Thursday, August 30, 2007


The job postings, they're a-trickling in. One that just showed up in my inbox is advertising for a 3/3/3. That's right folks: thanks to the wonders of the quarter system, we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to scrabble over the chance to teach NINE FUCKING COURSES A YEAR.

HFS. I said I wasn't going to drink tonight. Clearly that's not going to happen now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

But I Believe I'm a Walking Contradiction

Someone just started a thread in the Chronicle forums about a question I had last year. Do you say in your cover letter that you're really interested in a job because the school's near where your partner works, and it would mean the two of you could be together? Almost everyone in the thread says, no, don't mention your partner. This is interesting, because it's exactly the opposite of what the Future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS's placement chair told her last year.

As deadlines get closer, the flat-out contradictory advice starts to make me insane.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

'Cause You Are Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't

I meant to link to this piece yesterday, but I've been tied up in beginning-of-term bullshit. (Today's low-point: having to attend a half-hour talk about who I should contact in my school's IT department if, e.g., I'd like my students to do podcasts as assignments. I really could have used that half-hour.) Anyway, here's a historian's take on being an adjunct. There's a lot of familiar themes here, including an honest account of how in your first couple of years of grad school it seems inevitable that you'll land in a good job.

But what caught my eye was this:
I paid too little attention to the research side of my vita. Because publications tended to count less than did good teaching evaluations when I went after short-term appointments, I began to treat my scholarship as a luxury rather than as a career necessity.

I can't imagine a better way to put the catch-22 you face as an adjunct. To get short-term job security, you need to do work that makes long-term job security less likely.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Give it to You Straight No Taste, I'ma Tell it Like it is

I've been meaning to get back to the issue of advice for prospectives, since I didn't want to leave things at empty carping on my part. (What's that, you say? You didn't realize I could do anything but empty carping?) I criticized Brian Weatherson on this stuff a couple of days ago, but he does get one thing exactly right. If you're thinking of going to grad school, you need to base the decision on considerations a lot more specific than placement stats for the humanities, or even philosophy, as a whole. So super general columns or posts--saying either "Don't go to the grad school, because the job market's awful" or "Go to grad school because the market's not so bad"--just aren't that useful. You need details.

But what details? One of Weatherson's commentors, philosopher Josh Glasgow, offers some great, great information and advice for people thinking of going to programs ranked below the top-20.

Here's Glasgow on how the job market works :
Your initial job options will likely be different than those had by PhDs from more prominent institutions. The most obvious manifestation of this fact is that, while there are a few notable exceptions, almost all PhDs from non-ranked or low-ranked programs will have to start their careers in unappealing or fixed-term (though full time) jobs, and then, if possible, work their way up to more appealing, tenure-track jobs. I had to do four years in such jobs. . .

There's a lot of candor here, and it's just what prospectives need. He's saying, you can't reasonably expect to get a tenure-tracked job right out of your program. You can expect to get various temporary gigs, and there's a good chance they'll be sort of crappy. (He talks about having a nine course per year teaching load.) And you might have to do that for three or four or five years. And even then, it's possible for you to move up to a tenure-tracked job, but not guaranteed.

Back to Glasgow:

PhDs from non-top ranked programs therefore also can predict having even less choice about where to live. I personally have found this depressing, though I’m happy to now be gainfully employed in beautiful New Zealand. . . . The point, again, is that there is an increased likelihood of having to make some sacrifices the lower down the rankings you go, but also that this fact doesn’t mean that going to grad school is a bad idea.

He's got a more optimistic tone here than I'd have, but he's also got real information. He's saying, your scramble for a job is going to mean you don't get choose where you live. And that can be depressing. Do you like seeing your family more than once or twice a year? Do you have a partner who can't pick up and follow you wherever you need to go? If you want a tenure-tracked job, you can't reasonably expect to get one near your family or your partner.

Glasgow's got more to say than just this, but I'll leave it at that for now. What's great about this is, he's giving prospectives some concrete ideas about what they can expect from a program not in the top-20. He's not saying "go to grad school" or "don't go to grad school". He's helping them understand what considerations they need to weigh in making their own decisions.

