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02/25/2020

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S

So here's something I've been wondering: How do people work their way up from a job at one place to another midcareer or later? I'm thinking about associate or above hires. It seems to me this might be more possible than say publishing your way into a job that wouldn't normally give someone from your program a look right out of grad school. I think this since I've known several people who did just this; that is going from a job in teaching school to an R2 and sometimes even onto an R1 even with very non-Leiterrific pedigrees. Is it really possible? Or have I just made too much of a few people who've done it? If it is possible how do people do it? Just publish a lot and hope someone notices them or is there something more proactive one can do? I'm not unhappy in my current job, which is teaching focused, and don't plan on going anywhere in the next few years but I'm also not sure I want to spend the next 30 years in this job so I was just wondering what the long term possibilities. (And of course in this day and age maybe no one should even count on having the same job for 30 years, but I suppose that's a grim thought.)

ambivalent grad student

I am an advanced graduate student, on track to graduate next year. I'm really ambivalent on whether I want to go on the academic job market. On the one hand, I do enjoy (most aspects) of teaching. I like researching and learning new things, but not so much when I feel pressured to come up with an original thing to say about it. I think I could be happy at a teaching-focused school. Luckily, the university I'm at which I'm getting my PhD prepares its graduates very well for teaching jobs. For what it's worth, I'm in an AOS that has (relatively) high demand.

On the other hand, I am very aware of the many stresses put on faculty members that go above and beyond the considerable stresses I feel as a grad student. I'm not sure I will be happy constantly dealing with all the stress. I haven't had a great track record of separating work from the rest of my life and I'm not sure I can trust myself to do much better when the workload and stakes are higher.

I have a young family. I am not willing to spend many years on the market moving them from short-term appointment to short-term appointment, and we are not willing to move just anywhere for a job. So the incredibly slim chances of me landing a TT job are even more minuscule.

Should I even bother going on the market? Or should I save myself the stress and anxiety of applying? When do I need to make a decision and let my committee know so they don't have to write LORs?

4/4

To ambivalent grad:

I have a lot to say in response to your post since you are basically me two years ago. I also had a family and although I knew I was going to try the market at least once, I wasn’t going to go more than three times, for exactly all the reasons you shared. But I went out and fortunately got a permanent position that I like. A lot of it, most really, comes down to luck, and you can’t know whether you’ll get lucky without trying. Without knowing you at all, my advice would be to try it for a year while starting to seriously design your exit strategy.

You mention “the many stresses put on faculty members that go above and beyond the considerable stresses [you] feel as a grad student.” I had heard about these “stresses” as well, but now that I have a job, I really have no idea what everyone was talking about. The stress I feel in my position now is nothing compared to what I used to feel as a grad student, because I now have a permanent job! I don’t have to sit and wonder day after day how I’m going to support my family, whether I’d need a new career, and on and on and on. It is a world of difference. I don’t know whether it will be the same for you but for me, the stress ended when I got a TT job. I have more work to do than I did before, but my mind is calm about the future, so the workload is pretty trivial.

I remember hearing professors in my grad program say things like, “Enjoy this time as grad students now, because you’ll never again have so much time to write and research!” Yes, what I wouldn’t give to go back to earning a fraction of what I earn now, hardly being able to pay for my kids’ preschool, constantly worried about my standing with the faculty, and dreading the horrors of the job market while seeing everyone around me fail year after year. Truly those were the days.

Certainly.

I have some romantic questions (the ambiguity in 'romantic question' will be resolved forthwith):

(1) Do spousal hires have to be *spousal* hires? There's a 'legal question': do institutions of higher learning tend to have explicit policies to the effect that the people in question have to be legally married? There's also a moral question: should institutions have such a policy? Mostly interested in the legal question as the moral question seems relatively straightforward (I'm withholding my answer to this question in a probably futile effort to discourage discussion).

(2) It is increasingly common that people have a litany of non-TT jobs before they land a TT job (if they do land one at all). Anyone familiar with this knows that a string of such jobs tends to be strewn across the country, or world. Moreover, each job tends to be for a year, or two, or often for 'one year with the possibility of renewal for a second but it's not in your contact that you'll get a second year and we won't be able to tell you whether we'll renew you for a second year until a few weeks before the end of your first year'. Uncertainty, in most of its varieties, is never in short supply.

