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Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad things eventually worked out and that you'll have one year at least where you don't have to go back out on the market.

My takeaway from the success of your interviews at the Furry Convention is that when you're doing something fun that makes you happy and your life isn't (at that moment) being consumed by the job market, that it improves interview performance. By the way, I totally thought you were going to say something to the effect that you had to hold an interview in the hotel lobby and people dressed up in costume walked behind you and were seen by the people interviewing you and it made a good talking point.

Trevor Hedberg

KF -- Yes, I recall one of my old grad student colleagues who hypothesized that I would have been more relaxed at the event than usual and thought that may have helped me.

Regarding the hotel lobby, it would have been too noisy to conduct an interview there, and as you imagine, there would have been a million distractions in the background. My second choice (if I hadn't gotten decent internet in the room) would have been a downtown coffee shop.


Thank you for sharing this. 118 applications is really a lot. I was wondering, did you feel that you were a good fit for all 118 positions? Does it make a difference in terms of quality of life to be more restrictive and apply, say, to 30 positions? I say this because it seems really unlikely to be a good fit for 100 positions, unless you have 4 areas of specialization!


My time on the job market caused me to become severely depressed to the point that I had to be medicated. So, I'm happy to have left the profession! You've got to be a very strong person to deal with the job market in philosophy, and I couldn't. I simply didn't have the kind of upbringing to leave me psychologically strong enough to deal with a situation like that. It's unfortunate cause I do love philosophy (in the narrow sense) and had contributed a lot to the discipline with my papers. That's just not enough these days...

Trevor Hedberg

Anon -- My Google Spreadsheet actually contained 196 jobs that I had flagged. That means that I reviewed and screened out 77 jobs as being too far outside my research and teaching areas. (The Tulane job that I mentioned in the post was just a missed deadline.) I'm not sure how many of these jobs had an "Open" AOS, but most of them were ethics and applied ethics jobs and those are my specialty areas. (There tend to be more jobs in ethics, applied ethics, and political philosophy than elsewhere; I'm pretty confident you couldn't plausibly apply for 118 jobs with a metaphysics or epistemology AOS.)

I should also add that it's hard to know whether you're a "good fit" for a position in the abstract because job ads are vague, and it's impossible to know a search committees particular desires. Here's something to think about: of the three positions that I was offered, two were focused on bioethics (Lawrence University and OSU) and one was focused on teaching a unique introduction to philosophy course to lots of undergrads (Stonehill). My core AOS is environmental ethics, and yet I only interviewed for 3 positions where that was an explicit focus (Hamilton, Minnesota-Duluth, and Colgate). So I'd say it was a very good thing that I cast a wide net: if I hadn't, I'm not sure I'd be in academia right now.

Also, as a gut reaction, I think 30 applications would be way to low to have a reasonable chance of success. I do know some people who did well filling out "only" 60-80 applications, though.


Anon: Like Trevor, I don't think you're doing yourself a service by limiting yourself to the 30ish jobs you think are a good fit. You're just not a great judge of your fit, and it's better to be ruled out than to rule yourself out. Spend more time crafting the applications for jobs that are good fits, but apply to as many as you can.

The reality is that it's *horrifically* difficult to get even one interview. Even with 100+ applications out. It's absolutely, totally normal to get 0.


Michel and Trevor: I see your argument, but I'm not sure that by applying for so many jobs you do good to yourself (in terms of mental health) and to the committees (one of my old advisors once told me: "Don't make your applications look like spam").
What I mean is that if your AOS is philosophy of science, and you work on science and values, then I think it's ok to apply for applied ethics jobs - especially if you can show that you are highly familiar with the field, even though you did not publish in certain applied ethics journals. I used this strategy last year, and I landed several interviews. However, if your AOS is logic, then it's very unlikely that you'll randomly land an interview for a job in, idk, political philosophy - especially if you do not dedicate some time to the application in order to explain why. There is also the issue of jobs with open AOS and open AOC. Many of these jobs are at ivy-league or leiterrific programs. Unless you have a PhD from one of those programs, it's unlikely to be even considered (even if you are well connected and have great letters from important people). For instance, there is a job at UC Berkeley with many AOS (including Phil sc) and it is open rank. Why apply for a job like that? Let's be honest: it's a waste of time (even if it's just one afternoon of work). What I'm saying is that one can try - however, mental health is very important. Every rejection and/or application for which you don't hear back, may make you feel worse.
Btw, my AOS lie at the intersection of a couple of niche areas, and I'm surprised that so far I have applied to 29 jobs and I'll probably apply to 6 more (they are really a lot, especially if compared to other years). Moreover, I'm not US citizen nor greencard holder, and hence I have to be selective with respect to the places I apply, because many (small) places do not sponsor for H1B etc (several fixed term positions are like that).

