Sunday, September 30, 2007
The good news comes from PC Jr. and Committee Member #3. Like all my profs, they don't really know much about how teaching school interviews work, but at least they know they don't know. So in our first placement meeting, PC Jr. said he and Committee Member #3 were going to ask around to some of their friends at teaching colleges to, you know, find out how their searches work, and how they run their interviews. Their idea is, if I'm following it right, to then tell us what they've learned. That way, we might actually have some inkling of what to expect in those interviews.
This is a really good thing. I mean that. I heart junior faculty.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
None of the profs in my department have a feel for what goes on in job searches for teaching positions. Not even the junior profs have any real idea. After all, for them to get jobs in my department, down here in the middle of the rankings, they all pretty much had to come from top-10 departments. They never had to worry about clawing their way into 4-4 teaching loads at rural branch campuses in banjo country.
But that's them. It's not us. People coming out of my department typically get teaching jobs, when they jobs at all. So last year, a big part of our prep was getting ready for all the ultra-high-powered interviews most of us will never have. There was absolutely no time spent talking about the kinds of APA interviews that actually turn into jobs for most of us.
Here's an example. Sometime in late October or early November, the department has a placement meeting where we get told all kinds of stuff about what to expect in interviews. For the most part, we get told, the interview's going to open with some fairly non-specific question about your dissertation or your research or something like that. You'll probably talk about your work for about a half-hour to 40 minutes, and then you'll get some questions about teaching. Those questions will mostly be about the material you'd do in various courses, and you need to be ready to talk about who you'd read and why you'd read them. That'll take about ten to fifteen minutes. Then they'll ask if you've got any questions for them, and you should have one or two ready to go.
Okay, fine. Except this interview formula was exactly wrong for most of the interviews people in my department get. When I interviewed last year for a teaching job, the interview went nothing like that. They didn't give a flying fuck about my work. The entire interview was about my teaching. And not just about what I'd read in what courses, but what my basic views were about the "role of a teacher in a learning community." The first questions they asked me were about "how teachers should relate to students, both in and out of classroom". I was totally fucking blindsided. I had no idea what those questions were about, and I don't think I ever got an idea as the pedagogy questions just kept coming. (Yeah, no fly-back for me.)
It was an interview totally unlike any my senior profs had any experience with. Even the junior profs' experiences are probably pretty thin with interviews like this. So how are they supposed to prep us for them? Last year, they just didn't.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Here's JZ's first post. Also, don't miss her awesome tags, like "anxiety" and "dissertation". (Wait. Is that one tag or two?)
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The teaching philosophy is one of the places (oh, I could make a list of the places, honey) where my department falls down on the job in prepping us for the market. We are given no models, no examples, no list of what to do and not to do in the teaching philosophy. Last year whenever I mentioned I needed to write one and was having trouble, the job market advisor, my advisor, all the profs I talked to, just cocked their heads in that Aroo?-confused-dog look and then changed the subject. In one of the meetings I piped up to tack on “and sometimes a teaching philosophy” to a list of required materials and the job market advisor paused for a sec, then said, “Oh yeah, some places will want that sort of stuff."
This was exactly my experience last year. The Old World Septuagenarian, and, really, the rest of the senior faculty, had no fucking idea what a teaching philosophy was. They'd never written one. In fact, Evil Columbo made it clear they never even read them when candidates for jobs in my department send them.
It was one thing for the senior profs to be stone fucking ignorant about stuff they were supposed to help us out with. But what made me grind a half-millimeter off my molars was their blithe indifference to not being able to help. They just didn't want bother themselves with details about teaching portfolios. They'd never cared about that shit before, and our job market problems weren't going to make them start now.
Anyway, a few junior profs saved our asses and gave us (what seemed like) some great advice. Get the nickel version of it here.
Update: Sisyphus suggests we go take a look at the advice she got in comments. It's a very good suggestion, since she got some very good advice. So go read. I'm on board with concrete examples to backstop vague pedagogical abstractions.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
So yeah, I'm exhausted. And these early applications aren't even close to being done.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Let's call this year's committee members Placement Committee Sr. and Placement Committee Jr. When someone asked a question about what we're supposed to do with our student evaluations (What does the department send? What do we have to send ourselves?), their response couldn't have been further from the Old World Septuagenarian's and Evil Columbo's.
First, PC Sr. and PC Jr. actually knew that some--even many!--departments ask for information about candidates' experience as teachers. They even knew what a teaching portfolio was, and that student course evals probably fit into them somehow.
