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09/16/2017

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Amanda

I will note that I had two on-campus interviews last year where I was told that they have "a broad view of research" and that conference presentations count toward tenure. I have no idea how rare this is, but I do know other teaching schools (besides the ones I interviewed at) that have this plan. Of course, publications would also count at these places.

anne jacobson

How 'bout getting commentator positions?

Also, I'm a bit worried about the reason given. Could a friend, supervisor help?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: they certainly "count towards tenure" at teaching schools. For instance, they do at mine (where conference presentations are included in tenure files). What I remain skeptical of is how much they count, including when it comes to choosing who to interview or hire. Conference presentations are far easier to come by than publications, and in a job-market like this--where most candidates in my experience have publications--it seems unlikely to me that people on the hiring side of things place much (if any) weight on presentations. I know I wouldn't. But of course I could be wrong - it wouldn't be the first time! I'd be curious to hear what other readers think.

gradstudent14

Thank you, Marcus, for posting this. And thanks everyone for the thoughts so far.

@Anne: That's an interesting idea. I actually have commented at a few conferences so far, but they've been grad conferences hosted by my own school, and they were both pretty early in my grad education. I'm not sure whether these would be good to put on my CV. (Might it make it seem like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel? Might the gap between them and any subsequent conferences look suspicious, to the point where mentioning the early ones wouldn't be worth it? Etc.) But I could be wrong here.

I think you're right to suspect that asking a friend or committee member would probably help. For any future "real" (i.e., not in a class or dissertation workshop) presentations I give, I'll try to first run the ideas by as many others as I feel comfortable with, so that I can get a preview of at least some of the objections people are likely to raise. Of course, I realize that this is no guarantee. (On one particularly memorable occasion in the past, I was presenting certain material for the second time yet was still left stumped by an uncomfortably high number of objections in the Q&A. That at least some of the objections struck my peers as obvious, when they simply hadn't occurred to me, makes it painful to look back on.) But I agree that running the ideas by others first does help at least some.

@Marcus: You raise a good point that this is something I need to get better at if I'm going to do well in first-round interviews and job talks, and that presenting at conferences is one way of improving. Naturally, of course, I find myself drawn mostly to other ways of trying to improve (e.g., talking to advisers and simply presenting in dissertation workshop), since they don't carry the risk of making a bad first impression on a roomful of philosophers by doing poorly in the Q&A. But I suppose it's possible that this risk would be worth the added help in the long run.

Postdoc

Years ago I thought conferences were important for the job market, thus I made an effort to attend a few a year. Back then I had a lot of naive beliefs. For one I thought the job market was mainly merit based, and that the point of attending conferences was to show your merit: you're a good enough philosopher to be accepted, you did all that unpaid work preparing a presentation, presenting it, and answering questions, and so on.

However, I no longer think that the job market is mainly merit based. Sometimes merit can help; often it does not. The main reason to attend conferences is to make friends with people who will later help you get a job. Does this mean you need not go to conferences? No. You must go to conferences, and you must network big time. If you're not the kind of chap who is good in these kinds of social situations, figure out how to become one.

The fact is, I think, that you cannot get a job based on merit alone, even if you're a very good philosopher. There are a lot of factors that go into hiring decisions beyond merit: demographics, cronyism, prestige bias, regional identity, popularity of research, and so on. You need to make sure that many of these factors are in your favor. There isn't much you can do about your demographic status. However, conferences can help you learn what's popular and, most importantly, help you make friends with potential employers.

If you're not willing to play this game, you need to think about whether academic philosophy is right for you.

Before anyone comments on this, some of my claims about the job market are based on what I've seen personally the last half decade. This is admittedly a somewhat small sample size. However, not all of my claims are based on just my experience.

1. Demographics matter:

http://blog.apaonline.org/2016/05/03/academic-placement-data-and-analysis-an-update-with-a-focus-on-gender/

2. Prestige matters:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2017/09/where-untenured-tenure-track-faculty-at-the-top-20-phd-programs-got-their-phd-2017-18-edition.html

http://www.newappsblog.com/2015/02/some-figures-on-prestige-bias-in-academia.html

Al

In differing capacities I have been involved in three searches at research focused departments. I think no presentations whatsoever would look a little bit odd and might make me wonder for a moment how it is that someone has not presented any work. There could be many good reasons such as financial reasons but it would also make me worry a bit about this person's ability to share their work in a presentation setting which is an important aspect of research both within one's school and outside of it. I do not think a lack of presentations would keep someone off of a shortlist for me or for the colleagues I have worked on committees with as long as everything else such as publications and an excellent writing sample are in place. I would however be on the lookout during a job talk for the ability to share research in a presentation setting. The (sad?) fact is that there will be many people who have not only publications but also presentations and all of the other things one could ever want. I would be surprised if no presentations sunk a candidate and I don't think there could be enough presentations to get one a job, but my advice to anyone would be to try to get a couple of presentations on a CV to display an ability to share research level work with other researchers. I appreciate that this advice may be specifically for research oriented departments. In any event, the very best of luck!