Do people who enter into that cycle without a partner just put their love lives on hold indefinitely? Do people put 'must be able to work remotely, have no long term career goals other than to follow me around the country, be ready to bail on all of your friends, etc.' on their dating app profiles? I should add that this is from the point of view of someone looking for long-term partnership. A one year position is plenty of time to make other kinds of romantic connections and I am not disparaging those at all. But in terms of long-term relationships, the non-tenure track isn't exactly fertile soil.

Curious whether and how other people address this issue, what people who disagree with my assessment of the situation have to say, etc.

ambivalent grad student

4/4: This is an incredibly helpful perspective, thank you! I am very ready to be done, and so I am dreading the added anxiety of the job market. I think I am just rationalizing trying to avoid it.

I agree that a large part of the search is luck. I've joked with my SO that I may not get a job simply because I never end up applying, since there might not be a school we're willing to move to who happens to need a philosophy professor in my AOS in the short window that I'm on the market.

4/4

Yeah I understand. The luck thing is very important. The year I happened to be on the market turned out to be an absolute bonanza of available positions in my area, with good TT jobs in many different types of institutions that I was legitimately qualified to apply for. Having seen the listings this year, though, it seems to have been a wasteland for my area—and so I’m grateful I didn’t wait “one more year” to go for it, because if I had, I would have missed all those chances which no doubt made it actually possible for me to get a job. When there are few listings you can make a legitimate app for, then the odds are that much worse against you.

anon

In response to Certainly:

"Do people who enter into that cycle without a partner just put their love lives on hold indefinitely? Do people put 'must be able to work remotely, have no long term career goals other than to follow me around the country, be ready to bail on all of your friends, etc.' on their dating app profiles?"

This is a short version of the answers, but I think the answers are just "They probably shouldn't" and "That sounds like a bad idea".

To say something that speaks to the underlying question: I think it makes sense to pursue the kind of relationships that you want to pursue even if moving around a lot makes maintaining those relationships complicated.

Spousal hire

Response to Certainly Q1: I got hired “spousally” without being married to my partner. At the time we had no kids. It wasn’t an issue in my case.

Unplanned dating

Certainly,

There's a great line in Hursthouse's "Virtue Ethics and Abortion" where she criticizes as flawed people who have/desire abortions because the timing doesn't correspond to their desired timeline of adulthood. Regardless of the merit of that particular point, the general lesson that it can be a vice to plan too much has stuck with me. So my advice is similar to anon's. Date how you want to date and work out the details later.

Amanda

The whole, "Just date and see what happens" might not be that encouraging to people who have been on the dating market and have repeatedly run into people who won't consider dating you seriously because of your job situation. When I was moving around after my PhD, I tried dating, and became really depressed because I kept running into people who didn't want to "start something serious" when they knew I'd be moving. I wish the best for those who can make it work, but it isn't always that easy. Also, in my experience, hetero men are much more likely to find women willing to date and move around the country than other types of relationships.

I guess I don't have an answer other than to say it's difficult and it is one of those situations when people are forced to choose between their career goals and other goals. One of the hard parts of this, of course, is that often it seems like the career is a more "sure" bet. It's like, you already *have* the postdoc and you don't yet *have* the partner. Not to mention, it is hard enough to explain to others in the profession when someone decides not to do a full search because of a current spouse. I can't imagine the reactions to, "I'm not doing a fulls search because I'm hoping not moving around will increase my odds of finding a partner." Funny because that might be a very reasonable position to take, but few will see it that way.

Amanda

As for the spousal question, I would be surprised if at any public and/or religious institution it mattered if someone was legally married. Obviously it will vary by institution, but I've seen spousal hires with "non-official" spouses before. Sometimes a document has to be signed that the two are in a long-term committed relationship and plan to stay that way indefinitely.

desk rejected

I'm relatively new to peer-reviewed publishing. I recently received a desk rejection from Journal X. They said that my scholarship did not meet their scholarly standards because I did not cite people of color who work on my paper topic Y. They then proceeded to list a number of very famous authors that I could/should have cited. (The email did not suggest that I should have cited *all* of these authors, nor did it suggest what number of authors would have met their standards.)

