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one of the lucky

None of us *deserve* our jobs in the strict sense. That doesn't mean we aren't qualified for them or that it was a mistake to hire us. Rather, it means that for the vast majority of us, there are a number of people who are our professional peers and who applied for the jobs we got, but who were not hired. Luck plays a role in all our lives, though it's not sufficient for getting hired.


Its hard not to just have a sarcastic "boo hoo" response to this. People have every right to vent their frustrations at the absolutely devastating position the job market often puts them in, and they shouldn't keep quiet just because it might make those lucky enough to have landed jobs feel a little bad.

Things might be different if, as OP claims, people were actually 'flaming' individual candidates for landing jobs. But I have never once seen that happen on this blog.

Also alarmed

I am with the reader whose comment is at the head of the post. I have a job - I have had one for a while. But when I read the job reporting thread I find it quite distressing. People are so very negative. I, too, cannot help but think that many of these people would trash someone who reported that they got a job.
To say that luck influences who gets a job, is NOT to say it is just random. This is the case both with respect to jobs, and with respect to getting papers published in good journals. A number of candidates may be qualified (even equally so); but only then do other considerations kick in to determine who actually gets the job.


I honestly have no idea what people like "Also alarmed" are talking about when they say that the job reporting thread is filled with "negative" people.

I agree with Andy that it is really, really hard to care about this, even if such negativity existed. I say this as someone who got a TT job this cycle. I won the lottery. I could not care less if someone thinks I'm undeserving.

Marcus Arvan

Also alarmed: There's no doubt the job-market threads can be negative places. The job-market is just awful, and so it's not surprising there's negativity.

Here, though, is my concern. If the Cocoon didn't host such threads (and allow some negativity, as long as it doesn't target particular others or otherwise be explicitly unsupportive--neither of which I allow), what would the alternative be?

When I started the Cocoon in 2012, the primary place to discuss the philosophy job market was The Philosophy Smoker: http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/

Like many people I knew at the time, I didn't think the Smoker was a good environment. Moderating seemed like it was minimal, and if recollection serves me correctly, there was all kinds of meanspirited stuff in comments threads there. I created the Cocoon in large part of offer a more supportive and constructive environment.

Then, after the Smoker shut down, there were a number of iterations of the Metablog and Metaforum--which I think were far *worse* than the Smoker.

If the Cocoon didn't provide a forum for reporting jobs and discussing the market, either there would be no such forum at all (which seems very unlikely), OR whatever forum(s) sprung up instead would (if the above history is any indication) be far less safe and supportive than ours.

The only other option would be for me to adopt a strongly paternalistic policy as moderator disallowing negativity. However, would that be good? I'm inclined to think not--for again, two reasons: (1) some other forums would probably spring up to be far more negative (as they have in the past), or (2) people would have no outlet for expressing negative criticisms of the market (which I think there are good reasons to have: we should not ignore just how awful and unfair the market it, but instead give people a place to *voice* to express how awful they find it, provided they obey basic norms of civility--the kinds of norms this blog has long had and I've long enforced as moderator).

Do you see any other better option here?

Also alarmed

Even the practice of referring to the rejection letters as PFOs is quite dehumanizing. Really, think about it: PLEASE FUCK OFF.


OP here.

@one of the lucky: I agree with this. I think that very frequently people who vent about the job market will say or implicature that it *was* a mistake that so-and-so was hired, and that so-and-so *is* unqualified for their job.

@Andy: I agree that people have every right to vent about the job market. But there is a difference between venting about the job market, and saying that people aren't qualified for the jobs they got. That is the general vibe I seem to get.

@Marcus: I think one option might be to remove the 'Job Market Discussion' thread; and have only the reporting thread. The Discussion thread was pretty unfriendly when I went through it. The reporting thread is depressing, but otherwise mostly neutral. The 'how we can help you' thread is fine, too, I think; and I think that most of the discussion in the Discussion thread could easily be merged with the thread there.


I think it's good that the metablog and so on are gone: they were definitely toxic. I don't think the Job Market Discussion thread should go away. It's fine to raise criticisms of the practices of some search committees (through, for instance, talking about the kinds of bias that can be introduced in interviews). Discussions of topics like that can be carried on without implicating that everyone who gets hired didn't deserve their job.


I think some perspective is important here. There are many people on the market who also have **very** good publications, numerous teaching awards, prestigious international and domestic research fellowships, and excellent teaching experience at prestigious places who did *not* get jobs. How would it feel to not only be bombarded with other people’s career announcements, but also with the immense social pressure to pretend to not be upset, angry, or jealous?

I’ve never gotten the sense from reading the comments anywhere on this blog that anyone was targeting those who have had luck on the market. The market is catastrophically broken and the complaints you see about the uselessness of Skype interviews, or about needing a certain number of publications to get a job aren’t aimed at fellow job candidates necessarily, but at hiring practices and standards that are unfair and pointlessly cruel to job-seekers.

I understand your anxiety about how other people might react to your success. But I think reading this much into other people’s reactions to the job market generally and taking those comments personally probably has more to do with how you feel about your own success rather than how other people feel about you. Take account of how much more it sucks to be on the other side of this, and how important it is for those on that boat to have a space to feel hopeless while steeped in a culture that is deeply resistant to negative emotion.