Amanda

So this has been my experience with teaching schools. I have many friends who have served on committees and been interviewed a lot (and research interviews too, but I think Al sums up that market). While research schools want prestige, with teaching schools it is a mark against you. If you look at those hired at teaching schools this year, at least half are from non-ranked institutions. I think prestigious publications can hurt to. So the reason why a search committee *might* look favorably on publications is it shows "diversity" of research and fit. You do not want a research star at a teaching school. Someone with a few decent publications and conference presentations may be a perfect fit for such a school . So it is not a matter of picking someone with publications over conference presentations, someone with a good mix might very well be the best fit for a particular school. And it seems in all types of schools, having no conferences is at least a yellow flag.

Anon

I have zero conference presentations on my CV.

I finished my PhD in 2016. For the 2016-2017 applications season, I applied to 10 teaching schools for TT positions and got 6 interviews. I was extremely fortunate to be offered the job at the first place I interviewed -- I accepted.

Like the OP I was a bit nervous about my lack of conference presentations and I don't think it is ideal. I did, however, have a few publications going into the application season. While not ideal, this is (in my mind) far preferable to the CV which is plentiful on conference presentations, but has no publications (especially for those of us not coming from the very top schools).

As far as I can remember, during my grad school career, I submitted to two conferences (both APA). Both times my submission was rejected. Both times I turned around and published the paper shortly thereafter. The problem for me is that I don't write 3,000 word papers. I write roughly 10,000 word papers and go from there. Each time I submitted, I was faced with cutting out 7,000 words from a paper in order to submit it. It just didn't feel right to me and I began shying away from doing it.

I should also add here that I don't think we can really look at just one aspect of a CV and draw many conclusions. Most of us are short on something, but we try to make up for it with strengths. While I didn't present at any conferences, and only even attended a handful throughout my grad school career, I was able to present a very strong teaching portfolio as I taught a lot while writing my dissertation, and I think this helped to balance out my shortcomings (especially given my focus on teaching schools).

Ben

Here's what my (very limited) search experience tells me: No presentations won't necessarily keep you from getting a campus visit. However, the campus visit is *super* important, and a lot of people in the department you visit will judge you almost *solely* on your job talk. You *have* to be able to give a good presentation of your research in order to have any chance of getting the job. If you have no or little experience presenting your work, it will probably show. This alone is a very good reason for presenting your work at conferences.

Tim

OP seems to suffer from a common problem among philosophers (and especially philosophy graduate students): excessive honesty.

Here's the deal with questions: you want to set up your talk in such a way that people will ask you questions you already know the answer to. This isn't hard to do. For example, suppose your argument has premises A, B, and C. Only present support for A and B, and mention that you don't have time to present support for C. But also make it abundantly clear that C is crucial to your argument. Trust me: people will ask you about it. Why? Because most people are (and I definitely am) bad at coming up with good questions. So if you leave some low-hanging fruit, it'll get picked. Hopefully with a few of these, you can eat up all your Q&A time with people asking questions you already have worked-out answers for.

That practice might be a bit deceptive. The next one I'll advocate is worse: deliberately misunderstand questions. Someone asks you a question you don't know how to answer? Misinterpret it as a question you do know how to answer! (This requires practice to pull off.) Then, ask at the end if you addressed their worry. Remarkably, a large majority of the time, the person will say yes. Why? Because most of us are bad at asking questions, and on the rare occasions when we try, the questions are fairly poorly framed. If someone gives me *some kind* of answer in response to the question I asked, I'm liable to simply feel good and say "sure, that works", because I wasn't made to look silly.

On the rare occasions when the response is "No, I meant to ask about...", you can now retreat to the "Oh yeah, that's a good question, I'll have to think about it..." response. But notice, you'll look better because (a) you answered *a* question (admittedly, not one anyone asked. But most folks will forget that fact very quickly) and (b) you'll have taken up some of the Q&A time.

Another tactic that works is the "let's make sure we're on the same page" tactic. So what that you actually understood the objection. Make sure that the questioner knows you understood the objection by working through it in excruciating detail. It goes something like this: "you're worry, if I understand it correctly, is that p's aren't q's. Let's make sure we're on the same page. As I use the word p, it means... (go back to slide with definition) and as I use q, it means... (more slide chasing)... now you say that c is a counterexample. I think I see vaguely why that might be, but can you fill in some of the details for me?"

Again, this takes up time, and it's time during a Q&A in which you are *being a competent philosopher*. And that, in conclusion, is what you should do when you strategize your Q&A sessions: your goal is to fill as much of that time as possible with time where you're being a competent philosopher. Despite it being a Q&A session, your goal *shouldn't* be to answer as many serious questions as possible as well as possible. Maybe if you're amazing at Q&As, that's what you should aim for. But if you're not (like me), then this is a good way to not look like a goober.

Trevor Hedberg

While I doubt that virtually anyone gets short-listed for a job on the basis of their conference participation, I wouldn't be surprised at all if some people are moved to the discard pile when their track record indicates a lack of conference participation. It would likely be taken as a lack of engagement with the broader scholarly community. Now, of course, it might turn out that this isn't true, as it might be in the original poster's case. Maybe there's other evidence of engagement with the scholarly community on one's CV. The problem is that search committee members are only going to look at your CV for 10-15 seconds (maybe less) on the first pass, since they are likely confronted with a stack of hundreds of applications. It would be very strange to see a CV without any conference presentations listed, so I would think this sort of omission would draw a committee member's attention, and it would be difficult for a committee member in that position -- given the size of the stack and the razor thin margin between most of the applicants -- not to toss out the application right there.

Eugene

Is there a good source for finding things like essay competitions (e.g. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Prize) tailored to early career philosophers?

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