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a philosopher

I applied for and was offered a job in a tutoring center, but didn't take it. I applied for and got a job as a seasonal application reader in the admissions office, although I had a friend of a friend who helped there. I had friends in a university writing center, who had offered me a related job for a semester, although I never tried to turn that into something permanent.

My experiences were that these jobs were really not easier to get, and no different, from jobs outside the university. Even with, say, tutoring or writing centers, they expect you to have certain specialized skills, training, and experience which you may or may not have, but don't automatically have via your PhD training. They won't look at you and say "oh, of course so-and-so just finishing their philosophy PhD will be a good [insert any instructional support/administration job here]".

So just as with applying for a job outside the university, you either (a) have to be able to craft a resume that's written in a way that shows your relevant skills and experiences to those people, or (b) have friends (or friends of friends) on the inside who know what you can do and will sell you for the position. As I alluded to above, I got my positions via friends and catching the eyes of people in those support or admin positions in other ways. I tried to turn some of that minimal experience into a competitive resume for support/admin positions on the open market at other universities where I had no connections, but with no luck.

The fact that you give such a wide range of unrelated jobs (writing tutor, instructional design, general administration) suggests that you don't have any one position in mind and don't have a well-worked out narrative supporting your candidacy for any one position, along with the relevant portfolio of past work to demonstrate your ability to do it. The biggest challenge to getting any job (whether it's as faculty, in university admin or support, or outside the university) is learning how to present the right narrative and portfolio of work in the medium hiring managers in that field expect to see (assuming, of course, you *have* such a narrative and body of work). This is something philosophers do for philosophy faculty positions writing up CVs according to our own disciplinary norms (and, of course, doing all the stuff, like publishing, which fills out those CVs). So the first step is to figure that part out for the new job you want to target (no small task).

Please take all this as me trying to help. I acknowledge it might not *feel* supportive. I don't know how long you've been out of your PhD, but I had several years of shocking "real-world" experience after I finished as I explored alternative careers outside philosophy. I guess I'm just trying to convey some of that.

A final thought: I don't really know, but the content of the question at least slightly suggests that you're interested in university jobs simply because, well, it's the university and that sort of vaguely sounds nice/familiar/comfortable/interesting/whatever. If you don't actually have substantive interests in a career in, say, instructional design (or whatever), and this is just grasping at possibilities, I'd take some time to seriously rethink it. I'm not saying this is you, but I've bumped into more than a few philosophers who were finishing their PhD or a yr or two out, were failing on the job market, and were (to be frank) desperately throwing out there silly ideas for alternative careers that made no contact with their actual skill sets or personalities. Hell, *I* was one of those people. I cringe at some of the ideas I had.

If that's you, I would take some time to do some real soul searching, and, more importantly, talk to a real career counsellor who can help you assess what's really a fit for you. If that's not you, sorry. But given the time of year, I'm pretty sure there are such people reading this post now, so perhaps my experiences and advice will help them.

Marcus Arvan

a philosopher: thanks for chiming in with your experience. I just have one thought in reply.

You write: “The biggest challenge to getting any job (whether it's as faculty, in university admin or support, or outside the university) is learning how to present the right narrative and portfolio of work in the medium hiring managers in that field expect to see (assuming, of course, you *have* such a narrative and body of work).“

I don’t think the rest of your post quite supports this. Rather, your post seems to suggest something that hiring data across many fields already shows: namely, that perhaps the most important thing (and hence, biggest challenge) of all is to actually *know* people who are hiring.


Although I know you mentioned the importance of knowing people, I think it can never be emphasized enough. Having a great narrative is good of course, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient to get hired. As anyone who has worked in industry will to tell you, sometimes relatively unqualified people are hired simply because they knew the right people. So, by all means, come up with a great narrative. But more importantly, try to develop connections. Reach out to people you know at your university or other universities. See if they are willing to have coffee, chat, or know anyone they might reach out to and put a good word in for you. It’s this kind of interpersonal leg-work that, in my experience (first and third-hand), works wonders.

a philosopher


Oh, I agree. I guess I meant the quoted part as: "if you don't know someone, then ...". But actually, I think the narrative and portfolio is important even when you do know people, albeit to a smaller extent. For example, I have friends and close relatives who work in a variety of technical fields (e.g., engineering, AI, etc) outside philosophy. They often offer to help me in any way they can with getting a job, but never actually *offer* me a job. I think the reason is clear: I don't have the right skill set or portfolio of past work to even come close to doing the sort of work they could help me get. More importantly: even if I did, I certainly haven't done anything to make them aware of it.