It's Not a Lie If You Believe It

Committee Member #3 reads this post, and tells me I'm misreading my department's placement stats on the department website. Contra me, the department isn't actually lying about its placement record. Well, that's good news.

The thing is, if I'm not supposed to parse the website the way I was, I can't figure how to parse it so that it makes much sense at all. The way I think I'm supposed to read it, it's still seriously misleading. But it's so obscure, it's really hard to say.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Oh My God, Your Words Are Out of Balance

Things are starting to pick up around the department, and some of the more hard-core philosophy undergrads are starting to think about their grad school applications. So I'll claim grad school application season as justification to stay on my hobby-horse a little longer.

The thing I notice about a lot of advice out there for prospective grad students is how vague it is. Not vague in general, mind you, but vague about advice for people thinking of going to programs not in the top-20 or so. (So not vague in general--just vague for the overwhelming majority of prospectives.)

To get a sense of what I mean, let me point back to that old Weatherson post I was talking about the other day. I was bitching about how his advice has a generally optimistic tone, when he draws his actual reasons for optimism from a completely unrepresentative sample of job market success stories. Of course, Weatherson knows he's doing that, so after hammering the optimism he winds his way around to emphasizing "that no one ever has to decide to go to grad school as such." Which is to say, when a prospective is trying to decide whether or not to go to grad school, she should consider going to some programs--the ones with good placement records--but not others. Okay, so far so good.

But then, what's the advice for people looking at departments below the top-15 or top-20? Weatherson says:
At that stage, it is a very good idea to reconsider how strongly you want to go to graduate school. Going somewhere that you might well not enjoy, that might not lead to much of a career, is a real gamble.

Going somewhere that "might" not lead to a career in philosophy is a "gamble"? Uh, yeah. And a rose is rose. True, but prospectives can't do anything more useful with the first claim than botanists can with the second. Whatever. Let's push on.

Of course there are very few schools from where no one has had a successful career, so it’s not like you have to give up if you don’t get into a top school. But you should go in with eyes wide open, or not go in at all.

Yes. You should go in with "eyes wide open." But what are you looking for with your wide-open eyes? Well, one thing is schools with shitty placement records. Okay, good. Suppose I only get into departments in the bottom half of the Leiter report and their placement records are spotty. How do I think about that? Back to Weatherson:

And you’d have to think very hard before going somewhere without tuition wavers, or adequate stipends. But again, those are the kinds of decisions that should be made in the light of your specific possibilities, not in virtue of generic data about what humanities graduate school in general is like.

The first thing is, no. You should not "think very hard" about going somewhere that's going to charge you tuition and not pay you enough to live.* You should not "think very hard" about committing yourself to paying back student loan debt while moving from 30k one-year to 30k one-year, all while you're trying to get a tenure-tracked job. Don't you know the last Republican Congress made it way harder to declare personal bankruptcy? If you only get in to programs that make you pay tuition and don't pay you enough to live, do not go to graduate school.

But second, forget tuition and livable stipends for a second. Suppose you get into a program that'll give you both of those things. But also suppose it's in the bottom half of the rankings and it's got a spotty placement record. Then what? The advice here is to "think very hard." Okay, but think very hard about what? What considerations should you be weighing? What hard realities should you be facing? Besides placement stats, what information do you need to make this decision with your "eyes wide open"? Weatherson doesn't really say.

For the majority of prospectives, there's no real advice here. There's just empty words.

* The possible exceptions here are terminal MA programs that take no more than a couple of years, which programs I think are all kinds of awesome.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

He's Read Too Many Books

In honor of the Future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS's impending move out here, here's a great story about an academic moving:
When I called moving companies last week to get estimates about my impending move, one of them asked me what I did for a living, and then what field I was in. I told him, then asked why he wanted to know. "Books," he said, darkly. "Always so many &%$# books."
Yep. Always so many fucking books.

Update: Someone responds to that story with this one:
When I moved and mentioned to the mover that I am an academic he literally said "Ka-ching!" All those books add a lot of extra weight.

