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Number Three

My first year post-PhD, I applied to over 100 jobs around the world without much reflection on whether I wanted to live in the various countries some of these institutions were located in. I landed a flyout outside of my home country at a very prestigious institution. In the weeks leading up to the flyout, I did some real soul-searching and decided that I didn't want to live outside of my country, or at least my home continent. So I withdrew from the flyout sort of at the last moment. It was somewhat embarrassing, but it was the right choice.

Trust the Process

I do think this is an important thing for grads to think through. In order to stay in philosophy, the vast majority will need to move more than once, often to places far from home or in some way undesirable. I told myself it wouldn't be so, but it was for me, and for most of my friends. By the end of my market time, I had decided against applying to lots of places. Making decisions about one's limits will limit one's chances, but will also keep one a bit saner on the market, and will of course rule out the difficult bargaining one has to do if offered a job in a very undesirable place/institution/whatever. Of course it's difficult to predict what one will go on to like in terms of living situations. I was helped by watching friends set up shop in all manner of places around the globe, and by seeing some be unexpectedly happy, some unexpectedly sad, some expectedly happy or sad, and by talking with them about the reasons.


This is a really important issue. I was so hungry for a permanent job, I was prepared to move almost anywhere. But I did have a partner, and they were less willing to move anywhere (in part, because of their own experiences with racism). So that was the chief constraint. I still applied very broadly. In the end few have many choices, except the choice to leave the profession. I was at a place for a while that was fine. I think many people would have found it unbearable. But I embraced the sorts of things the community had to offer. I have since moved, but I was mentally prepared to be there the rest of my career. I had one advantage over many others. I had long ago moved away from my family, and given where my family lives it was not possible to have an academic career near them. So the closest I ever was to them post-PhD was about 10 hours travelling. You get used to seeing them maybe 3 or 4 times a year.


Mover, yes, many people get used to seeing their family 3 or 4 times a year. And while it obviously varies according to one's family relationship, I am interested in whether this is a rational choice to make. One thing I think is true: it is not rational to at least not talk about it, and consider whether the pressure we put on early-career academics to move is justified. But few seem willing to embrace this discussion. I think because so many people have assumed sacrificing family relations is just the way it is, and that is that. Yet as philosophers, critical thinking about this matter would seem a good thing...


It is also important to realize that some people are going to be pressured to move far from family even if they do not pursue an academic career. I grew up in a rather remote place where there were few opportunities. Unemployment was high, and seasonal unemployment common. So an academic career did not seem risky, just highly improbable.


Sure mover, that is possible. But on average an academic career has far less location options than almost any other career. Most people, statistics show, (I'm talking in the US), spend their whole life fairly close to home. And even if you live in a place like yours, often you can find a job a few hours drive from home rather than, for instance, an 8 hour plane ride.

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