By "narrative" I don't just mean a 30-sec pitch you're ready to receipt or type up into a cover letter, and by "portfolio" I don't just mean some pdf document. I mean something more abstract: just, an actual arch of work experience and projects which aim at some job or task.

My point is that even if you have well-connected friends, they won't offer you a job unless you have such a thing that's at least in the ballpark and they're aware of it.

Because of the way philosophy training in a PhD program works we're all just naturally inculcated into our own philosophy narratives and portfolios of philosophy work. I think that if you want to pick up work outside philosophy, you need to start developing at least a sense or awareness for some new narratives and work portfolios, a sense you "exude" to some degree or is transparent in some other ways.

I've been offered (relatively) lots of non-philosophy jobs, inside and outside the university, by friends and acquaintances. Each time, the offer fit with some manifest aspect of my personality, experience, or skillset. Sometimes I wasn't even aware of that aspect myself, at the time. My friends knew me better than I knew myself.

That's all part of why I think "coffee chats" and other stilted forms of networking are generally best just for information gathering (which is very valuable), and that one shouldn't hope for them to turn into a job offer. At least in my case, my (limited) success has come by simply keeping a wide social circle, making friends, being active, etc; the job offers than came spontaneously and organically. If you have to hunt someone down, I suspect there's not enough personal connection and/or narrative there to get a job offer.

Anyway, I don't mean to convey that all this is definitive or the way it always works. I'm just conveying my own experience and my thoughts based on it.

Marcus Arvan

a philosopher: I think all of what you just wrote is absolutely right. I just always think it is important to continually re-emphasize just how important it is to know people. Having been in academia a long time and seen how philosophy job candidates seem to tend to think, there seems to be a deeply entrenched sense that job markets function like meritocracies—that the most important thing is to have the right skills and resume. As you note, these things are good to have—but as you noted in your own case, none of them helped get you non-faculty offers from other universities. You only got an offer from...the place you knew people! I’ve seen this happen as such a clear regularity that my sense (in line with the research) is that far and away the most important thing on job markets is to have an “in.” Simply sending out resumes and cover letters—even if you have and exude the right narrative—just isn’t sufficient. You actually have to know people. And although as you note knowing people isn’t always sufficient to get a job (you won’t get hired as a coder if you don’t know how to code), most job markets aren’t as specialized as all that—and I’ve seen plenty of people get hired for jobs they were marginally qualified for (at best) simply because they knew the right people. So again, sure, job candidates like Peter should do what they can to get the right skills and narrative for whatever non faculty jobs they are after. My point is simply that they must not lose sight of the sheer importance of knowing people.

Finally, on the issue of “stilted” meetings (like coffee chats, etc.), I entirely agree that it is better to simply have a good social network of friends, family, etc.—and explore those connections. My sense, though, is that all too many young academics don’t have very broad networks (due to how cloistered their grad programs can be). I, for instance, hardly knew anyone outside of academia after 7+ years in grad school. My suggestion is that for people in this kind of position, reaching out to people for stilted phone of coffee chats may not be optimal—but it is definitely better than doing nothing. In fact, I’ve seen it work!.

a philosopher

I completely agree with all of that. And philosophy grad school does cloister you in a way that makes moving outside philosophy *very* hard. I did my PhD in a major city and so developed a decent social circle, but most of those friends were like artists, academics outside philosophy, and other barflys who weren't helping me get a job. It wasn't until I developed some hobbies outside philosophy that I started to get out and about in a way that made a difference. Of course, the non-phil jobs I got inside the university were through people I met just being a graduate student ... so, generalizations are hard and this is a messy area. Still, I think the themes you identify are solid.


"It wasn't until I developed some hobbies outside philosophy that I started to get out and about in a way that made a difference."