Of course, there's no analogous sound for the money us grad students spend to move, since pizza and beer don't really make noise.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh Lord, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

In a post from a couple of years ago, Dean Dad says not to go to grad school in the humanities. In a post called "Go to Grad School!", Brain Weatherson says the Dean's reasons "are all fairly standard factoids - it’s a huge opportunity cost, it takes forever, and the job market is awful," and Weatherson concludes that "[n]one of these are good reasons, and it would be an awful decision to not apply to graduate schools because of posts like these."

Now, part of Weatherson's disagreement with the Dean comes from a different assessment of the job market, since he thinks "the job market is, at least for a lot of grad students, much better than the horror stories you’ll find on blogs suggest." Weatherson's reasons for the rosy assessment? "Here, for instance, are the placement records for recent years of the philosophy departments at"--wait for it--"Princeton, Rutgers, NYU and MIT, four of the best East Coast philosophy programs." Ah, yes. We should feel good about the market because most grads from the best 10-15% of departments manage to find jobs.

To his credit, Weatherson knows this alone isn't a useful indication of what the market's like and so can't be the basis for advising most prospective undergrads. When I have a chance, I want to come back to his advice for people thinking of going to programs in the other 85%.

For now, though, I want to stay focussed on this tendecy to talk about the market in optimistic tones because people from top-10 or top-20 departments mostly get jobs. In short, this is insane. What would people say about the job market for lawyers if only grads from the top 10-15% of law schools could expect to find semi-permanent work as lawyers in their first couple of years out of school? Or what about doctors or b-school grads? My guess is, they'd say that's a terrible job market.

The point is, the optimistic tone ("Go to Grad School!") is deeply misleading to undergrads. Most of them have no idea what the academic job market is like. Why should they? It's weird, and not like other job markets. They hear the optimism and process it in terms of what they do know, even if what they know isn't at all like the academic job market. Surely those of us who undergrads ask for advice should give it to them in ways that aren't so misleading.

You Always Told Me Life's a Dam That Breaks, Here it Comes

It's coming. Random job ads are starting to show up in random places. It feels like that part in Jurassic Park when you see water vibrating in the cup.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baby I Know, Where Did You Go?

Huh. That's weird. I just went to check out the Philosophy Job Market Wiki, which was a great site last year for checking to see the staggering depth of my failure months before I got my first PFO. What's weird is, it seems to have had all its content, including its history, deleted. Maybe they're wiping it clean before the start of this year's market?

Living in Your Uptown World

Let me come back to the weird bad faith I was talking about in the last post. The basic idea is, you look at the top-10 or top-20 departments in the US, you see most of their grads getting jobs, and then you conlcude that the job market's not so bad, even if it's not awesome.

The more I think about it, the more I can't shake the sense that the profession's extreme status consciousness is partly to blame here. What would make someone think it makes sense to just discount the existence of candidates from lower-ranked or non-ranked departments? Well, maybe it's the same thing that at the APA makes them look at those candidates more like they're ugly furniture than real human beings.

Just to Prove that I'm a Person Too

Bear with me while I climb back on to my hobby horse, and take her for a little canter. Remember that old Leiter peice from the Chronicle I linked to a while back? On the whole, it's a really good piece about how crappy the market was back in the bad old days. But then, there's this one weird paragraph:
Competition for jobs may be fierce, but it is not hopeless. This past academic year, 1997-98, departments at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Michigan, Minnesota, and Northwestern all hired rookie candidates -- though in each case the candidate hired came from one of the top 15 graduate programs in the field.

Um, okay. So the very best candidates from the very best departments got jobs. What to conclude from this?

That's the first point worth making: Overall job-market statistics are misleading, because they reflect not only how the graduates of top programs fare, but also how the graduates of less-distinguished programs fare.

What now? Overall job market stats are somehow misleading because they reflect the overall job-market? Would they be less misleading if they just ignored candidates from lower-ranked schools? This is sort of like conservatives saying that if you can afford good health insurance, American has the best healthcare on the world. I mean, yeah. If you ignore the 40 million or so uninsured people, you can argue America has a pretty good healthcare system. And if you ignore all the philosophy grad students least likely to get jobs, the job market doesn't look so bad either.

