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I think these are all great ideas. I get frustrated when, after brining up the need of philosophy departments to be supportive of alt-ac careers, so many people respond with, "well philosophers don't understand non-academic careers so there is nothing they can do..." You just provided great examples of very simple ways grad school professors can make a big difference, i.e. just by maintaining a contact network, and maybe at the larger scale holding some networking events.

A Philosopher

I like all these ideas. For what it's worth, when I left the profession, no one in my department kept up with me to find out where I was. A few of my close personal friends, and my advisor, did, but so far as I know none of that found its way into any information kept by the department itself in a form that was accessible to other graduate students.

That brings me to another point: it really helped me that a few people did keep up with me. So, it would help current graduate students to have access to those who have left the profession, but in many ways keeping in touch with those who have left is helpful. I know this can be awkward, for all sorts of obvious reasons, but it is helpful.

An APA industry networking event also strikes me as an amazing idea. Along with the networking necessary to get a job, it's also helpful to know which HR people and hiring managers are open to the idea of hiring a philosopher. This is super hard, or impossible, to figure out in most cases. Bringing those people to an APA meeting cuts out the problem and would give grad students a chance to practice talking to someone in business (which is not an easy skill for most). It also would give permanent faculty, placement directors, etc, a chance to talk to those in industry and learn more themselves.

Now to beat a dead horse: My only other suggestion is to make the application process for jobs easier. Yeah, yeah, I know that search committee members have strong views on what sort of information they find helpful, they need ways to differentiate candidates, etc, but give me a break. There's simply no way (no way) that the utility calculation falls out so that the good of burdening candidates with compiling elaborate application portfolios outweighs the harm it does to those compiling these portfolios. As it stands now, making a real run at the job market means spending --- what? 20%? 50%? ---- of your time preparing applications and tailoring them to the idiosyncratic whims of a few dozen search committees. A reasonable suggestion (often made) is to just request CVs from candidates, and perhaps one other piece (a sample syllabi or writing sample?), and then collect more materials from those actually on the short lists. If companies in nearly every other industry (from McDonald's to Apple) can make first-cut hiring decisions based on a 1-2 page resume, philosophy can make do with with 10 page CVs.


Marcus, I absolutely agree about the networking that departments and the APA can provide should be provided. I also think that departments should include bright undergrads who have gone on to good careers.

One other thought: my spouse is an upper level administrator (staff side) at my university, and she often says a major problem is poor interviewing skills. She may be the exception, but for her it is *not* about who you know, but the skills you bring to the table (she has 92 full time employees under her), and how well you problem solve and deal with unique challenges, and it is very important that you can demonstrate this (or at least provide some indication that you can do it) during the interview. So, I really think grad departments should additionally provide interview training (and business resume construction - its very different from a CV!) for grad students. This can also happen at the university grad *college* level, which my university is starting to do. And this strikes me as something the APA could also facilitate...


Thank you for these great ideas and this important post! Another thing departments could do is foster connections with their institutions' teaching centers, and to stay informed about the professional development opportunities those centers might offer, directly or indirectly. There is a surprisingly large job market in educational development for people with PhDs and teaching experience (and a genuine interest in pedagogy...), though I would never have known about it had I not worked as a graduate student consultant for my university's teaching center.


I remember at a conference for early career philosophers and graduate students they put together an alt-ac talk. I don't remember much about it other than that it wasn't helpful and some of their suggestions were artist, photographer, and movie director--Movie Director! I remember thinking facetiously at the time, "great, if philosophy doesn't work out I can just be a movie director!" Just sharing that funny story. I agree we need to do better!

A Philosopher

postdoc, thanks for the laugh. That is a good story.


Although I do think talk about alt-ac is mostly well-meaning, I cannot help reminding myself that some people will see it as bad old exclusionism...

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