Could you elaborate?

a philosopher

When I finished my PhD I had a large social circle and did a lot of stuff, but none of it was going to lead to a job. My friends were other graduate students, artists, barflys, etc. I didn't know, or do things with, people who travelled in streams of gainful employment, people who might have, say, offered me a job.

When I talk about people outside philosophy, I don't just mean people in fancy professional jobs like doctor, lawyer, or programmer. Such people could be working at a Best Buy, or a spin studio, a bar, or whatever. (Yeah, I went to a lot of bars, but just hanging out at a bar probably isn't going to get you a job as even a barback.)

If I wanted to be out and about in a way that made a difference, I had to start socializing with the right people, in the right contexts, in the right ways, etc. First I started just by searching Meetup.com. I did stuff like a running meetup for young professionals. Then I thought a bit harder about my own interests and found other social activities (besides sitting at a bar, or going to philosophy talks) that got me side-by-side people who could offer me a job in a context where I could demonstrate my skills. To take a silly example, if I had wanted a job at a bar, I probably would have had an interest in mixing drinks, and probably would have looked for meetups that involved learning how to mix drinks. Where I live now, there are a lot of meetups for those who do machine learning. Were I interested in machine learning, I probably would have looked for something like that. Hell, early on after finishing my degree I was going to spin classes, and was told I should teach them myself.

Many of the kinds of routes I'm describing obviously aren't going to turn into a high-paying job overnight (e.g., taking up that offer of teaching spin classes), but at least I was starting to travel in the right circles, make the right connections, and demonstrate my interests and skills in a way that opened up employment opportunities outside philosophy. Besides, in almost *no* cases are you going to turn your career on a dime. I'm guessing there are *very* few cases of a philosophy PhD, who focused only on philosophy, graduating, deciding one day to leave philosophy, and within a month having a high-paying skilled job in something else. (A possible way to do this is to convince a consulting firm like BCG to take you as an associate, but even this is unlikely; getting those sorts of positions usually requires, e.g., showing up to a campus consulting club, which is just another example of getting out and about in a way that might make a difference.) So inevitably the transition out of philosophy into a different, sustainable career is gong to be a long hard one.

My case is complicated. I'd say that I got about halfway out of philosophy, about halfway into another career, before getting a philosophy opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I guess it took me about 18-24 months of exploring and networking before I even got that far into a non-philosophy career. It just takes awhile to develop your own sense of self outside of philosophy, to meet a few people you click with, and for opportunities to come up. But if you put in that time and work, usually things eventually start clicking and job offers (however small at first) start coming. I got by during the transition period through a spouse who could (mostly) pay the bills and by taking philosophy adjuncting work to fill in some of the gaps.


I thought you got a job mainly by knowing some admin people at the university you went to? Did you get job offers from using meetups.com? Could you elaborate on what kinds of meetups you did in what areas? I don't even know what there is to do really.


What are the high-paying skilled jobs that someone with a PhD in philosophy can do?