As I say, this is sort of out of place in Leiter's piece, which is otherwise really good. And as I've said before, I think Leiter's a lot better than most at trying to give prospective grad students a candid take on the job market. But still, this one paragraph captures a weird strain of bad faith that's out there. (You can see it lurking on the sidelines of this Brian Weatherson post.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm Not the Guy

Following up on yesterday's musing about why my dissertation isn't writing itself, let me pass this along. Just now in the hall, the department grad chair asked me if I'd be willing to say a few words about how to write a dissertation at the year's first dissertation seminar. Now, this guy is just about the nicest person in philosophy, so what was I going to say? But I'm really not sure what he was thinking. "PGS's been writing his dissertation for so long, he must be good at it by now."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

So I Laugh in Your Face.

I came across this last year and then lost it. Now I've found it again.
Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall
Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson's outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.


Chris L. Jensen

Holy shit, that's funny.

Update [Sept. 1, 2007]: Welcome, philosophers! If you'd like to read more reactions to rejection letters, click here and here, and if you want more self-absorbed commentary on the job market (with swear words and jokes!), click here.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Here's my thought of the day: Why is everyone but me finishing their dissertations this fall? PGOAT, nth year, my office mates--they all seem to be gittin' 'er done. I mean, I'm supposed to be finishing this fall. Hell, I might even do it. Who knows what's going to happen, right? But right now, it sure doesn't feel that way.

I Can Do it All For You

Philosophy grad student Neil the Ethical Werewolf pulls some CV advice out of a discussion going on in parts of the blogosphere where they talk about stuff way less important and interesting than the philosophy job market:
When looking at resumes and job applications of other philosophers (I'm finishing up a Ph.D in philosophy) we often make fun of the ones that list way too many areas of competence. At a certain point, there's a worry that anybody who thought they were competent in that many areas might not even know what competence is.

Yikes. That's pretty hard-ass. I'd just assume the person was full of shit about what areas they were competent in. It hadn't even occurred to me they might be full of shit about the very idea of competence.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Don't Tell Me No Lies, Cause I Don't Want to Hear Them

I've mentioned before how departments sometimes describe their placement records a little more optimistically than a clear-headed assessment would suggest. Well, I'm sitting here eating a sandwich and trying to make sense of what my own department says on its website about it's placement record. I've been staring at it for a while now, working through different possible interpretations of what it says, and it's not just optimistic. I wouldn't even say it's "misleading." It's full of downright lies.

How the fuck is a prospective student supposed to make a decent decision about grad school with shit like this thrown in her face?

Update: Maybe it's not actually a straight-up lie. More here.

So Much For My Happy Ending

For the weekend, here's some philosophy job market comedy from Doc Nagel:
Having been both in the philosophy job market and in academia, there are a lot of things I'd rather do, of which I'll provide a brief sample, for context: cut off bits of my fingertips while chopping onions; stab myself in the knee repeatedly with a dull Ticonderoga (Lauren: I've done that! Me: I think most people have); drop my 1928 Underwood No. 5 typewriter (which weighs about 25 punds) on my left foot, then drop my 1935 Royal "H" model typewriter (which weighs about 30 pounds) on my left foot.

Funny stuff. Actually, if you click through and read the whole post, you'll see it's not so much funny as sort of terrifying. It's the sobering reflections of a guy who's been trapped by a heavy teaching load in a place he never really wanted to live. He's been there for nine years.

Oh god, here come the howling fantods.

My Whole World Lies Waiting Behind Door Number Three

I just found a funny post in the Chronicle forums. Well, "funny" in the philosophy job market sense of funny. The poster tries to say what he thinks the worst possible AOS is for trying to get a job. Any guesses as to what his example was? Yeah. The example is exactly my AOS. Awesome.

It reminds me of something an old professor of mine told me sometime before last year's market. He said, "you're the candidate no one's looking for." The guy wasn't being an asshole. He just knows how obscure my work is and he was trying to tell me what to expect from the market. And he was right. For the most part, I was the candidate no one's looking for.

I'll never be a department's first choice. I guess what that means is, if I get the kind of job I want, it'll be because I'm a consensus third choice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

But You Never Had a Chance, No You Never Had a Chance

I was eating dinner last night with a grad student who works on certain philosophical texts, but works in a non-philosophy, Theory-ish humanities department. He was saying how he wanted to "professionalize" in philosophy, by which he seemed to mean put himself in a position to apply for jobs in philosophy.

