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Stuck, PhD

I am feeling really, really stuck, and am unsure how to even begin to ask for help. All of the issues Amanda brought up in her recent post (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2017/03/reader-query-on-professional-frustrations.html) present serious obstacles to achieving professional success on the basis of merit. But even if you have the good fortune to surmount those obstacles--as I have to some extent--that's no guarantee that you'll get a job. And then, it's not even clear what you're supposed to do to improve your candidacy next time around (even if you had the time and opportunity to do those things, which Amanda points out one doesn't always have). I'm sure there are lots of others in my position with even better CVs than me who don't know what else to do.

To begin with, I have several unearned job market advantages that I don't deserve to have but have nonetheless: I'm a male with no geographic restrictions who went to a top-20 Leiter school and thereby also have a letter from a bigshot in my dossier. Then there are things I've actually worked for: I've taught over a dozen classes; I've sole-authored 3 papers in good specialty journals, all of which have been cited; and I have a 4th paper forthcoming in a top 10 generalist journal.

This year I got two Skype interviews from about 80 applications. What else can I do, other than teach and publish more an hope that makes a difference? I don't have much service experience, but I can't get any of that at this point without a job.


The arbitrariness of it all is one of the most frustrating parts indeed! What I have noticed is that people with success often fit into a real niche specialty area, one where many people are not. I have thought about changing my AOS to better fit into one of these special boxes. But the ugly truth is, some people will do everything one possibly can and still not get a TT job. The math is simple: too many qualified and talents applicants for the number of open slots. Sometimes there is nothing you can do :(

Anon Grad Student

My question is, in some ways, triggered by Stuck, PhD's comment and Amanda's response to Second Time Around in the other thread.

The question has two closely related parts:

1. Should one be doing things in grad school -- e.g. taking Stats / Math / CS classes -- to lay the ground for non-academic options?
2. And if so, what exactly, and how much, should one be doing? (Or, *can* one do?) What is a good way of balancing the competing considerations?

The obvious problem with doing such things is that it could take time, indeed quite a lot of it, from dissertating and publishing papers, and taking time away from these things could be fatal for international grad students like me, who really do have to graduate on time.

But there are also obvious benefits, especially given how academia doesn't seem to have good long-term prospects as an 'industry'. Perhaps the solution is just to take 1 - 2 non-phil classes (especially if they also prove to be philosophically helpful) and leave it at that: e.g., perhaps one stats class?

Michel X.

Amanda: FWIW, I'm in something of a niche AOS. The trick is to be in the right niche at the right time. It seems true that I do better in competitions explicitly for that niche AOS, but there aren't very many of those (1-2 per year) so that's not really saying a whole lot. And I think the niche hurts me for "open" jobs (to the extent that it can, anyway, given the six hundred other applicants).

Anon Grad Student: I took a couple stats classes while working through my PhD. I misjudged them, though: they were the introductory sequences, and didn't cover all that much more material than I did in high school. I should have aimed a little higher. I think what you really need in order to be useful alt-ac-wise is a chance to work with your own datasets, but it's hard to just wade into that directly. If any of the logicians/philosophers of mind/philosophers of economics/environment/language etc. in your department have lab connections, that might be one way in.

I suspect that learning some code would be a more effective use of one's time if one didn't already have a fairly strong university-level mathematics background. For one thing, the university's CS department probably runs regular intensive boot-camps.


My question is the following.

Should one disclose a (clinically diagnosed) mental illness, while on the junior job market, for particular positions?

There are some places, i.e. some in the UK, where every disabled person meeting the minimum criteria for the job is guaranteed an interview.

By "disability" it is meant a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for at least 12 months and has a substantial adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The cons are pretty obvious.


Seriously, guaranteed an interview? I qualify for the "disabled" category but have never disclosed it. I either put "choose not to answer" or I lie and say no I do not have a disability. I wonder if it is bad for me to regret that given it would have guaranteed me an interview...


Amanda and others,
In the USA at some colleges the mandate to hire people from protected classes is taken very seriously. And vigilant (or aggressive) HR departments ensure that the files of such people are given careful consideration. So it CAN be advantageous to disclose such information.


Okay, now that I have thought about this a bit more I remember that almost every time I had to answer that question it was preceded with, "The information will not be considered for hiring purposes..." So is that just BS? I always wondered; which was why I was dishonest at times.


No it is not BS. Things are a little more subtle than you infer. At SOME places, HR departments are quite "involved." They can shape the applicant pool. The search committee cannot ask questions about why this candidate - they can take a look or another look at the file.

Stuck, PhD

Amanda, I'm actually in a few rather specific niches and am doing a postdoc in one of those niches. As Michel notes, it's a blessing and a curse. Very few jobs open up in my field, and according to the PhilJobs Appointments section, the last one that hired someone went with an inside candidate (current VAP) with zero publications. I didn't even get a first-round interview. It's really, really frustrating.

Anon and Michel: How were you thinking one might get an industry job with a background in stats and experience with their own datasets? I'm open to any advice you might have. I have both, and worked in a lab recently, but my understanding is that there's a glut of econ, psych, neuro, linguistics etc. PhDs and a philosopher with a weaker background in those skills doesn't stand a chance. That's my impression, anyway. Please prove me wrong!


Yeah it's a rough game Stuck. One fallback is always high school teaching, if you are the sort of person who likes that. The thing is you might have to go back to school for a year, unless you are lucky enough to find a private school willing to hire you (for philosophy or something else.) This is something I have given thought to; the private schools often have great salaries and working conditions. But it's not easy to get those jobs. It is relatively easy to get public school jobs but they generally require an additional degree, the pay isn't as good, etc.


So some schools who have offered me flyouts require me to front the money and hotel costs. The school eventually offers reimbursements. Sometimes this is every expensive. Going from east to west coast and vice versa, for instance, is about $1000 for flight and hotel. Before I was reimbursed for that, I was asked to go overseas and also front the cost. After paying for both of those my savings were basically drained. If I was still a grad student there was no way I could have afforded it. Does anyone know any way to deal with this? I wish we could encourage departments to change the system, but I am sure it is all controlled via administration. This is a pretty big problem for someone short on cash and in desperate need of a job.

4th Year

A discussion of the following would be helpful. Do job committees give ratemyprofessor.com reviews any weight when assessing applicants? Or, do they just care about formal student evaluations?

I ask because my student evaluations are quite good but I just noticed that the two reviews I have on ratemyprofessor.com are quite bad. For context, I am a fourth-year doctoral student at a top 20 program who may go on the market this fall.


4th Year,
I would not worry about ratemyprofessor crap. I am sure there are some search committee members who look at such things (there are all sort of monsters in the world). But if one is being professional one should keep focused the material solicited in the ad, and provided by the candidate and her referees.


I hope too much attention isn't paid to rate my professor. I know a lot of folks who write their own positive reviews for that site.

Marcus Arvan

4th Year: Good question. Though I'm inclined to agree with Anon, I think it would be a good issue to investigate in a new post to learn what more people think. I also think it would be good to investigate and discuss the issue Amanda raises.

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