Reluctant Research Administrator

I have some perspective on this. I took a job in Research Administration after a post-doc, and have been there now for a year and a bit. Working in Research Administration definitely was not my Plan A – I wasn’t really aware that this type of job even existed before I applied to it – but a number of considerations made it the most prudent thing for me to do at the time. For a bit of context, I graduated from a top program and went straight to an excellent post-doc position with a leader in my field of specialization, but ended up striking out my first year on the market for tenure-track jobs. My wife and I were living abroad for the post-doc position (it was at a European university; I am North American), and we had our first child right in the middle of it, which introduced some complications in terms of my desire to stick it out on the market for post-docs or other limited-term positions. While I loved my position and the city I was living in (and would have stayed there forever were it possible), the process of securing visas for my family had been a total nightmare, and as new parents, the prospect of bouncing around from place to place with a baby seemed exhausting and unattractive. So, with the end of my post-doc position looming, we started to look for permanent jobs in our home city in North America, where we could have some stability and be closer to family. Luckily for me, I only had to apply for one job before I was hired, which was of course the Research Administration position that I am in today. Like the OP, I wanted to continue working in a university environment, and I thought that it would be the easiest place to leverage my academic credentials (or at least the easiest place to start). So when I saw that ad for my position, I applied right away. The position involves doing many things, but my main responsibility is working on a one-to-one basis with faculty members in the social sciences and humanities to conceptualize and develop grant proposals for national funding opportunities. To my surprise, I found that my background in analytic philosophy is a huge asset for this type of work. As part of the interview process, I had to provide feedback for the development of an unsuccessful research grant proposal from the previous year. I approached this exercise in the same way as I would a review report for a journal: I noted gaps in the author’s reasoning and gave her concrete advice about how she could restructure the elements of her proposal into a coherent line of reasoning that made a compelling case for why her project ought to be funded. I found out later that the type of feedback I provided—which focused above all on developing a clear and coherent argument for the importance of the author’s project, one that was intelligible and compelling to a non-specialist audience—was what impressed the committee most about my file, and ultimately lead to me being hired. I have since developed a reputation for providing this type of feedback, and am now sought out by faculty members who struggle with conceptualizing their projects and developing clear arguments for their importance. The position, however, is not limited to this: I also serve on a number of administrative committees, give presentations around campus, work on institutional initiatives like the development of research centres and the acquisition of research-related infrastructure, and work with graduate students to apply for things like scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships, among many other things. Some things I like about my job: 1.The conditions of employment are excellent. The position is considered an academic position, so my salary and benefits are on the same scale as an assistant professor at our university, at least in the social sciences and humanities. I get lots of vacation, great health and dental, have a good pension plan, and I even have a small PD fund that I can use for research materials and conference travel. I also have a lot of autonomy over how I structure my time and work schedule, which is great when you have a little one at home. Also, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I have a healthy work-life balance. I don’t think about work when I leave the office at the end of the day, and I’ve rekindled some old passions that I previously “didn’t have time for,” like playing music, playing sports, and reading fiction—all without guilt! 2.The people I work with are great. One of the things that I learned about myself through this position is that I like—and think I am decent at—working with people. In my post-doc position, I basically sat in an office all day by myself and worked on philosophy papers (which I still think is living the dream, in a way), though in this position I am constantly interacting with people, who are very appreciative of the assistance I am able to provide. I get to hear and talk about a lot of interesting research that is going on at our university in a range of different disciplines, and I get to share in the success of faculty members when their big grant applications are successful. It feels good to be in a position to help people, and it is genuinely gratifying to see the people I work with succeed. 3.My bosses are supportive of my academic pursuits. For them, being an active researcher is important to maintain credibility among the people I work with, so they’re supportive of me setting aside a small part of my workweek to work on my own papers (e.g. half a day per week or more, depending on my workload). I’m starting to slow down now, but I’ve been able write and publish a few things in the short time that I’ve been here. I am also affiliated with the university’s ethics centre, and I teach courses on a contract basis, which provides some additional income and allows me to feel like I’m maintaining involvement with the discipline. 4.I love working at a university. I love the atmosphere of the campus and the rhythms of the academic calendar: the hustle and bustle of the beginning of term and exam time; the quiet, relaxed vibe during the summer and in between terms. We have great libraries, great green space and recreational facilities, beautiful buildings, and no shortage of interesting talks and events throughout the year. There are certainly worse places that you could spend everyday between 9-5. Some things that are challenging about my position: 1.While my attitude is changing for the better, I came into this job with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. My qualifications are considered pretty fancy at the university I work at, and when I meet academics for the first time and tell them about my background, I get a lot of “So what are you doing here?” This contributes to my own sense that I have underachieved with the qualifications I have—many of my colleagues from grad school are now in tenure-track positions at prestigious universities, while I am in a position that many of them would probably consider to be a failure. This is something I still struggle with, but I try to remind myself that I have a very privileged position, even if it’s not the one I set out to achieve. When I was a post-doc, I constantly worried about money and job security, especially after my daughter was born. I don’t worry about those things at all anymore, and I try to remind myself not to take that for granted. I also try to remind myself of the valuable things my position affords, like a healthy work-life balance and the ability to spend lots of time with my family and friends. 2.The actual work in this position can sometimes be pretty boring and tedious. I mentioned above that I get to hear and talk about a lot of interesting research that is happening at our university. I do. But I also have to hear about a lot of boring research, and I have to read and comment on documents that are so poorly prepared that they rival the worst undergraduate essays. This part of the job can be pretty disheartening—it’s hard not to look back on my decade plus of post-secondary education and think, “It was all leading to this?” But this is where it helps to do things like maintain a research program and teach courses. I can compartmentalize the boring stuff and look forward to the parts of my job that I actually enjoy and find meaningful. 3.That being said, with little dedicated research time during work hours, it is getting harder and harder to maintain involvement with the discipline. I’ve managed to increase my rate of publication since starting this position, but this was largely because I was sitting on a pile of half-finished material that I developed during my PhD and post-doc position. This is now drying up, and it’s getting hard to make headway on new projects. At the same time, I’m becoming increasingly disconnected from the academic community that I was once a part of. I’ve lost touch with many old colleagues, and I’ve fallen out of the loop regarding various professional opportunities. I used to get invited to this conference or to submit something to that special issue, but not anymore. This, I guess, is the ugly side of exiting academia (or at least partially exiting, in my case): without a research position, it seems like I’m no longer considered someone worth networking with, or someone who has something useful to contribute to the discipline. This can be a tough pill to swallow when a big part of your identity has been wrapped up with being part of that community. So, in my experience, there have been lots of good things about working in a non-faculty position, but some definite downsides as well. One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet, and probably should mention, is that I am still applying for tenure-track jobs. My CV has improved considerably since my first year on the market, so I haven’t lost hope that I might find a faculty position, though I’ve certainly come to terms with the fact that it might not be in the cards for me. I’m more selective about the jobs that I apply for now, and I am much more relaxed about the process of applying and waiting to hear back, knowing that I’ll be fine even if I’m not successful. But, not being in a research position, I think that I’m now applying from a weaker position; that my current job counts as a strike against me. So it’s worth thinking about how a non-faculty position fits into your longer-term plan. If you’re planning to continue slogging it out on the job market, be aware that taking a non-faculty job can work against you in a number of different ways and even take you out of the game. For me, the benefits outweighed the risks, but this won’t be true of everyone depending on their personal circumstances and desire to continue pursuing a tenure-track position. I hope my experience provides some useful insight. Good luck out there!