Someone--not a random dinner companion, but, oh, I don't know, maybe the single philosopher on his committee--needs to tell him he'll never work in philosophy. That's some astonishingly irresponsible supervision.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can't Calm Down, It's Been Years

One thing that's going to make the job market easier this year is already having my night time routine worked out. I ended up figuring out a two-prong strategy for falling asleep before 2:00. It seemed to work even when I got back from the office at midnight with a bone-freezing case of the howling fantods. The first prong is three fingers of Ballantine's, the traditional home remedy of my people. The second prong is this playlist, "Calm Blue Ocean."
  1. "The Longer You Wait," Richmond Fontaine
  2. "Service and Repair" (Live in Roskilde), Calexico
  3. "How Do You Slow This Thing Down," The Gothic Archies
  4. "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!," Sufjan Stevens
  5. "Teardrop," Massive Attack
  6. "Datura," Tori Amos
  7. "Alright," Kinne Starr
  8. "Mirrorball," Everything but the Girl
  9. "You're Not Alone," Olive
  10. "Dwr Budr," Orbital
  11. "It's a Fire," Portishead
  12. "An Ending (Ascent)," Brian Eno.

Yeah, yeah, it tilts a little towards smooth adult contemporary. Bite me. After 10 hours of gritting my teeth with the effort of not beating Evil Columbo's face into a bloody paste, I wasn't exactly in the mood to unwind with a midnight Rage Aginst the Machine anti-globalization dance party.

Understanding why the playlist drifts from alt-country to 90s electronica is left as an exercise to the reader.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice XVI

A while back I flagged the way the word "unable" gets used in PFOs. As in, "we regret that we are unable to blah blah blah." But the PFO I was talking about was for a piece of writing, not a job application, and at the time I couldn't remember having seen any "unable" PFOs in my thick, thick stack of PFOs for jobs.

Well, seek and ye shall find! There are so many fucking PFOs in my collection, I'm sure I've got at least one of every kind. So here's some sweet "unable" action:

Many thanks for your interest in the advertised tenure-track position in the Department of [Blah, Blah, Blah]. Our search process is now complete, and we are unable to offer you a position at this time. We are grateful for the opportunity to consider your credentials, and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Best wishes,

[Blah, Blah, Blah].

First, it's always nice to see the effort they've put into personalizing the form e-mail. "Hello." Last time I checked, that wasn't my fucking name. And this comes from a department with a pretty serious reputation for various kinds of formal philosophy. You'd think there'd be someone around who could figure out the mail merge. I guess not, though. Apparently, they're all still learning how to do e-mails.

But of course here's the real action: "Our search process is now complete, and we are unable to offer you a position at this time." I suppose in some sense they would be unable to offer me a position if they've finished their search process and hired someone. It's not like their deans are likely to let them hire me on top of whoever else they got. But then again, they don't actually say they've hired anyone. Is the search now complete because it was unsuccessful and called off? We might never know.

But suppose they did hire someone. Then really, that little "unable" claim is complete and total bullshit. (I know. I'm as shocked as you are.) There wasn't any unstoppable power keeping them from hiring me instead of whoever else they hired. So in fact, the the truth is the exact opposite of what they say: they we perfectly able to give me a job. They just chose not to. Why not just fucking say that? Is it so hard to own up to?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I Got a Letter This Morning

Just to follow up on the last post, here's the Frustrated Filosofer, a former philosophy grad student, talking about the APA Letter of Death. See, in the olden days before the internets, departments would send application packages out to undergrads interested in grad school. If I remember correctly, the Letter of Death was something the APA had departments send in those packages during the job market collapse of the 90s:
The American Philosophical Association first entered my life when I was twenty years old. I was finishing undergraduate school and had been admitted to a graduate school. I received a letter from them...

What did the letter say?. . . .

The letter was a sort of warning about jobs. I am sure it was carefully, and cautiously worded.

But I took it as a death sentence. I interpreted it as a message saying that at the end of my graduate career I would not have a job.