I'm not sure how to take this desk rejection because my paper did cite people of color. My paper even cited people of color on their list of people I should cite (I also cited poc not on their list). Additionally, not all the people on their list wrote specifically on my paper topic Y (but do work in the subfield more broadly).

I know that editors are overburdened in many cases, so I cannot tell if this is just an oversight. (Although I should add that one of their listed authors was the very first bibliographic entry in my paper, so I can't even explain it away as a brief skim where authors of color were buried in a very long bibliography.)

I'm curious to hear how others with more experience might explain this rejection, because as it stands it strikes me as somewhat sloppy decision-making, and it makes me want to send my work elsewhere in the future.

Amanda

desk rejection: If I were you, I'd write back in a very friendly and polite way, and tell them what you told us. If they rejected you for not citing people you cited, then clearly it is a mistake on their part. I am not one to usually recommend challenging editors, but I think when editors made a factual mistake and when the fact that they did so can be easily demonstrated, then this is a rare case that justifies contending the decision.

Illusion of Terra

Looking at CVs and hearing about careers from philosophers, I wonder how they live. Specifically, what do people do with their furniture?

I get that many people probably won't bother moving or buying a TV nowadays, but I can't imagine living without some kind of furniture, and taking my furniture to a different country every two years sounds impractical.
Does that mean that you have to look for furnished apartments or buy new furniture every time you move?

Would be interesting to get some insights into this. While it might not be the most important topic, what you do besides work and how you live can affect everything else.

nomad

Illusion of Terra,
I moved from my grad school in the center of North America, to the mid-west, and then across the mountains to the coast, and then back to the mid-west, and then back to the center of North America. That was in a five year span. I moved furniture ... though not a lot of it. The moves were expensive. But I had a spouse moving with me, and they were making a big enough sacrifice for my career. I could not deprive them of our furniture as well (and I could not afford new furniture either).
You really are committing to a life style when you pursue an academic career. It paid off in the long run.

Two-Body Problem

I’m a PhD student in a long-term relationship with another PhD student. While the job market is difficult enough as it is, my two-body problem makes thinking about the job market much more complicated and uncertain. I’m aware that spousal hires happen, but I’m wondering how often, if ever, are institutions willing to do spousal hires where both hires are recent PhD graduates?

Don't regret my kids but this is hard

I'm a mom of young kids on the TT who is seriously struggling, particularly with producing research that is up to par while coping with time, energy, mental fitness, sleep, health, and money issues caused by pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Any and all advice is welcome—financial, related to time management, daycare, or otherwise. Moms—or dads—how did you make it through? Is this possible?

Two body holy grail

For spousal hires you need to consider if your work is complementary. Time from PhD isn’t the main issue (though associate profs are often harder to move than assistant). Most programs will not need two people working in Aristotle, for instance. And heaven help you if you work in “non-western” fields where despite significant differences in time, subject, texts, etc., (think to Parfit and Kant), you and your spouse’s work will be treated as “redundant.”

Some sobering data: I and my partner have yet to solve our problem after five years, excellent publications, and pedigrees from top schools. This is with fly outs every year. I know others going on a decade. It will get harder, not easier.

William Peden

Illusion of Terra,

"Does that mean that you have to look for furnished apartments or buy new furniture every time you move?"

In my case, the former. All the furniture that I have ever owned amounts to a single swivel-chair, which I offered to a landlady to replace one that I broke.

Anna

I'm seriously considering leaving academia. I'm a success story--R1, job for my partner, too, etc. I'm just not happy.
But I'm worried if I leave academia, I won't like it, either. Have there been posts here (or elsewhere, or articles) hearing from people who left academia (ideally, voluntarily), and their experiences after?

Joe

I am wondering how one goes about getting their book reviewed. I am about to have a book out with a decent enough press and I am not sure what happens next.
Is there a respectable number of reviews I should be aiming for? Does anyone care if the book gets reviewed? Does it really increase readership to have a book reviewed in an academic journal?

