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sad but true

One warning is that, even if you get a job, you are pelted by so many rejections along the way that you come away feeling like a failure.

教授 is in

For job docs I recommend the Professor Is In (book). Some of the advice in it is idiosyncratic and some of it might not 100% apply to philosophy, but I found it to be a very useful resource as did two other scholars who recommended it to me (for what it's worth, each of us landed TT jobs our first year on the market).


Unless you're in the top 5-10% (or bottom ~10-15%) of applicants, whether or not you get a permanent job is quite likely to come down to a little bit of luck. Sometimes you'll be able to recognize some of those bits of luck (I can name a big one in my own case), other times not. This is going to cause some people a lot of stress, other people tranquility. Something to keep in mind.

not many rejections

I think it is important to hear yourself deeply within, because every person's situation is different, and you are bound to hear conflicting advice. Here's my controversial advice based on my experience that will conflict with many others.

Don't apply to as many jobs as possible. Know yourself clearer such that some jobs stand out. Select those jobs that you feel you would be a gem for them and that are moderately exciting to you. Such as heuristically comparing levels of prestige between you (your letter writers) and the job (urgh i know!).

Hopefully if you find a decent number of such jobs, the process would not be very painful for you. When you get appreciation, you enjoy it. When you get rejection, you think "their loss"!


Advice for all the job documents: Read some other people's research statements, teaching statements, etc. My sense is that these documents can be somewhat idiosyncratic so having a few exemplars to look at helps you get a better picture. In my case I asked people who went on the job market in the few years before me if I could look at theirs, but you might also find some on people's websites who were recently on the market. Then make sure you have other people proofread!

first timer

RE: timeline: I started working on job documents in early August (far too late!!) and worked on them basically full-time (40 hours/week) for two months. I kept working on my writing sample and filling out applications half-time (20-ish hours/week) for another two-ish months. All told, this comes to about 500 hours. This does not include time spent preparing for interviews or getting my teaching demo and job talk ready.

I do not know whether this is "normal," and I would not be surprised to hear of people spending half or double this amount of time on their materials. To contextualize: I had almost NO materials prepared (CV was 2 years out of date and needed reformatting, writing sample was a journal R&R I was working on). I have a very teaching-first profile, so I spent a lot of time on my teaching statement and pulling together a 70+ page teaching portfolio.


As a search committee member, I hope that people follow "not many rejection's" advice. Fewer applications certainly make my job easier. But my experience as an applicant leads me to always advise students to apply widely. In my own case, over half of the interviews I got when I was on the market and my two job offers came from my "Hail Mary" passes. If I had cut the list of places I applied to even 5%, based on my own evaluation of my chances, I'd currently be out of academia rather than recently tenured.


One thing that I've never heard anyone mention is how time-consuming and schedule-altering the interview process is. It is, of course, also time-consuming to draft job documents and tailor them to each institution you're applying to. But if you're among the lucky ones who get interviews, you'll likely have to juggle your schedule at the last minute to fit into what is often a non-negotiable Zoom interview time slot. In my experience it's not uncommon to get an email on a Monday for an interview that Wednesday. This means that if you intend to research the department, practice your answers, etc (and you should!), you'll need to find a way to squeeze those things into your schedule with very little notice.

Flyouts are an even bigger time investment, but at least you usually get at least a week or two's notice. But making travel arrangements, figuring out what to do with your classes during your absence, and prepping job talk/teaching demo stuff is very time and mental energy-consuming. A colleague of mine put it this way: "no one tells you that a flyout derails your life for an entire week."

All of this to say, my biggest piece of advice is to build flexibility into your spring semester, as much as is possible. Limit your commitments to other projects that can't be rescheduled or back-burnered. Do your class prep ahead of time, and consider giving your students movie days or paper workshop days or whatever fits your style and goals.

another first timer

A warning: I second @first timer's and @doctopus's comments. I wasn't expecting the process of finishing off my materials, filling out application forms (I applied to about 60), shortening/changing materials for some applications with specific requirements, and adapting my cover letter for each Department to eat up so much of my time in September-December. I ended up doing very little research/other work that semester. In retrospect, perhaps using a generic cover letter would have made more sense. Most Departments use their institution's application portals (rather then Interfolio) and include annoying to fill out online forms which can take a surprising amount of time to navigate. I got quicker as I went, and I'm sure it would be easier second time round, but it all adds up!

A tip: If it's financially feasible for you, and particularly if you have had any experiences with anxiety/depression/burnout/other mental health conditions, start meeting with a therapist in the lead-up to going on the job market. Even though I wasn't feeling particularly anxious/stressed at the time, I made an appointment with a new therapist in the summer before going on the market. When things did get stressful and overwhelming, it was so so helpful to be able to talk to someone whose job it was to listen and talk about all of the small and big worries/stresses which come up during the process of applying to jobs. I didn't think I would find going on the job market as emotionally demanding as I did, and it was helpful to have another person to draw on as a support (in addition to family/friends).


Can I ask a question about applicants outside of the T20? Nowadays, are these applicants taken as seriously as applicants on the T20? Can you leverage coming from the mid-ranked program with substantial publications good teaching evals, good dissertation topics, etc...)