Trevor Hedberg

Anon -- First, many of the jobs I screened out were jobs exactly like you described: Open jobs at distinguished schools or jobs with a wide assortment of AOSs and little evidence that they were really looking for someone with my credentials. Second, I never applied to a single job that was nearly the stretch you are talking about -- that is, applying to a political philosophy job with an AOS in logic. I agree that would be a waste of time. My biggest stretch was applying for some philosophy of technology jobs, and two of my interviews were for positions like that, so it clearly wasn't a waste of time.

I don't think you're disagreeing with me or Michel on these matters. Perhaps you're underestimating how many jobs there are in ethics and applied ethics compared to some other areas of philosophy, though I'm not really sure.

Third, the marginal costs of applying to additional jobs dramatically decrease once you hit a certain threshold because you'll have drafted cover letters for so many different job types that making additional revisions takes very little time. You mention a job app taking an entire afternoon of work, but very few apps should take that long once you've got a dozen or so under your belt. (The cover letter is often the only thing that's different across applications, after all.) I agree that there are some psychological benefits to scaling down one's number of job market applications, but the odds are stacked against you so much that cutting your application total beyond a certain point just makes it that much more difficult.

Will work for tenure

I think it's totally reasonable to limit the amount of jobs you apply for to maintain a decent quality of life while on the market. I guess this depends on your constitution--and probably also on how long you've spent on the market--but, in my case, I've found I just can't maintain a decent quality of life while applying to every job that I'm not obviously unqualified for. So if I want to make allowances for my well-being, I'm going to have to forgo applying to some jobs that I conceivably could. Unfortunately, there's probably no non-arbitrary way to draw a line in a situation like this. That's part of what makes it so difficult. What's important, though, is that there *is* some sort of line. Yes, this will limit my chances of getting a job. But, given that my odds of getting a job will be low regardless, it's not always worth it to sacrifice short-term well-being to maximize those odds.


Like Trevor said, it gets *a lot* easier and faster with time and experience. After sending several hundred applications, I've already done the research on most schools that are hiring, or on relevantly similar schools. Customizing doesn't take much time any more. The longest part of most applications for me now is filling out the HR forms. The exception is when I'm applying for something that I *really* want (e.g. it's squarely in my AOS, which is 0-2 jobs a year), or if idiosyncratic documents are required.

But the mental health component improves with time, too. I used to be very invested in each application, no doubt because I spent so much time crafting them. At this point, four hundredish applications later, I send 'em out and forget all about 'em. Applications and rejections barely even register for me any more.

What does still register, though, is not getting any interviews. And not having a job. Those are huge stressors, and left me pretty miserable until very late last cycle. Happily, I can leave that stress behind now that I have 3/4 of a job (totally outside my AOS, btw).

But your mileage may well vary. I can only report on my own.


Anon - you're certainly right that it makes no sense to apply for a job that lists AOS Logic if you're a political philosopher or a job for Chinese philosophy if you do contemporary philosophy of science. On the other hand, none of my job offers over the past 8 years have come from schools looking for my AOS.

My first lecturer position had an AOS that I was not qualified for, but one of the listed AOCs matched one of mine. My first tenure track position was an open AOS that listed four teaching areas that they were particularly interested in, none of which I was qualified for. And my current position was another open position where the advert said they already had teaching coverage in my main field.

I almost didn't apply for that first TT job since while the job advert didn't disqualify me, it gave me no reason to think I'd be considered seriously. And it ended up being the only academic offer of any kind I got that year. For me that decision was the difference between leaving the field (I had promised my wife that was my last year on the market) and sitting in my current pretty cushy job.

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