Brad

Joe
I am one of the editors of Metascience, a journal that publishes book reviews of books in history, philosophy and sociology of science. As an author you should contact the editor of the journals and alert them that you have a new book (if it is in their subject area). They may then arrange for a review of the book. Many presses ask that you supply them with a list of journals that may review your book. You can ask your publisher if they want such a list.
I think one important reason why you want to get your book reviewed in journals is that other scholars often recommend books to College Libraries on the basis of book reviews. If you publish with the top presses, Cambridge and Oxford, many research libraries will generally buy the book. But you cannot count on that as you move down the list of publishers.

Helen De Cruz

Anna: yes I did some interviews

https://www.newappsblog.com/2014/06/philosophers-who-work-outside-of-academia-part-1-how-and-why-do-they-end-up-there.html

https://www.newappsblog.com/2014/06/philosophers-who-work-outside-of-academia-part-2-whats-it-like-to-have-a-nonacademic-job.html

https://www.newappsblog.com/2014/06/philosophers-who-work-outside-of-academia-part-3-transferrable-skills-and-concrete-advice.html

If you are not happy, then of course you should try to get out! No guarantees for happiness, it depends on what you want.

‘Lola Olojede

What likely questions should one prepare for in a Postdoc in philosophy interview, particularly in applied ethics?

William Peden

Lola,

Some questions I've had that you might not expect are:

"How would you approach collaborative research within the project?"

"Beyond your research, what is your detailed plan to help fulfil the social mission of >?"

"Why should we expect you to stay for the duration of the fellowship?"

William Peden

* the social mission of the funding agency.

I was once narrowly passed over for a postdoc because I didn't have a detailed plan for how to spread the project's ideas to policymakers and thus achieve the funder's goals of "a better world".

Amanda

Anna - I assume you've done this, but make sure your unhappiness is because of the job and not other things. But I would definitely explore the possibilities. Once you are confident that one of those other possibilities is something you would enjoy and find more fulfilling and less stressful, (and that it would provide the needed financial security) that's when I would leave. You don't want to leave with no game plane, I reckon, as that might lead to a lot of regret and "what-ifs."

Amanda

Lola - I lost a postdoc once because I said I did not spend all that much time thinking about how my work would actually impact the world, and instead I focused on having work that said true things. A lot of applied ethics post docs, especially outside philosophy departments, really want to know that you care and think about making an impact. The truth with me is I do care about that, but the problems I work on seem so big and beyond my control that it seems strange and a bit arrogant to think about how my work specifically impacts the world. But I guess many don't look at it that way.

Mike Titelbaum

Certainly, just in response to your "legal question", universities will sometimes explain their policies on these matters publicly. For instance, the University of Wisconsin-Madison (where I teach) offers the following page:
https://facstaff.provost.wisc.edu/dual-career-couple-assistance-program/
It explicitly says that the program applies to "spouses and partners", and in my experience they mean that.

P

I'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but this blog has made me irrationally fearful of backlash from people after it'll become public news that I got the job that I got. I've got some **very** good publications, numerous teaching awards, been awarded prestigious international and domestic research fellowships, excellent teaching experience at prestigious places... But the atmosphere in, e.g., the job market discussion thread and in the blog in general here is so toxic that I feel like I'll get flamed for not deserving my job. People saying things like "Skype interviews are worse than garbage," or "Anyone with less than 600 publications doesn't deserve a job" (hyperbole) -- do you know the effect this has on other people? Sigh. Just venting.

on the market

I have a question about going on job interviews during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. I have a campus visit scheduled in the coming weeks that will require a fair bit of international travel. While I am really excited about the job and am looking forward to visiting the campus, I am not sure what my or the search committee's attitudes ought to be towards requiring people to travel during such times of uncertainty. As more and more universities cancel in-person classes and place restrictions on the travel of academics, I am not sure if I ought to be going on a flyout, especially one that will require a long haul international flight and several connections. However, I do want a job and feel I cannot miss the opportunity of a campus visit.

Keep your head on

On the market,
Keep en eye on your current school's policies, etc, regarding travel, as well as your nation's restrictions, etc. Also keep an eye on what the policies and restrictions are in the nation where the interviewing university is. Also, use good sense. ... or even decision theory.
The people at the interviewing university are human beings as well ... and they have families, etc. So people can be reasonable.

empathy

I was on a search committee this year and I read a lot of cover letters.
One not successful applications stood out to me.