a philosopher

“I thought you got a job mainly by knowing some admin people at the university you went to?”

I did. I suppose I could have tried to develop those into a long-term career outside philosophy, thus gainsaying my claim that opportunities didn’t really open up until I expanded my social circles beyond that they naturally were from being a philosophy graduate student. But I’m trying to generalize and synthesize, in a few paragraphs, my very messy experiences. I still feel, based on my experiences, that the general themes I’ve been discussing are right. I suppose you could adjust my claim as follows: if you want a job in university admin, perhaps social circles you accrue as a philosophy graduate student will suffice for some openings which make that a possibility, but if you want a job outside philosophy that’s not in university admin, you’ll probably need to expand your social circles.

But at this point we’re kinda getting off track and blurring multiple points. All this started when I endorsed Marcus’ simple claim that graduate-student life cloisters you in a way that makes networking outside philosophy hard. I agree. Somewhere along the way I raised the issue that effective networking isn’t just coffee chats, but an organic process in which meeting people is thoroughly intertwined with the development of your own interests and skills outside philosophy (by, say, picking up hobbies outside philosophy).

“Did you get job offers from using meetups.com?”

I’m assuming you didn’t really mean it this way, but I didn’t get job offers from using meetup.com. That sounds like I attended one or two meetups posted to the site and somehow found myself getting a handshake and job offer at the end of one of them. As I said, it took me a good 18-24 months of developing a life outside philosophy — a rich, full life centred around something besides philosophy — before I started getting job offers. At the start, since I really had no clue what else to do, I used sites like meetup.com to find opportunities and meet people, but that was only a first step. By the time I was at a place where I was getting job offers, I was well past using meetup.com or similar sites. I had well-developed interests, did lots of things related to my interests, had friends, etc. The events I went to where just the natural things people in this community do, advertised within the community, etc. For example, if you check meetup.com you’ll find philosophy events, but I’m assuming you don’t use meetup.com to find philosophy things to do. You just (of course) naturally are plugged into philosophy: you know the places, things, people, etc to do. People invite you to stuff, you hear about it on Facebook, whatever. A site like meetup.com can be a nice place to start to explore opportunities and ideas, but a healthy social network and the heavily development of interests outside philosophy (of a sort leading to job offers), needs to go well beyond artificial or stilted socializing of the sort facilitated by meetup.com (or whatever).