I really don't know how to ask this question. I am a prospective grad student that is trying to think ahead. I apologize if this is an orthogonal question.


absolutely keep a spreadsheet of jobs, with columns for: deadline, materials requested, number of references, delivery method of references, and a link to the job ad. each time you find a job that there's even a chance you'll apply to, add it to the list, taking the time to fill in the columns. Keep it sorted by deadline. Grey out the ones in the past, so when you open your spreadsheet you will only see future/upcoming jobs.

uk researcher

@Herald: in my (somewhat limited) experience, it depends on a lot of factors. I'm coming from a non-Leiter ranked US school and ended up in a very nice research-oriented position in the UK, but not at first. It took me a temporary job and a few, somewhat increasingly prestigious postdocs, with a lot of moving around, which you may or may not want to do.

To the OP: Our highly-ranked UK department did a few hires this year. One thing I was surprised by was how *really bad* some people were at the job talk. No sense of how to pitch it; to stay on time; to do a decent Q&A. So if you get to that stage, practice your job talk. Even if it's a research talk, if you have to give it to the whole department, everyone will want to understand it, so it can't be super techy-narrow. It has to be well thought-out, interesting for the non-specialist, but also for the specialist. It's a hard genre, but also, practice.

make the docs your own

Definitely look over multiple exemplars of every document, especially from people who have had market successes in recent years, so that you can use them to plan your own versions. But don’t feel too pressed to contort your work to emulate every aspect of those exemplars. My philosophical style has some minor quirks and idiosyncrasies that definitely isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I was advised to make them apparent in my materials anyway (especially in my research statement and my writing sample) both in order to make me stand out a little bit in the pile and in order to make me feel good about how the documents represented what I actually offer a department. Happily, I ended up doing well on my first attempt: several flyouts, plus an offer from my top choice.


Yes you can make it from a non-top program. The odds are lower. Maybe from (a guess) 50% chance of TT for a top 10 program to 25% for 11-50. My advice is nearly always to go to place with best placement the last 5 years. If you get into to two similarly well-placing programs, then sure, optimize on other fronts too.


Yes, you absolutely can make it in at even an R1 or R2 from a non-top program. In the year I got my job, I got one of maybe 4 TT jobs in the Anglophone world in my AOS from a non-top program. Even this year, you can look on the PhilJobs appointments list and see examples of some folks getting great jobs from non-top programs -- wanna know the secret?

The secret is that these people's work (not gonna speak about my own) is all *amazing*. One person who got such a job this year and which has been posted on PhilJobs gave the single best talk I've ever seen on topic X. I was blown away by it. And this was just at just a regular, plain-jane conference. I can only imagine how good their writing sample and job talk were.

With the exception of a few of the most Leiterrific R1s who only recognize as legitimate philosophy the kind that they're already doing, I genuinely believe that hiring processes are pretty meritocratic.

Never Forget

Survivor Bias! So much of it! When you read advice on blogs (like this one), there will always be an incredible over-representation of people who stuck with it, stayed on the market for a very long time, and succeeded. Those who gave up after failing a lot are just not as likely to post!

Very hard to account for, in any bayesian fashion, but so so important to remember. (@TT & @AnomTT)

Bill Vanderburgh

Think of your task as seeking mutual fit rather than as a contest of excellence where you can lose or win. This could help with the stress/disappointment of rejection, which you will get a lot of just because the market is so competitive. ("I didn't fit that department" feels better than "that department thinks I'm not good enough.") Besides *feeling* better, it is also *true* that it is mostly about fit rather than excellence. I'd say about half of the applications we received (in four recent searches) were from folks who could have done the job successfully: Most people we "rejected" were in fact excellent. The other half were people who didn't make their case (see below), who were applying too widely, who were on the market too soon, or who had some mismatch between our requirements/preferences and their qualifications.

When (fingers crossed) you go up for tenure, you will likely hear something along the lines of, "It is the candidate's responsibility to make their own case; don't make the committee search or guess." I think the same is true in job applications. Make sure your materials tell the full story of you and, to the extent reasonable given the volume of applications you'll need to make, the story of how you fit with the requirements and preferences of each ad to which you are applying. Fit to the ad is often how committees decide the first cut, at least.

Speaking of tenure: Departments want to hire people they think will earn tenure. Show that you "fit" in this sense by making the case that your teaching, research, and service are on a good trajectory. You can have two basic cover letters, one for
teaching-focused universities and one for research-focused universities, then modify as needed for specific ads. (FYI we can see the filenames for anything you upload.) Be aware that candidates from (so-called) "elite" universities with little teaching experience are looked at suspiciously by some teaching-focused universities: If that is you, be sure to give them some evidence to think you would be satisfied in and successful at a teaching job.

Research statements that don't go beyond the dissertation (or which only say, "Over the next couple of years I will write up chapters xyz of my dissertation as n articles for publication") are not persuasive because to earn tenure you have to establish an independent research program beyond the PhD. You probably don't know what that will be; how could you? Take some time to put some ideas together anyway. Shape them around the areas you claim as your main AOS and main AOC. This is an exercise in showing the committee that you have right mindset and at least some decent ideas for future work. No one will hold you to what you project in this document.

