I would like to thank everyone who shared information about their graduate program's job-market mentoring practices both here and at Daily Nous. Although additional comments may be still forthcoming, I thought it might be helpful to summarize here the kinds of things that programs with strong job-market mentoring appear to do.
Judging from the information that has been shared so far, it appears that graduate programs with effective job-market mentoring do the following kinds of things:
- Ensure that their students get an "early start" on job-readiness, encouraging and mentoring their students to develop, present, and publish strong term-papers as early in their graduate careers as reasonably possible.
- Distribute a placement handbook to all students, giving students a detailed account of what it takes to be competitive on the market, what the various stages of the job-market process involves, and what should be done when
- Provide students a job-market timeline, outlining what students should aim to accomplish at different stages of their graduate careers (viz. "Year 1", "Year 2", etc.), including an explicit set of deadlines of what to accomplish beginning at least in January the year a candidate goes on the market (e.g. compile dossier materials by February, get faculty feedback by May, have practice job talks and teaching demos in August/September, etc.).
- Have multiple faculty be proactive in soliciting and providing detailed feedback for candidates' job materials, not just a placement director or dissertation supervisor (though a candidate's final materials should also be vetted by a placement director).
- Help students develop job-market materials tailored to different types of jobs, helping candidates compile materials not just for R1 research institutions, but also for teaching-focused institutions, community colleges, etc.
- Hold mock interviews, practice job-talks, and practice teaching demos.
- Offer a faculty-run group seminar, in which job-marketeers meet regularly (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) to workshop job-materials, hold practice job-talks, teaching demos, etc.
In contrast, programs with weaker job-market mentoring practices appear to do far less. They may:
- Provide very little "job-readiness" guidance early on when it comes to helping grad students learn how to publish and present at conferences, and develop a strong teaching history/background, leaving grad students to largely figure these things out alone very "late in the game", when they are about to head out onto the market (e.g. with few, if any, publications and conference presentations, and perhaps inadequate teaching experience).
- Not have any kind of job-market seminar for job-marketeers to workshop materials, practice job-talks, etc.
- Not provide any sort of job-market handbook or list of deadlines, leaving students adrift to figure out what a competitive job-market dossier looks like, and without much of a plan (or support) to accomplish this successfully.
- Provide some dossier feedback, but only from a placement director, not multiple faculty members, and not in a proactive manner, leaving it to students to seek (or not seek) adequate feedback prior to heading on the market.
- Provide job-market advice and dossier feedback tailored merely to R1-research jobs, leaving students with little clear idea how to apply successfully to jobs at smaller teaching-focused universities, community colleges, etc.
- Only offer one mock interview or practice job-talk, not providing job-candidates with ample practice in front of (and feedback from) faculty and peers, and perhaps no practice teaching demo(s) at all.
Have I left anything out? In any case, I hope readers find this information helpful. It seems to me that:
- Any potential grad student considering attending a PhD program in philosophy should take great care to find out--through discussion with different programs' faculty, grad students, etc.--precisely what kinds of job-market mentoring those programs provide (i.e. whether the program one is considering comes closer to the good set of mentoring practices above, or alternatively, the poorer ones). Given the scarcity of academic jobs in philosophy, I would suggest that prospective students aggressively inquire about these things, asking multiple grad students in programs they might attend to (hopefully) get an accurate picture about what the program in question actually does.
- Graduate students and faculty in programs that do not currently utilize the good practices listed above lobby strongly for program reform, as every program should do right by their own students, giving them a fair chance to be competitive on the market. If your program does not provide effective mentoring practices, consider mobilizing other grad students and faculty to push for improvement--and, of course, be honest with prospective grad students about your program so that they can make an informed decision!