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« Applying for fellowships in TT jobs | Main | Flourishing as a mid-career academic – some initial thoughts »

08/07/2019

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Chris

My first tt job was at a large public - I would've been perfectly happy there. But my partner (not an academic) was not happy with our location. I was also told that although it is hard to move at any time, it is harder to move after tenure, because there are fewer jobs for more senior scholars. So: I applied for jobs right away, and got another job in a better location for my spouse after two years of applying.
My sense, though this is only one data point - is that I did better on the job market (got "better" (i.e., more R1 interviews) once I already had an R1 job. This is so despite the fact that my c.v. was not more impressive from a publication point of view).

And of course the security of already having a job meant I was much less nervous giving job talks (I thought of them just as normal colloquia) and so they went much better.

So: if you really want to move, my advice would be to apply pre-tenure. Of course, there is a "grass is greener" phenomenon - you never know if the new department might have more jerks than your old one. But for me it was a good move for spousal reasons, regardless of the pros and cons of working at my specific department and university.

On the move

I just started my second TT job. I got my first TT job ABD at a teaching-oriented school and was very unhappy. I was invited to apply for a research job in my first year and got a fly out, but didn't get the job. I applied for a few more jobs in my second year, got 4 fly outs, and landed my dream job.

My mindset when I knew I wanted out was this: I am *extremely* grateful for having a TT job, but I am quickly discovering that it is a very bad TT job. I either need to land a much better job, preferably in a better area too, or leave the profession. I am not settling for a position with a low salary in a non-ideal area, teaching courses I don't want to teach to students who don't want to take them, with high service demands and no time or support for research for the rest of my career. It's even more difficult to move post-tenure, so I had better apply out and be as competitive as I can be. My health, wellbeing, and relationships are more important to me than philosophy; and my love of philosophy is dwindling because of stress and unhappiness anyway.

Sorry for being depressing, and I know my case is extreme. But I do think that it's worth the effort to apply out if you're unhappy or even if you find yourself slipping into "I guess I'll settle" mode, when you might be much happier in that job PhilJobs just posted in your area. The market is a horrible place but, you know, short term pain for a potentially huge long term gain.

Curious

Something I’m curious about: how do you deal with letters when applying out? Do you get back to your references to ask them to update them (again!)? Can this be challenging, especially if you don’t want too many people to know, or if you don’t want your references to think you’re ungrateful? I’ve always found it a hassle to bother references with letters every year I’ve been on the market.

On the move

I felt really bad asking my references to update as well, but I just sent them each a note far in advance letting them know my plans to apply for jobs (and some reasons) and asking if they might be able to update. Almost all of them were very happy to do so, and encouraged me to be on the market. Two of my letter writers didn't have time to update, but said to use their letters from the previous year - and I did, and it was fine. Store them on Interfolio and make sure you do all the work of sending them out - don't have the requests for uploading go directly to them. I think the most important thing is to respect the time of your letter writers (i.e., ask in advance and give them an out) and be grateful, thankful, etc. Ask different people if your references are too old - e.g., from your Ph.D. granting institution and no longer really familiar with your work after years of being out.

Helen

Just some thoughts here. Academia is becoming increasingly corporatized. Deans, provosts etc don't care about our wellbeing, or about work-life balance, or about 2 body problems, or any other thing about our personal lives, so we don't owe them our personal lives.
Yet academics behave as if they owe their employer some sort of special fealty-like loyalty. We owe our employers to work to a good standard, to teach well, research well (of course our outputs will depend on teaching load and research support) and so on, we should be good colleagues. We don't owe them every waking hour of our lives, our weekends, or our unwavering loyalty. And the idea we should owe them loyalty because the job market is so rough and so many people have it worse... I get the survivor guilt behind this, but that doesn't make it rational.
We should approach the job market more like everyone else does who does work at a high specialist level, namely as a job. It is totally fine to look out for something better and to apply for something you believe you would be happier at. Project yourself 5-10, 15 years into the future in this job. How do you feel? If you think it's not for you, or you feel you might get unhappy (and from your letter it looks this might happen), it is helpful to do your future self a favour and apply to those other jobs.