Many committee members find it implausible when very junior candidates list a large number of AOSs or AOCs. It makes someone look like they have bad judgement or don't really understand how things work. Pick two or three that are relevant for a given job that you are genuinely interested in teaching, don't list everything that you have taken a grad class on. Committees might ask you for a syllabus or about how you would teach such a class for anything you do list.

A comment on TT's confidence in the meritocracy: Rather like university-wide teaching awards, those who win jobs are almost always very deserving; also like teaching awards, many very deserving people don't win a given job (or any job).

Oh, and relevant to something that came up on the Cocoon a week or two ago: Being interviewed is expensive. You will eventually get reimbursed by hiring departments for hotel and flight costs, but that will take weeks and possibly months. Then there is purchasing appropriate attire. Maybe start planning how to cover those costs now.

Summertime Planning

The summer before your start applying, get:

-A credit card with a zero percent introductory interest rate for a year (or however long). Only use it for interview expenses that will be reimbursed. The zero percent intro rate will help with covering travel costs before getting reimbursed. If possible, make it a credit card with no foreign transaction fees if you're a US person applying elsewhere.
-Your interview outfit(s) settled. You don't want to try to get a suit tailored in the week before you interview.
-An idea of what you're going to present as a job talk. You'll want to practice this a couple times during the Fall, if possible.


A few idiosyncratic takes from my 4+ years on the market which panned out with a good tt gig in the end (so survivor bias etc. is all applicable here).
FWIW I have a niche PhilSci AOS with lots of interdisciplinary overlap and collaborations.
1) Somewhat obviously, apply for everything in your niche AOS and neighboring AOSs. There were a few jobs where I said, "Oh, they won't want me, they're too fancy," or "Oh, I dunno if I'd be happy living there," etc. Reader, they did want me and it turns out after four years on the market I'd be happy most places.
2) Because of considerations in (1), when I applied to these jobs (and there were a few that I let slip by), it was often a bit of a last minute exercise and rarely did I tailor my materials. I simply presented my strange AOS and interdisciplinary background. It turns out that that's what they wanted, and so, oddly enough in my case, it was some of the ads for which I did the least tailoring that had my highest hit rates. Then again, there were also plenty of ads that I didn't tailor for that I didn't advance in, but few of those also met the conditions I specified in (1).
3) Finally, in about half of my cases of on-campus flyouts or eventual offers, I knew people from workshops or conferences who were either in the department or involved with the search. We weren't "friends" but they had seen me present and we had spoken about my work. Given the conditions set out in (1), and the fact that my work incorporates a lot of science-jargon and can sometimes be met with "is that * really * philosophy?", I think having had a chance to show the value of the work in other settings may have helped me get through the first few cuts in some of those cases.

So where does that leave us? If you have a strange interdisciplinary AOS, then I'd suggest you apply to every ad looking for that AOS or near neighbors, independent of ranking or location. Don't sweat the tailoring. And, network at smaller conferences and workshops where this kind of work is valued. Hope that helps someone.

job market survivor

I think having an unpublished job talk in hand is among the most important things. I'm not exactly sure, but I've heard bad things about giving a talk based on a published paper. One needs to balance this against continuing having excellent publications, in case one publishes everything before having good enough ideas developed into good talks.

So ideally one needs to keep researching and have new publications and talks down the track. But this proves to be extremely difficult for people who hold teaching-heavy jobs and people who need to take on other work to feed the family. (I published my previous round job talk a bit earlier than I anticipated, so I had a lot of anxiety before inspiration struck, as I basically had no research time unless I'd be willing to work after my very young kids, who are terrible sleepers, fell asleep.)

And the talk must be, so my supervisor told me, extremely polished. I think for the job talk that worked for me, I practiced it in different lengths (25mins, 30mins, 45 mins, and 1 hour) like 50+ times, basically daily when I started applying for jobs last round. (I count walking the baby in the pram outdoors for 30 mins as a practice round.) That involved breaking the talk down to different modules, some more essential, some more detailed, and experiment with different combinations. Ideally one should also anticipate a wide enough range of questions, objections, and potential misunderstandings. For the job I actually got, the Q&A went *perfectly*. That was out of pure luck, but I just happened to anticipate *all* the questions. I don't think this is the only factor contributing to the final decision, but it probably is one.

Mike Titelbaum

Summarizing a bit what's appeared above:
I would recommend starting your job materials at the beginning of the summer before you go on the market. They talk longer to compose than you expect, and once you draft them you'll want plenty of others to read them for you.
I always suggest to grad students that (especially if you're teaching at the same time), while you're on the market you will have little time to do research. So expect to make almost no progress on your dissertation from September through March or April.
Putting this all together, by the beginning of the summer you go on the market you need to have enough of your dissertation done that, should you get a job, you can complete it in basically a month or two once the market maneuvers are over.

Oh, and Herald, you can indeed get a good job from outside a top-20 department. As others have already said, check the placement records of the programs you're considering. You'll even find that some departments outside the top 20 do better than some of the top 20 schools.

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