“Could you elaborate on what kinds of meetups you did in what areas? I don't even know what there is to do really.”

I don’t want to give my identity away, so I won’t make the specifics of my situation public. Marcus is free to give my email address to you. I’m happy to chat more off this forum.

But I guess my general reaction is that that was my situation as I finished up my philosophy PhD. I didn’t even know what there was to do, really. It just took time to search around and try things out before I developed a sense for myself outside philosophy and a sense for my talents and interests. I started with some very vague notions of what I liked to do or what sounded interesting to me, I tried some of it out (by, say, using sites like meetup.com to find related things to do). After actually getting out there and doing it, some of it didn’t really stick or work out, while other things did.

“What are the high-paying skilled jobs that someone with a PhD in philosophy can do?”

None, if you’re only qualification is the philosophy PhD. Maybe, as I said, strategy consulting with a major firm like BCG, Bain, or Mckinsey, but even those are sketchy. Hence my emphasize on how networking needs to be intertwined with an organic process of learning new skills and developing yourself. If you want a consulting job, you better get hanging out at the campus consulting club and practicing “cases” with them. If you want a programming job, hit up programming meetups, workshops, pub nights, etc, until you actually learn to code. If you want to bartend, you better start learning to mix drinks and hanging out in the sorts of places bartenders do. If you’re starting from scratch, it will take a few years (probably) to work up the skills, experience, and network (and just for luck to bring you into contact with opportunities), but it will happen.

I’m also happy to be wrong about this. But in my five years now of being out and hanging around sites like this, I’ve never seen anyone lay out a better strategy for transitioning outside philosophy.

a philosopher

I enjoyed reading about "Reluctant Research Administrator"'s illuminating experiences. Perhaps it's not my place to say, but I suspect the smoothness and ease of RRA's transition is the exception, not the rule. I would be surprised to learn, for example, that philosophers were generally competitive for research administration positions and that the people hiring for those positions weren't usually looking for someone with past experience in grant writing or grant management. Of course, I totally believe RRA that training in analytic philosophy makes one good at helping others develop grant proposals, but that doesn't mean that the average VP of Research (or whatever) will know that and give the average philosopher (without previous grant-writing experience) a shot. (I'm also not suggesting that people shouldn't roll the dice and apply to positions like this, if they're interested.)

I have been called a Debbie Downer...


So, I'm just trying to figure out what you're saying 'a philosopher,' because it's all quite foreign to me. The gist of what you're saying seems to be this.

Find some group or groups involved in something you find interesting perhaps by using meetups.com. Try to socialize with these people by showing up at their group events (not sure how this part is supposed to work, because in my experience we usually shun outsiders who show up at philosophy events). Teach yourself the subject in your spare time, and continue to attempt to foster friendships with these people. Perhaps somehow impress some of these friends with your skills, maybe after years of practicing. Then hope that eventually one of them offers you a job.

I kind of understand this method, but I'm not sure it's practical for many people. First, it seems to require an immense time commitment for uncertain results. Second, it seems to depend on being able to make lots of friends and to impress strangers. I guess this is just life. Nothing is certain and everything depends on impressing others. However, reading this kind of advice, it's not surprising people stay in the philosophy job market for years and years. There is no easy out.

a philosopher

Hi postdoc,

Sure, you seem to capture the gist accurately, if a bit tendentiously.

Does it require an immense time commitment? Sure, but what other option is there? Send out applications for jobs you're not actually qualified for? Hope that a stranger you meet for a coffee chat offers you a job? Look, as I said at the start, getting a job requires having a real set of skills, with a related portfolio of work to demonstrate those skills, and connections who both are aware of that work and are in a position to offer you a job. Those things simply take time to develop. I think if you talk to any job counsellor they are going to tell you that switching careers is a long process that will take a year or two. Think of it this way: you're in a position now to be taken seriously as a candidate for philosophy jobs (even if you're not having luck getting them) only because you've put years of time into developing your skills, have a portfolio of work to show for it, and have the right sort of connections. Why would getting any other job be any different?