It was the bad old days, and an undergrad thinking about grad school had no reasonable expectation they could get a job at the end of a PhD. Back in the day, the APA took some reponsibility in making sure would-be grad students understood that.

When Kurt Cobain Blew Out His Brain, All the Little Girls, They Cried Like Rain

Here's a 1998 piece that Leiter did for the Chronicle. It's interesting because it gives some sense of what the job market was like in the bad old days. (The short answer: really fucking bad.) But it's also interesting because it lets us compare then and now.

Leiter says of the 300-plus PhDs granted in 1995-1996, only 17 people had tenure-track jobs by 1998 in the the US top-50 and peer departments abroad. I guess the first thing to say is, I'm not quite sure what that means. I mean, what happened to the PhDs granted in 1997 and 1998? Are we supposed to infer that none of those guys had jobs by 1998? I have no idea. But still, bracket that quibble, because holy fuck. 17 hires in three years? Jesus H. Christ, that's a bad market.

By contrast, if I'm counting right, there were 36 junior hires at the US top-50 and peer departments abroad last year. No doubt, that's a better market than the 90s.

But as I've mentioned before, a lot of people who were around in the bad old days look at those numbers and say the job market is good period, not just good relative to the bad old days. But aren't we still talking about a job market where for every 100 new PhDs, there's less than a dozen jobs in the better departments in the English-speaking world? How is that good, exactly?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I got nothin'.

Sorry folks. I can't believe how much I suck. PGS asks me to cover his hardworking ass for one measly day, and I can't manage to come up with a single interesting thing to natter at you all about. I just don't have the blogging chops, dudes.

Grrr. Arrgh. I'm a bad, bad man. If any of the prospective employers on this year's market were to have any clue about just how much I suck, I'd be screwed. Thank god for pseudonymity, eh?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

All This Rejection's Got Me So Low

In case my PFOs are starting get dull for people, I wanted to pass this along from the Chronicle forums:
I just opened a rather curt rejection letter, US mail. Dime a dozen, of course, but this one had something in it that makes it stand WAY out. Usually reject letters are one-page affairs, with nothing else, but this one page reject letter was accompanied by a full-color, glossy advertisement for the school, an ad for soliciting students.

Holy shit. That's really fucking tacky, isn't it? "Um, could you just do this one thing for us? Could you find a spot on a bulletin board in your lounge for this little ad? That'd be great. Thanks so much. And then go fuck yourself, because we're not giving you a job."

Would it be petty to just throw the ad out in the recycling bin? Sure it would. But do I think getting stone-cold rejected by absolutely everybody earns you the right to be a little petty? Yes I do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice XV

Okay kids, it's time to rock the passive voice:
Dear Applicant,

We have now filled the position that you applied for in our department. We want to thank you for sending us your materials and wish you the best in your future career.

[blah blah blah]
Professor and Chair

Of course, there's no actual passive voice here, but don't let that fool you. This PFO goes Beyond the Passive Voice. It's so fucking passive is doesn't even say I'm being rejected. Mining that little nugget of information is left as an exercise to the reader. I'd say they should have the balls to tell it to my face, but they don't even need that, for fuck's sake. All they need is the balls to tell it to me in a fucking e-mail.

Also, just because you capitalize the "a" in "Applicant," that doesn't make it a name, much less my name. If you want me to really feel your "best wishes" in my future career? You might want to get your secretary to figure out how to do a fucking mail merge.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sure As Kilimanjaro Rises Like Olympus Above the Serengeti

I'm drinking a beer right now, which is a good thing considering the news I just got. But before I get to the news itself, let me back up and give you some context.

I've mentioned before how obscure my area of philosophy is. For example, there was exactly one job ad in last year's JFP looking for someone like me. So the job prospects sort of suck ass--even by philosophy job market standards.

Well, last week I e-mailed a guy I know who does what I do. I wanted to see if he was interested in getting a symposium proposal together for a conference. (I figured there might be some strength in numbers.) I just got his reply. He's bailed out of academia and he's teaching English in the third world. Which is to say, the job prospects for people in philosophy who do what I do are basically the same as for aimless 21-year-olds lit majors.