The way you’ve framed your complaint is ridiculous—it’s like winning a lottery and getting to enjoy all the nice things that come with that, and also demanding that nobody is allowed to feel anything negative towards you or your situation.

And not only that, but demanding that the few open spaces that are available for a conversation about the job market be shut down? Why try to legislate how people are allowed to feel about the profession and where they are allowed to express those frustrations, especially when what you’re finding harmful is merely an *implicature* and not even anything that anyone said specifically about a particular job candidate? If you can’t interpret those comments without taking them as personal attacks, maybe the solution isn't to make sure nobody has a space to express their frustrations about the philosophy job market, but for you to stop reading the comments.

If you care this much about how other people feel about your success, you can use your nice new job as an opportunity to lift up the people around you who were not as lucky as you. It’s tough out there. Take stock of how lucky you’ve been, have a little empathy, and be a space for other people who need it without interpreting a stranger's negativity on a philosophy blog as a commentary on you personally. It very likely isn’t about you!

Marcus Arvan

Also alarmed: jeez, I always took the whole 'PFO' thing as little more than some snappy gallows humor (which, let's face it, exists for a reason: people often feel the need to make light of seemingly hopeless and unfair situations!).

It never would have occurred to me that it is dehumanizing In any case, let's be fair: the form emails that departments/HR sends out ARE pretty dehumanizing, aren't they? ("Dear applicant...we received X-hundred applications this year. Yours is no longer under consideration")

anonymous this time

I can understand the feelings of the OP, since discussions can get really bitter, not only nor primarily on this blog. It is like sympathising with unemployed labourers and at a certain point getting assaulted because you can (at least potentially) earn way more than they will ever be able to. This is true, but it has to do with systemic inequality rather than being one's personal responsibility. Bitterness does not help. Philosophy might and in this sense on top of feeling powerless and bitter one could also focus on the small improvements one can promote (public philosophy?).

I have a TT job too

Easy solution: don’t read the job market discussion thread if it bothers you that people think the job market is unjust. It’s a little weird to insist that people not have a forum to be upset about a genuinely upsetting state of affairs, because it hurts your feelings.

Anonymous, on purpose

I did not report my hire to philjobs.org/appointments, nor did I tell my department. I do not need my name on their sites. It is not a secret. I am listed on my new department's website, if anyone cares to look. I just don't feel like I want that kind of scrutiny. I do not want people speculating about whether I deserve my position more than they do, I do not want to be the subject of that kind of negativity, gossip, etc. I do not need people comparing themselves to me. I am sure that in some sense I am better qualified than others and others are better qualified than I. But the fewer people I think are talking about it, the better I feel.

vaping is bad for your health

I agree with the OP that their fear is irrational, though understandable in some sense.

As many people in this thread have stressed: in many, if not all cases on this website people's expressions of negativity are not directed at particular people who got particular jobs. Frankly, the negativity doesn't seem to be directed at people who got jobs generally. The negativity is directed at the structural conditions that make being on the job market especially difficult. Or it's just venting about and to no one in particular.

As to the use of 'PFO', while I think 'dehumanizing' is an exaggeration I do think the use of that term can be quite negative, but in the completely opposite direction as that suggested by 'also alarmed'. Using 'PFO' is insufficiently respectful, at least in some cases, to the people who write and distribute them. Think about being tasked to write a letter of rejection to hundreds of people, doing your best, trying to empathize, etc, and then have a bunch of people grossly mischaracterize what you said as 'please fuck off' (we're allowed to swear on here, right?).

To be sure, there are thoughtless rejection letters, written both by HR departments and philosophers on search committees. But there are also some really thoughtful ones.

For whatever it's worth, I am jobless and still on the hunt.


The job market discussion thread is pretty negative and bitter, yeah, and I can see how that would make someone a bit worried about what others will think about them when they find out they got a job.

But I don't view that as itself worrisome. Yes, when there is too much competition and arbitrariness in assigning goods, then when you get a good, a lot of people will think "She doesn't deserve that", whether or not you do. That's just people being jealous and unhappy. They have no power over you, since they don't have jobs themselves, and as soon as they do get jobs, they'll stop resenting you for having one.


I am glad we have a moderated forum to have this discussion. And people need to express their often justified frustrations.

There is a lot of suggestion that people don't deserve the jobs they get, especially that women don't. But I think that the discussions still need to be had. So I don't want them stopped. Better here than elsewhere. And people will have the thoughts, even if they don't express them publicly. (And they will express them privately, anyway.)


Personally I think being upset about the term "PFO" is a bit silly.


Earlier I have shared in the discussion thread my belief that there's bias against applicants with non-anglosaxon names. I somewhat see how someone who got a job may think as if I don't think they deserve their job because of this belief. Let me be very clear: I think everyone who got a job in this market deserves it.