Amanda

Helen not sure I agree with the sentiment in what you wrote - but maybe I misunderstood. I have just heard stuff before that sounds similar to what you are saying. So sorry if I am taking something that is not there.

So I will preface this by saying I am *not* responding to Helen, but just what her post made me think about - which (to be fair) might not be that connected to what she actually said.


Okay, so this type of statement: "We don't owe our employer loyalty. They don't care about us - we shouldn't care about them."

Well, I agree with all of the above - but I've never meet a philosopher who was worried about being loyal to their dean or the institution that is their university. Philosophers are typically worried about their career, their colleagues, and their reputation. For example, if I stay at this institution, or if I move, how will that effect my repetitional standing? How seriously will people take my work? We all spend a really long time training ourselves to be philosophers, most of us were really passionate about it at some point, before we became too jaded - so of course we care about our place in the profession.

The impression I got from the OP is that he is pretty happy where he is - although in theory there is always a better job. But should he feel pressure to try and leave, even if he doesn't want to? The pressure seems to be peer pressure, not institutional pressure.

I do/have see some loyalty to colleagues about losing a line. I think this is misplaced. However, it is not the same thing as being loyal to an employer or a university. It is being loyal to your friends and/or fellow philosophers. They aren't in charge of all the crappy admin stuff that makes people say (justifiably) that our employer doesn't care about us.

Of course no one "has to" work on weekends, or nights, or anything more than their contract demands. But most people who do work weekends or "overtime" hardly do it out of some weird sense of loyalty to their employer. They do it because they want to advance professionally - like, well, Helen did.. They want people to read their work and they want to get offers from other universities. This is pretty normal in career advancement generally. If you are in a career that has advancement, those who want to advance typically do things that their contract does not require because they are competitive, and they want to win the competition. This is pursuing a preference and a goal - not loyalty to an employer. There isn't a philosopher I know who would spend more than 10 seconds thinking about staying at their current place if they actually got a dream job offer. It is just a question if the stress, pressure, and instability involved with applying is worth the low chance of getting the dream offer.

And maybe, some of us just really like philosophy. Whenever I hear people talk about working weekends as though it is some type of sin to your "work-life balance," it seems to me like projecting (perfectly reasonable) values onto others who might have different values. Why is the assumption always that there is something wrong with working weekends, or the implied assumption? I *want* to work weekends. Philosophy is *not* just a job for me (and I honestly believe it isn't for most philosophers either). It is a passion that I gave up a hell of a lot to pursue and overcame godawful odds. Now that I (at least for now) have a career out of it - I am not going to sit back and work 9 to 5 as if I was employed by Geico. I"m living my dream - I get to spend all weekend doing philosophy and it helps my career too, and that's great! No one should pity me - no one in this profession or others. They should envy me. Very few people get to do what they love, make money doing it, make friends for life, etc.

Yes, most philosophers I know have a relationship with work that is unlike a normal career, but being a philosophy professor is just not a normal career. It is a community - as is academia. And for those (like me) that have friends outside of academia, you realize it really is nothing like a normal job. The very fact that so many of us spend our "fooling around on the internet" time at philosophy blogs, and having discussions with philosophers on facebook, speaks to that. None of my family members in other jobs spend a second of their internet time on websites about their career. And I think this is okay. Philosophers don't need to feel guilty about this or that they lack work-life balance or like they are not "well rounded" or something like that. I honestly think concepts like work-life balance and being "well-rounded" are terms only the privileged use. Most people in regular careers, statistics show, spend their non working time watching TV, surfing the net, and going to things with family. They aren't any more "well-rounded" than philosophers. Well-rounded folks are either exceptionally rich or just exceptional people, but this sort of thing isn't the norm that philosophy is somehow preventing us from achieving - and even if it were, so what? .I'd take a career as a philosopher and give up weekly yoga retreats rather than some other, non-academic, fairly run of the mill career.

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