Does this require making lots of friends and impressing strangers? Sure. As you say, that's life. But, also (to be frank), that's mostly how it works in philosophy too...

As I said --- get my email from Marcus. I'm happy to share my story, perhaps in a way that will make the whole process seem more realistic. (Perhaps also my actual experiences and results will underwhelm you, who knows.) I'm not trying to say I'm positioned as some wise person with real career advice. I'm just some struggling early-career philosopher, like yourself, happy to share my experiences being part of the world outside philosophy.

I agree that people stay in philosophy for a long time because it is hard to leave. Changing careers or fields is hard ... hence why all those out-of-work coal miners would rather Trump tell them he's bringing their jobs back than take real actions forwards getting work in a new field. Hell, as I mentioned, it's also part of why I'm still in philosophy and took a chance to come back, however foolishly, when I got one. I was mostly out the door, got an offer, and came back --- partly because I still hadn't achieved real long-term success in a new career, and partly because I love philosophy.

Life is complicated and hard. Friends are good.


I'm not looking for a job. I just wanted to understand what you were saying.

I think you're right about what it takes to find a job. Certain people in the philosophy community, though, like to pretend that a PhD opens up lots of non-academic options, even though they can't say what these are.

I think you're being honest, but I also don't think it's practical advise. However, I don't think any practical advise exists. So, it's as good as it gets.

a philosopher

oh okay, I understand.

"Certain people in the philosophy community, though, like to pretend that a PhD opens up lots of non-academic options, even though they can't say what these are."

I know there are cases, like RRA above, which involve a philosopher snagging a decent job outside philosophy seemingly on the basis of their experience and skills naturally gained while pursuing philosophy, but (as I said) I think these are the exception.

I'm sure as you've figured out, the reason you get vague answers about the opportunities opened up by philosophy is because there is no real, practical or substantive path that's opened up by philosophy into any particular field (outside philosophy). Aside from lucky breaks and special circumstances, a career shift out of philosophy will be a long, hard process.

If anyone knows better and has instructions ready for me to follow in case my adventure back into philosophy fails, I'm all ears. The standard lists of "transferable skills", tips for converting a CV into a resume, and obligatory copy of "what color is your parachute" are less instructions for getting a job outside philosophy and more a starter-pack for the long and arduous journey of networking and self-discovery I've been describing.


I just wanted to some things Reluctant Research Administrator said about the benefits of working at a university. I almost quite and took a job in IT at my large private R2, and I only would have got the job because of friends (I worked there for a summer to pay for daycare so I could keep writing). My school also has excellent benefits, health care, retirement, vaca time, etc., and perhaps most importantly if you have offspring, full tuition remission. Plus I would have been able to teach a class once or twice a year if I wanted (for a little extra pay), and still feel like I was part of the university. So, depending on the school of course, I think there are LOTS of benefits to working at a university even in a non-academic position.

Reluctant Research Administrator

'a philosopher' is probably correct that smooth transitions like mine are the exception rather than the rule, and that the path out of academia to a fulfilling alternative career can be a long and arduous one. But I don't offer my experience as an easy alternative for anyone thinking of transitioning out of academia - it's just one example of a case in which a philosophical skill set was leveraged into a non-faculty university position. OP was curious about people's experiences taking non-faculty campus jobs, and mine is just one. I don't assume it will be an option for everyone.

For me, however, the broader moral of the story is that training in philosophy can have value within the university in ways that you might not initially think of (or at least in ways that I did not initially think of). I am not under the illusion that the average VP Research (or whoever is in the position to hire non-faculty jobs) is aware of the value of this type training - I certainly don't think mine was - but this is why I made a case for myself in my cover letter, and tried to demonstrate the value of my training in the interview process. I think there ought to be broader appreciation for what philosophers can bring to the table, but in the absence of this broader appreciation, the onus is on the philosopher to make a case for themselves (which they should be well-equipped to do).

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