attempting to make one or two matches per day, so if you have signed up and have not been matched yet, know that we have not forgotten about you and are doing our best to find you a suitable match!
So much for the update. Now for the request. ;) As was the case last year, we currently have significantly more mentees in need signed up for the program than we do potential mentors. Accordingly, we would like to ask again for potential mentors to please sign up herefor the program. We can really use all the help we can get, and there are mentee candidates signed up who are very much in need. More specifically, we could really use mentors who have some personal and/or professional background in the following areas [respectively]:
Low socioeconomic [SES] personal background
Epistemology and philosophy of science
Philosophy of time [x2 candidates in need]
Logic and philosophy of math
Finally, as we do not currently have any women philosophers signed up as potential mentees, Helen and I would like to clarify that women candidates are encouraged to apply to our program. Although our mentoring program webpage states that the program is for, "all those in need who cannot utilize the Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy", the webpage also states that our program is, "open to job-candidates of any gender", and that we simply, "encourage women candidates to approach The Job Candidate Mentoring Program for Women in Philosophy first, as our program is intended to complement rather than compete with that program." So, if you are a woman in need of job-market mentorship, please do sign up for our program. All we ask is that you check with the Mentoring Program for Women first to see if they have any open slots. Thanks again to all of the mentors who have signed up so far. Helen and I are very grateful for your help, as I suspect are the candidates you are helping!
In the article Getting out of a hole, the pseudonymous blogger Acclimatrix writes about the challenges of being in a low point in their pre-tenure life. One particular bit caught my attention
The hardest part about being in a hole is that you feel like you, really need a “win” to get out. The win is like a rope; it’s a quick exit from a dark, lonely place. That line of thinking is a trap, though, because the rope is totally outside your control. That “win” — a funded proposal, an award, a new relationship, or some other really great news — may never come, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. The only surefire way to get out of a hole is to climb out. Ropes are great, but you don’t need them. A little boost or an outstretched hand from a friend or loved one helps. But sometimes, it’s just going to be a long, tough, slog of indeterminate duration. Come up with a playlist of Power Songs and get to work.
I recognise this feeling. I am not in a hole by any means - I love my job and I feel privileged to have a permanent position. I enjoy the town I live in, have friends, hobbies, a family, supportive colleagues and nice students.
Still, a new job comes with its challenges and one of those is to find new routines and to balance research with teaching and administration. I applied for four grants this past year: one was a European Research Council grant with a ridiculous amount of funding for a project in the philosophy of cognitive science.I knew the odds were very low, going into it. I knew that as a matter of fact, centuries of research time are wasted each year on unfunded proposals. But I led myself to believe that with my current track record, I stood a chance and that the project had merit. My application - 60 pages in total, most of these single-spaced - took the same amount of work I would have put into 3 substantial articles, and it was not funded.
I also applied for a smaller research grant, which would have allowed me to explore the philosophy of fiction. I was hopeful. The grant awarders sounded enthusiastic about my proposal, I had got all the external funding I would need to carry the outreach part of it out, and I was shortlisted (one of 50 shortlisted) from over 300 applicants. Unfortunately, mine was not among the 21 awarded proposals. I did receive two other, smaller grants I applied for, one to organise a workshop on fiction writing for philosophers from the British Society of Aesthetics, and one for a prize competition for a philosophical short story from the APA Berry Fund. Moral of the story is, I guess, apply for many grants if you expect to get some, and expect to pour in a lot of effort for nothing.
Hey ya'll. Sorry for the radio silence. I've been rushing to finish my dissertation so I can start a new gig in the Fall, and its been all consuming. I'll be designing some new courses from scratch later this summer, at which point I plan to continue the syllabus design series. But in the meantime, since all I'm thinking about lately is my dissertation, I thought I'd share my impressions of the process. So join me after the break for a look back...
I am happy to welcome the Cocoon's newest contributor, "Aubrey Procter" [pseudonym]. Aubrey is an assistant professor of philosophy at an American university who has published a book and several articles and book chapters. Welcome aboard!
Sergio Tenenbaum has an interesting guest post today at Daily Nous on our duties to actual and possible graduate students. Toward the end of the post, he lists what he believes to be some of the "less obvious ones in an admittedly dogmatic fashion" [my boldface-explained below]:
We should be extremely open with prospective students visiting our department (we have not only the negative duty of not lying but also positive duties of disclosure, such as informing students if it is unlikely that they’ll be able to work with someone in their field, and even letting them know if we think that they should choose another program).
Faculty should typically accept every request to supervise as long as they are competent and not oversubscribed (and the threshold for “oversubscribed” should be a number that toddlers cannot count to).
Graduate departments should fund conference travel for students and ensure that graduate students interact with visiting speakers.
Sabbaticals, leaves, etc. should not interfere with graduate supervision (I think this is obvious, but since there is an explicit rule to this effect in my department (while we have no explicit rules, for instance, forbidding us from hitting our students), I decided to list it here anyway).
Graduate departments should put a special effort into helping students prepare their applications for teaching jobs. Most faculty in PhD programs have never been on a search committee for a teaching job. Departments could bring in people from teaching institutions to help.
Recognizing that many graduates will end up in non-academic careers, graduate departments should support non-academic career-planning, for example by connecting students with earlier graduates who have made successful transitions from the doctoral program to positions outside academia.
I'm on board with most--and perhaps all--of these, but like a few other commenters at Daily Nous, I would like to say a few things about .
Before I get to that though, and as a preliminary to lead into my discussion of , I would like to comment on another part of Tenenbaum's post--the part where he reports grappling as a graduate student, retrospectively, with his decision to enter grad school. Tenenbaum writes: