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03/03/2021

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Michael
thanks for sharing this. I am not on the market, but settled into a position, and have been for a while. Still, I found this quite interesting. I was 5 years on the market before get a TT job, long ago. I do not have the numbers. But, given my recollection, it seems you have done quite fine.
I hope, for your sake, that you get a permanent position soon. Incidentally, I see (from your c.v.) that you are a UWO grad. I am as well. My sense, when I was on the market, is that there is a prejudice AGAINST graduates from Canadian universities at Canadian research universities.
Good luck, though.

anon

Since you asked about to what extent you're an outlier - we'd have to ask around more than here to get something truly representative. But I've heard many people on this website share the story of getting relatively few TT interviews across the years.

Myself - I started a bit later than you (2017), also Canadian, similar total of publications, two TT campus visits (2019 & 2021), one TT first-round that didn't become a flyout. (The 2021 campus visit did not result in an offer.)

One way in which my experience differs from yours is that I've had a bit better luck with American institutions - with American places, I've had two TT first rounds, one TT campus visit, 4-5 VAP interviews, one VAP offer. And I've had zero success with European postdocs.

Michel

I'm also Canadian. Ha!

2015-16
120 applications (1 VAP interview)

2016-17
82 applications (0 interviews, but I got 2 postdoc offers)

2017-18
12 applications (1 TT interview; I applied very selectively)

2018-19
82 applications (1 TT interview, 1 postdoc interview, 1 NTT interview) (I was offered the NTT job, and that's the one I have now.)

2019-20
18 applications (0 interviews; I applied very selectively)

I was going to apply selectively again this cycle, but my current job became full time (and it's about to become permanent, actually!) and there wasn't really much that I felt was really worth applying to, so I didn't bother. I did apply for two local sessional gigs, and got one (but wasn't assigned any classes).

anonleavingtheprofession

This was my first and will likely be my last full year on the job market. Last year I applied to about a dozen positions ABD, a mix of TT, VAP, and postdocs. I received no interviews, but was granted a stay of sorts in the form of a dissertation finishing fellowship, which allowed me to stretch out my diss and get some pubs. This year, I went onto the market having already defended, with a couple of decent publications, several forthcoming, and—I’m told—very strong letters. I received no interviews out of about 25 plausible jobs, again a mix of TT, VAP, and postdocs. So I am done. I have no desire to spin my wheels for another year I won’t get back, this time working for free or near-free.

The decision is not without regret. I wanted to be a part of the profession I trained for, and for which a relatively august institution poured six figures into me in order to join. But it is liberating to realize after all that there are other things one can happily do with one’s life. You don’t need to give everything to the academy. I leave this here in the hopes that at least someone might find the message encouraging.

postduck

Hey Michael,
Thanks for sharing. I think my experience has been similar. I've been on the market four times now - 2016-17, 2017-18, 2019-2021, and now 2020-21. According to Philjobs, I've applied to fewer ads overall during that time: 61 TTs and 14 postdocs. I think this is in part because of my discipline (mind/cog sci) and in part because of self-imposed geographical restrictions (i.e. just applying in the US and Canada). But I've gotten 3 first-round TT interviews (all in the US) and one TT on-campus interview in Canada. I've also gotten one postdoc interview that I didn't take, and I've accepted two postdoc offers that I haven't had to interview for (including a SSHRC). I also applied to one non-academic job and got an interview (which I ended up not doing). Like you, I got no interviews in the first two years on the market, and then all my other interviews came in the third year. And this year has been a total bust.
I know it must be tough to put yourself out there like this, but it is genuinely helpful. I suspect that lots of people have experiences like yours, and think that they're doing especially poorly. Posts like yours are a good reminder that that's not true.
I hope your luck improves.

Michael

Thanks for the brave openness of this post.

I have no comments on whether you should have thrown in the towel a few years ago. Maybe?

I am roughly at the same stage as you (similar PhD years, similar CVs, etc.), and my job market stats would be roughly similar, but not quite as good as yours. From talking to others in similar positions, I'd say your experience and stats are the norm, and above average in success.

I have some thoughts on why you haven't had success in the US, given your CV, but I'm sure others have made the remarks to you.

As to whether to continue --- and here I'm speaking to you, myself, and the other postdocs/early career researchers in our position --- I think a big factor is age. The thing I fear most is finding myself 40, deep into a series of limited contractual appointments and postdocs with no stable academic career, and realizing that my ship in academics really has sailed (without me on it). At 40 (or whatever), my ability to shift careers will be radically reduced, thanks to ageism and a host of other factors. Unless you're willing to run the risk of being a temporary employee earning bottom dollar filling in at universities the rest of your life, I think there's some age, somewhere in your mid 30s, at which you need to get out of academics even if you still have hope of landing a permanent job.

My apologies to you if you are 40, or to other readers who may be at that point. I don't mean offence. As I said, these are issues I'm grappling with as well as I try to make hard decisions about my own life in my mid 30s. I do think it's an underdiscussed point in philosophy that, if you're not careful, a blind pursuit of an academic career will leave you jobless, on the wrong side of your prime earning years, and fighting a hard battle of ageism to make any sort of change.

Fellow job applicant

150+ applications here - 2 invitations for interview. I think you are doing quite well Michael. Keep at it!

Fellow job applicant

Just to clarify that my previous post was directed to the op

Rosa

I don't know what you should do about continuing or not - it's a really, really hard and personal decision. I wanted to share my stats, though, in case it's useful to see what the stats of a decently "successful" person on the job market have looked like. There was a whole lot of failure there too, along with the successes, and maybe it will be helpful for folks to see how little pans out even for people who get TT jobs. (For context, I got my PhD at the ANU, and work in social/political and sort of in ethics.)

2012-2013 cycle (ABD)
24 TT applications, 2 first-round interviews, 1 fly out, 1 offer (accepted)

2016-2017 cycle
18 TT applications, 5 first round interviews, 4 fly outs, 1 offer (declined)

2018-2019 cycle
17 TT applications, 3 first round interviews, 2 fly outs (one accepted, one declined), 1 offer (accepted)

Assistant Professor

Michael, I think you’re doing well on the market - consistently getting interviews for TT jobs! Of course, I won’t tell you “keep doing this” - I know the cost is high - but I wanted to put it out there.

I worked hard *and* was lucky to get a TT during my first year on the market. I provide my stats below to emphasize the point made by Rosa that even people like us face a loooot of rejections.

2020-2021 cycle:
~100 applications (about half TT and half Postdocs)

Shortlisted for (I.e. virtual campus visits or other form or shortlisting) 1 TT in the U.S., 1 TT in Europe, 2 TT in Asia, and 5 Postdocs.

Longlisted for 2 TT in the U.S., 1 TT in Europe.

Nothing from over 80 jobs, still!

nopedock

I graduated with my PhD in 2014 at a red brick uni in the UK. Spent the next 4 years writing and applying for jobs. Built up a strong publication profile in that time. Applied to I'm guessing over 100 jobs. Got 2 interviews the entire time. Gave up in 2019 for good. Was a miserable experience to say the least. Happy I'm out! I shouldn't have stuck around so long, but people kept telling me that my publications were so good I'd surely end up with a job. I think older people just don't understand how much the job market has collapsed. I can't imagine how bad it must be now due to COVID. Best of luck!

Samuel Kampa

I don't remember the raw numbers, but I had similar experiences in my first few years on the market. No interviews year 1. Year 2: one on-campus TT interview at a small, non-selective liberal arts school; one postdoc interview for which I didn't receive an offer; and another postdoc interview that culminated in a 1-year offer, but which I declined for circumstantial reasons.

I was sad to leave the field at the time. Looking back, I wonder why I was so sad. I don't mean to be glib---I had a great time in grad school, excellent mentors, positive experiences with philosophy journals, etc.---but the sacrifices were extraordinary in retrospect. Being in industry is great in so many ways.

R

Another data point from someone who did well. I'm the same "age" as the OP: first went on the market in Fall 2015, graduated with my PhD in Spring 2016.

I was on the market for three cycles: 15-16, 16-17, and 17-18. I didn't keep good records my first year, so I can't give exact stats, but I must have applied to about 200 jobs in total, approximately 50 postdocs and 150 TT. I got approximately 20 first round interviews (almost all TT as postdocs tended to go straight to a rejection or an offer; I received four postdoc offers) and about 10 TT on-campus interviews. I landed my only TT offer in 2018 and am still there now.

I applied worldwide and I'm glad I did. Of the US and Canada applications (probably about 100 of the 150 TT application) I only ever got one interview, and it's not the one that led to an offer. I suspect AOS/AOC is more relevant than nationality, but for the record I'm an EU citizen (with a PhD from a top-50 US institution) so that may have contributed.

onthemarket

Apologies for the perhaps exceedingly pessimistic take on this, but I think it may be relevant for people's decisions to go into academic philosophy. I find the potential correlation between nationality and success rate disheartening given the current state of the job market where every little thing counts. Adding prestige bias to that, I'm wondering whether it even makes sense at all to pursue an academic career if one does not already have the 'right' nationality and/or socioeconomic status. I think these biases are particularly bad for philosophy (as opposed to comparable academic fields where there seems to be more mobility, though my knowledge of this may be anecdotal).

A bit unlucky, a bit my fault

I have a PhD from an unknown program in southern Europe. Before defending in 2016, I was extremely lucky to get a 3 years postdoc at a wealthy American research university. The year after that (2016/2017) I applied only to 5 jobs (4 tt, 1 ntt), and 0 interviews

2017/2018: 24 applications. 1 tt campus visit, 1 vap interview, 0 offers

2018/2019: 25 applications. 6 tt campus visits (and ZERO offers), 3 postdoc offers, 1 vap interview (offered and accepted).

2019/2020: 39 applications. I was shortlisted/first round interview for 12 jobs. 1 tt campus visit. 3 postdoc offers. Got one pretty good gig of 6 years back in Europe (accepted)

2020/2021: 10 applications, 1 first round interview.

As you can see that from my first attempts, I got pretty good at tailoring applications, interviewing etc. Sometimes I made incredible mistakes in interviews, and other times I was very unlucky. For instance, the tt jobs for which I have interviewed in Europe, 2 out of 4 had internal candidates. Another time, the committee was very enthusiastic about my file, but then the department decided to hire a person with no publications and almost no teaching experience (this candidate did not come from a Leiteriffic program). Last year, the committee on my only tt campus visit was very happy with my profile and interviews, but at the last second the search was frozen because of covid (after all interviews online campus visit, job talk, etc). I don't know if they wanted to offer me the job, but that was my intuition. I don't even know what 'freezing a search' really means, and if it is different from 'cancelling a search'.
As you can notice from my numbers, this year I did very poorly. My impression is that I don't have anymore that wealthy university's name supporting indirectly my applications - now I work in a small university in Europe, and my cv isn't worth a second look (at least for North American jobs).

nopedock

I thought I'd mention that when I applied to the US with my UK PhD I never got even a nibble. I heard later that it's very hard for UK PhDs to find work in the US. US PhDs though can find work in the UK quite easily (just look at who is being hired). I think this is one of the reasons I didn't have any luck on the job market. The first year I applied primarily in the US. Later on I applied in the UK mainly to postdocs and 1-2 year teaching gigs. I never had luck with a postdoc, despite a strong publication record. Oxford passed me up for someone from a fancy school with no publications (that's the game!) I got some interviews for teaching gigs but never an offer. Maybe I suck at applying for jobs, but my experience at the time was that the market was pretty much dead.

Michael Walschots

Thanks for all your comments everyone. It's both encouraging and depressing to hear that my experience is somewhat the norm. In any case, I'm glad that some of you have found this information helpful.
Get a few points in response to some of your comments:
@Michael - if you know why I haven't had success on the US market, please tell me!
@onthemarket - I completely agree that it's extremely unfortunate that things like nationality actually come into play, but they do. I've talked to a number of people about this and at least some small US institutions would have to pay a decent amount of money to support a visa application from a non-citizen, so unless you're a really big deal and the perfect fit, it would be hard for a philosophy department to justify the expense (or so I hear).

I wish all those who are continuing on the market the best of luck. I'm also happy to hear that some of you who have left the profession have found success elsewhere. From the little research I've done so far, lots of philosophers find success (and dare I say happiness and a satisfying career) outside of the academy. I think one thing departments and the rest of us can do is normalize and encourage people to find jobs in industry, and the thing that really needs to happen is that placement officers need to provide better resources and guidance for grads to explore alternative careers. But that's a different topic. Thanks again for your responses everyone - feel free to reach out to me if people want to chat further or have specific questions.

RJM

That it is very hard for those outside of the US "scene" to get interviews fits with my experience, and of friends who have tried. Sometimes this is for reasons that are understandable (e.g. new European PhDs often don't have enough, or have the wrong kinds of, teaching experience). Other times the reasons are, let's just say, likely a little more problematic.

I also want to join those re-assuring the OP that their "numbers" are likely better than the norm. They certainly seem broadly comparable to mine, though I perhaps applied a little less widely. In my case, I was fortunate enough to end up with a TT job after 5 years of trying. Of course this doesn't answer the Q of what they should do--it may be that the rational thing for most people on the job market to do is to go and do something else!

Humanati

I have a PhD from a well-regarded Australian institution, and work in value theory. I went on the market in 2017-2018 after having just submitted. I had 3 publications at the time (1 in a top 10 generalist journal, 1 in a specialist journal, and 1 invited chapter). I also had 2 RnRs (1 in top 10 generalist, 1 in top 20 generalist).

I applied to 30 jobs (all TT or equivalent) and got 5 fly-outs in 5 different places: Australia, Canada, US, UK, Singapore. 2 of the 5 translated into offers.

I consider myself *very* lucky. I definitely don't think I'd have had the same luck in the current job market.

Mousemaster

This is a very interesting thread. One reason is that we seem to have such wildly different, and unpredictable, job market experiences. I can't imagine applying to 30 TT jobs and getting 5 fly-outs, like "Humanati" did in 2017/18. And what's odd is that when I applied that year I had MANY more pubs than he/she, including multiple top 10 generalist pubs and multiple pubs in good specialist journals. I applied for over 100 jobs, not all TT, and got 1 interview. (Presumably, if "Humanati" had 5 flyouts for 30 applications, he/she had even more first-round interviews)!

Obviously a lot more than publication record matters, but I'm no slouch in those respects, either. And it seems like a lot of people, including some in this thread, have had a similar experience to mine.

On the other hand, there are people like "Humanti" and "Rosa" in this thread-I know others-who've had a totally different experience. I cannot imagine yielding 5/18 or 3/17 interviews, as "Rosa" did. I wish we had better insight into why our experiences have been so different.

Anonymous Postdoc

Mousemaster,

No-one really knows. I do know that number of publications has at best a complicated relation to TT chances. For example, I know someone who got a TT job at a world-class university, outside of her area, ABD, with 1 publication. She doesn't know why either!

I've found that just imitating the CVs of people I know to be successful has been the best strategy, although it hasn't yet led to a TT job.

nopedock

Job market was a complete mystery to me. I had a strong publication record (a dozen or so papers, many in top 15 generalist journals). I couldn't get anywhere. I worked hard on my application materials and had others look at them. I'm pretty sure I had good letters. Others I know from the same program would get interview after interview. I think it's a combination of being connected, working in popular areas, and stuff like that. There might be some secrets about how your phrase or talk about stuff. Don't know.

More generally, obviously where you did your PhD matters a lot too, and we know demographics matter. But yea, the job market was a complete mystery to me. Seemed people got hired based on connections, demographics, and prestige probably more so than based on publications, not to say that publications were irrelevant--although often they seemed to be. I saw lots of people hired with no papers while I had many papers and wouldn't even get a "thanks but no thanks" email reply.

It's all a shit show if you ask me. Maybe a lottery. Who knows!

Enough is enough

I've wasted so much valuable time over the years on this so-called job market and I've come to only a few but sure conclusions:
1. Publications or how good you are don't mean a thing if you're not popular.
2. Unless you have an Ivy League or Chicago or Pitt phd or you're backed by a famous old white person, you're not popular.
3. Citing 1 and 2, this whole thing is unjust.
Therefore, it should not even be called a 'market'.
Get out while you can and if you want to be good and honest, advise every young person you know to stay away from professional philosophy...

Postdoc10

Just to add to the data points:

I've been on the market 5 years. I come from a top 5 Gourmet Program. I now have 7 publications, including one in a top 3 journal and another in the top 10 (Started the market with 2). I have had 2 postdoc positions.

Here are my stats:

5 year total:
378 Applications
246 TT
102 PD
45 LT

Interviews: 12 TT, 7 PD, 4 LT
Offers: 0 TT, 5 PD, 1 LT.

Lauren

I don’t have the specific numbers anymore, but I was on the market twice and applied very widely the first year and more selectively the second.

2016-2017 (while ABD at US university)
~70 applications total in US, Canada, & UK (including lots of British JRFs)
6 first-round interviews (4 TT, 2 NTT)
3 flyouts/second-round interviews (2 TT, 1 VAP)
1 offer (VAP, indefinitely renewable)

2017-2018
30-ish (mainly TT in US/Canada but a few in the UK, and a few prestigious post docs)
Around 9 first-round interviews (all US TT), 1 long list (British TT)
3 flyouts, 1 offer (because of timing, I said yes to this offer before hearing from the other two)

Rosa

Mousemaster said: "On the other hand, there are people like "Humanti" and "Rosa" in this thread-I know others-who've had a totally different experience. I cannot imagine yielding 5/18 or 3/17 interviews, as "Rosa" did. I wish we had better insight into why our experiences have been so different."

One thing that is shitty but just true about the market: my sense is that the best way to get a TT job offer is to already have a TT job. For my current job, for instance, I was told that 3 out of the four fly outs were people already in TT jobs, and the other one was someone at a very fancy postdoc. My numbers the first year applying when I was ABD were much, much, much worse. Like I said, this is a really shitty thing, and one that made me feel really conflicted about applying for other jobs despite my strong reasons for wanting to leave - but it might at least provide some insight.

RecentTT

Looking at your profile, Michael Walschots, I am not that surprised that you do not have success on the US job market. All your published work is on Kant or other figures in 18th-century philosophy (except one proceeding as far as I see). I thus believe that you only qualify as a historian of philosophy for most places in the US. In other words, only a small subset of jobs is actually available to you (history of philosophy without specification, early modern, Kant, maybe the ethics positions that explicitly mention history of ethics as part of description, but there are not many of them). Your profile fits much better the philosophical context of continental Europe (Germany, Netherlands etc.) and it is thus not surprising that you have success there (yet this market has issues of its own). AOS in Kant is, in my opinion, ambivalent: It is, arguable, the biggest field within the modern history of philosophy (I do not remember any other philosopher who is so often mentioned in job announcement from my time on the market). Yet there are also a lot of people working on Kant, not least in the US. Hence, you compete with excellent scholars from Harvard, Chicago, Riverside etc. And there is the big bubble of Kant scholars in Europe. This is a tough spot to be in. But you seem to make the best out of it. I would not worry too much that you did not have so many shots at a TT position. I was on the market for a few years, had only two campus interviews, but got one of the jobs. This might be one of the absurd consequences of this kind of market (sorry for the martial image): One has to apply with the shotgun, but must hit with the precision of a sniper rifle...

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