This applicant in many ways was strong: they had a strong post doc, a pretty good publication record and good letters. Their area of specialization was not what we were looking for, so it was why they were eliminated.

But if they did have our AOS, they might have been eliminated anyway because of their cover letter.

The cover letter consisted of, first, the author listing their publications and providing links to them. The applicant did not explain what the publications were about, or say anything about teaching, nor said anything about being a fit for us. They said very little about their future research plans other than a vague proclamation about a book. And then they had a self-deprecating paragraph about their publication record, where they said something along the lines of" I have a poor publication record so don't hire me if you want someone with a great record, instead, hire me if you want a researcher who will be great in the future."

For what was an otherwise a strong application, this cover letter could be very damaging. First, expecting a search committee to read your publications when we have 200 plus applications,( instead of giving us an overview of what you do and why it fits the job description,) comes off as arrogant and out of touch. But also, we are just busy and many SC members won't bother. We already have a list of publications on your CV. Second, the line about a poor publication record (when you have a decent one) does not make you look good. And vague proclamations about future productivity are even worse.

I felt bad for this applicant, as no one apparently has pointed this out to them. I wanted to write them or a mentor and give some kind advice, but because of privacy rules I couldn't. I've heard stories about professors writing to letter writers and saying that their letter is inapt. But does anyone know if there is any legal way to let someone know about something like this? I am mainly asking out of curiosity, as I would have to look up all details of my own school's policies before I could risk it, and I don't think it is worth risking my job. But I'm just wondering if finding major problems in applications is something that happens, and if persons ever inform others about aspects that might be killing a hopeful person's chances.

anna

Thanks so much for those links, Helen! It's great to read many of the interviewees (and subsequent comments) discussing things I've been thinking.

The problem is that if I tell most academics--which unfortunately includes my nuclear family and my husband--that I'm thinking of leaving, they react as though I might actually be having a nervous breakdown.

There's this ideology that we have the greatest job in the world, that we're the only ones who are free to spend our time on our intellectual passions, that the job has unparalleled flexibility, and so on. It's very hard to break free of or see beyond the myth. Not that I'm denying that for some people academia is the best job in the world. But sometimes I wonder for how many of us it's NOT actually making us that happy, and we're just too afraid of what else is out there (or suffering from a sunk cost fallacy) to make a change.

Amanda, I'm very sure it's elements of my job that are making me unhappy, but it's true that my job intersects with my family life (post-kid, I don't have as much time to work, and the thing I've had to cut is research, which was my favorite part of the job, so now it's 90% stuff I don't enjoy), and it's also true that any career, presumably, has its downsides.

I do have a nonacademic job offer but I'm still trying to decide whether to pursue it. I have a fear of later wanting to get back into academia but being unable to. It's another thing I dislike about it--how the doors shut firmly on anyone who dares to leave for a second. (Or am I wrong--is it possible to find one's way back in, after once leaving?)

Not a completely new teacher, but clearly still sort of new

I had to do a campus interview with a teaching presentation. I've worked hard in my teaching to structurally make it possible to have a very good, dynamic, discussion based classes, but of course you can't do that for teaching demonstrations. It's clear that teaching the reading then pushing for discussion questions doesn't work because these students are strangers and you've already lost them. Anyway, I have two more teaching demonstrations in the next few weeks, does anybody have any good ideas of how to start a demonstration with activity, rather than end it?

Anon

I was offered several temporary jobs, but for personal reasons I have decided to stay in my current institutions. Two of these were very good fellowships. Is it ok to put on my CV that I have declined them? This is just to show that I'm competitive

M

Anon
I think it is NOT good to list fellowships declined. It may lead people to think you have bad judgment, especially if you stayed at a place that looks objectively worse than where the fellowships are.

Amanda

If they are prestigious fellowships, I would put them on. I think the benefits would outweighs the risks. You could put on the CV (declined due to exceptional personal circumstances.) Anyone who assumed you had bad judgment rather than a special situation is, well, not charitable.

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