That said; they might have gotten that job over an equally qualified candidate with a non-anglosaxon name. This does not mean that the person who got the job does not deserve it. It just means both candidates deserve the job and one got it because they were born in the western world and the other did not. These things cannot be prevented in a market where there may be 50 equally deserving candidates for one job. It is bad for everyone. But when those who got jobs complain over their hurt feelings it adds insult to injury for the hundreds of deserving philosophers without jobs.


Can you clarify what you mean by anglo-saxon name. I do not see faculty lists with lots of anglo-saxon names - I have such a name, and I just do not see lots of faculty in US departments with those names.
Do you mean some other broader cultural category?


lots of non-anglosaxon names here https://philjobs.org/appointments


Oh, that was an error on my part. I meant to say non-western names. If you look at the appointments page linked above by Anon, you will see there aren't many non-western names. In fact, there are very few... But, as I said above, this does NOT mean that the people who got jobs with western names did not deserve them. Let me say clearly for the second time: I think everyone who got a job in this market deserves it.

The problem is this: for every job, I would say, there are about 50 equally deserving candidates. Between two deserving candidates, one with a western name and the other with a non-western name, the former will have an advantage for various reasons; it could be bad-old plain bias or more concrete reasons such as work visa sponsorship which costs universities money... Whatever the reason(s), in a market with tens of deserving candidates for each job, such discrimination cannot really be proven.

Let me say again, this is bad for everyone, but when those who got jobs complain about their "hurt feelings" over blog entries, it adds insult to injury for the hundreds of deserving philosophers without jobs.

Curious again

You are testing people's patience with your gross exaggerations. I have sat on hiring committees, and there are not "50 equally deserving candidates", if you mean equally qualified. Sure, there may be 10 quite comparable candidates who are equally deserving for any particular job, but 50!? Please ... get real


Let's just say for the sake of argument you are right and there are 10 equally deserving candidates for one position. What do you say to the 9 deserving candidates that did not get the job? Can you really provide any principled arguments for any one of the 9 justifying why they didn't get the job? I think it is you who should get real...


Yetagain, I am glad you are changing your tune. But last time you suggested that you looked at the CV of the person who got hired over you (and over others of course), and that by looking at the CV, it was obvious what motivated the department in hiring this person was racism. That absolutely suggests that the person who got the job doesn't deserve it, i.e., that even though they had a clearly worse CV than you, they were hired not because of deservingness, but rather because of racism. If you meant to suggest this person was equally as qualified as you, it sure did not come across like that.


What I've been trying to say since my first entry is stated more clearly below:
In a case of two deserving candidates, one may be more deserving than the other because of more pubs in more impactful journals. But if the more deserving person is non-western, the westerner is going to be in an advantageous position and most likely will get the job. This does NOT mean the westerner does not deserve it but only that the non-westerner also deserves it, perhaps more so, but does not get the job for reasons I mentioned above.


Base rate neglect! Yetagain, do you have data on the proportions of applicants with ‘non western’ names? Or evidence that what you describe as a tie between two candidates actually happens? These are serious accusations; serious accusations require solid evidence.


If I had solid evidence, I wouldn't be writing here. I also have to say that the word "accusation" is too strong, not to mention, there are no accusations. I am not making any claims about any specific institution, department, or committee. I am just talking about what I think is quite possible in this job market. In fact, it would be next to impossible to prove bias against any demographic in this job market even if it really exists because there are too many deserving candidates. If my guesses disturb your idea of the market, you can just dismiss it out of hand. I think this also happens quite a lot.


I see. Well, perhaps we have different ideas of "deserving." I think someone deserves a job if they are "plausibly" the best person for the position. Because of the market we are in, far, far more people are qualified for a job than deserving of it (according to my understanding of deserving.) So if there ever was a case of a "non-western name applicant" having a clearly better CV than the westerner, I could not conclude that the westerner deserves the job.

If the qualifying time for the mile run in the Olympics is, say, 3:52, and the 10th place person runs a 3:51 and makes the team, this does not mean the 10th place person deserves to make the team. If the first place person ran a 3:45 and was disqualified because of ethnicity, and something similar with finishers 2-9, I would say the 10th place person does not deserve to make the team.

Regardless of who you think is deserving, many people will think that if someone is far less accomplished than another candidate, then that person does not deserve the job (or to be offered it.)


Yetagain, you have made much stronger statements in the past, statements that sounded like accusations agains all search committees in the US, and you sounded extremely confident in your claims. But your last statement sounds reasonable. If all sounded like that, I would have never argued with you in the first place.


Yes, we do have different ideas of 'deserving'. I do not think of it as a competition between people but rather as a set of well-defined criteria that are the same for everyone. What I've been trying to say since the beginning is that when it is seen as competition between individuals this may put non-westerners at a disadvantaged position.


yetagain, if nonwestern names are only a fraction of the total number of viable candidates, then you should expect western names to win more often, all else being equal. This has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination unless discrimination is responsible for the initial base rate, which is another question.

this again?

We all want someone or something to blame when things don't go our way, even if the blame doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Given the lack of evidence for Yetagain's claims, and the exaggerated nature of those claims, I think this is one such case.


Vehement denial is not surprising, because the cognitive dissonance of it all must be unbearable...

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