I'm going to back to my beer now.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I Should Have Known Better With a Girl Like You

A lot of things you need to do for the job market seem really obvious to me, and I sometimes find it hard to believe there are people dumb enough not to do them. Like, for example, not wearing sweatpants to your job talk.

Well, here's a couple of complete no-fucking-brainers I was too stupid to figure out for myself last year. This wiki tells me to put my damn name as a header on every page I send in with my application package. Yeah, all the pages of my CV are stapled together and my name's on the front. But those pages won't be stapled together when whoever's photocopying them is done. Also, these people in Buffalo say (warning: big pdf) you should always use the past and present tense--and never the future--when you're talking about your teaching. I guess that makes you seem more experienced. Sounds like a worthwhile ploy.

I give myself even odds on remembering to do either one of those things.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Get Off the Internet, I'll Meet You in the Streeet

The Future Dr. Mrs Dr. PGS is spending the day making a webpage for the coming year's market. I tried to convince her she should get a myspace page, because her CV and research interests are so, you know, academic , and what she really needs are a sweet flashing background and Beyoncé videos. That would be awesome.

Anyway, I can't imagine a webpage is all that useful on the market, but maybe it makes it marginally easier for search committees to see who you are. So I guess I should do it. But I'm procrastinating, because a webpage will mean I have to update my CV, and I don't like doing that too often. If that seems weird, let me farm out the explanation to another grad student in philosophy, Lily of the Valley:
Working on my CV made me feel like crap. I'm updating and revising my CV in preparation to send out a lot of applications for the next academic year. I am anything but convinced that I have a lot going for me in getting a teaching position at a university for next year. Where are my non-existent putblications? Where is any evidence that I've been attending conferences and participating in panel reviews? Nowhere! I'm doomed. But, I need a job!

Oh, man. You know what sucks? Sitting down to update your CV and realizing you've got nothing to do except push back the date you "expect" to finish your PhD by a year. I want to avoid that at all costs. Of course, the obvious way to avoid it is actually to produce some work, but it turns out that's sort of hard. So instead, my strategy's always been to just avoid updating my CV for as long as possible. Then when I finally get around to it, hopefully I've got something to add.

So no webpage for me. At least not yet.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Now That He's Older, He's Last Year's News

I meant to get to this last week, but didn't because I'm lazy. Also, I have a dissertation to write, so cram it. But anyway, Brian Weatherson's tallied up tenure-track hires in the top-30 departments in the US last year. Thirteen junior hires overall. Of those, seven went to women and six when to guys. I've just followed up for the rest of the top-50, where another dozen junior hires were made. Seven guys and five women.

So for the top-50 departments in the US last year, 25 junior people got jobs. Whether you think that's good or bad's got to depend on your perspective. Compared to the bad old days in the 80s and 90s, it's got to look like a pretty good market. But for a grad student with pipedreams of working in a top-50 department someday? One job for every two states in the union doesn't make me feel good.

Unambiguously good news, though, is the near gender parity in junior hires--13 guys to an even dozen women. I'd be surprised if you found that rough parity in departments below the top-50, but these numbers are still encouraging. Maybe someday before I die philosophy won't be such a sausage party.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

And If That Phone Don't Ring One More Time, I'm Going to Lose What's Left of My Mind

I just sent another e-mail to the journal that's been sitting on one of my papers. They've had it for eight months. The last e-mail I sent asking for information? I got no response. I'll have to see what happens this time. Maybe I'll get lucky, and they'll acknowledge I exist.

I'm pretty frustrated at how long this is taking. When I sent the paper off last November, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to say the paper was forthcoming even in a year's time. If it got rejected, I'd have to start all over, revising it and sending it somewhere else. But I figured even if the decision was revise and resubmit, I'd at least have a shot of having it on my CV for this coming year's job market. But now there's no time for that either. So now, if I want the paper on my CV this fall, I need them to accept it outright.

The odds of this paper being on my CV in time for the job market are getting longer and longer.

Update: I just got an autoreply saying it might be "up to two weeks" before I get a real reply. I got the same autoreply to my last e-mail. That was five weeks ago.