But even better? There was one particular question about how the department deals with student evals, and neither PC Sr. or PC Jr. knew the answer. So you know what PC Jr. did? He said he'd find out. And then, like the next day, he actually found out. He even e-mailed the answer to us, which isn't something either member of last year's committee has the technical chops to handle on a regular basis.
So I'm on board with this year's placement committee. They've already headed off problems that drove me into aneurysm-inducing rage last year.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
As fun as that was, I don't want to do it again. So this year, the plan was to keep my thoughts about the market in check--to expect and to hope for nothing. That was the plan anyway.
I just got an e-mail telling me about a job opening I can apply for. The thing is, it's in the same city as a job the Future Dr. Mrs Dr. PGS is applying for. Getting jobs in the same city--me in philosophy, her in her MLA discipline--is our only hope of not going back to a long distance relationship at the end of this year. And sweet holy God, I don't want us to go back to long-distance.
So the plan for the year's dead in the water, I'm hoping for everything, and while the excitement feels good, I've got a bad, bad feeling about the beating I'm going to take in the spring.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I suspect how nice or nasty the interviews are tends to depend a great deal on the type of search and college your AOS tends to get you.
Huh. I hadn't really thought of that possibility. What do you have in mind,
The ability to communicate negative information without alienating your audience has become an essential administrative skill.
That's an interesting claim. I'm inclined not to believe it. But what I know for sure is, it's absolutely not essential for department or search committee chairs to have the ability to communicate negative information without alienating their audiences. In fact, I have a stack of letters and a folder of e-mails that attest to just how effective their communication of negative information can be, even while they're alienating the shit out of me.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
So let me tell you a story about a placement meeting I had last year with the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo. The Old World Septuagenarian had been saying some general things about what to expect about the market, and Evil Columbo decided he'd give me and my office mates some advice about our professional development.
He started, as he always did in those meetings, with the story of how he got his job without ever having to think about such crass concerns as application packages, job talks, or, really, professional development of any kind. He helpfully told us things would be different for us, and we should start thinking of ourselves as "junior academics". Apparently, this would involve such steps as going to conferences, and seeking out philosophers working on stuff related to our work. We should even try to meet these people, in order to make them aware of our existence. We should, Evil Columbo instructed us, start to "network".
Yeah. We were on the market, we were three months out from the APA, and Evil Columbo was telling us to maybe start thinking about networking. What awesome fucking advice. Because that definitely hadn't already been obvious for many fucking years.
Also the room itself feels like an institutional cafeteria, which radically increases the likelihood of post traumatic high school flashbacks at worse, or at least memories of all the times in HBO's Oz when somebody gets shanked over a tray of prison gruel.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Even Birds Stop to Drop Their Turds, On the Freakshow, Even Geeks, Even Other Freaks, Hate the Freakshow
The depressing part is something we're all about here at PJMB, but I feel like maybe I've neglected just how bizarre it is. So for grad students or civilians who've never been, let me tell you about something deeply fucking weird.
The better departments interview in hotel suites, but most departments can't afford that. So instead, they interview at a table--a crappy, folding banquet table in the middle of a massive corporate hotel ballroom filled with hundreds of crappy folding banquet tables, each with its own philosophy department doing its own interviews for hours and hours.
So you arrive at the room at 2:55 for your 3:00 interviews, and you stand at the side of the room with all the other people waiting for their 3:00 interviews, everybody looking on from the wall, and everybody feeling like the girl at the eighth grade dance whose orthodontic headgear meant she couldn't even bob her head in time to the Rick Astley without drawing all the wrong kinds of attention to herself.
When your watch says it's 3:00, you start to wind your way between the tables, with luck aiming in the direction of the one your interview's at. But the tables are really close to each other. Like, maybe there's six or seven feet between people's chairs. So you're trying get your game on, and you keep hearing random little things about Sidgwick and Kierkegaard and structural realism.
But the noise is only really a problem when you manage find your table, shake everybody's hand and get into your interview. Then you keep hearing the loud guy interviewing six feet behind you talking about mereology, and that's really fucking distracting. But the distractions aren't just auditory, because the room gets so hot someone opens the fire escape door, which lets in a bunch of pigeons. So you're trying to answer a question about how you'd teach a course on something you don't know anything about, and out of the corner of your eye you keep seeing tables off to your left getting dive-bombed by greasy birds who spend their whole lives eating out of corporate hotel dumpsters. Some rambling old senior prof is asking you a question and all you can process is "blah blah blah" because you can't stop thinking, "Oh fuck, is that nasty flying rat going to fucking shit on me?"
But the worst distraction is the scale of it all. It's weird and bizarre and unreal. You can't look up without seeing hundreds and hundreds of philosophers in every direction. You can't look up without thinking, you're treading water in the middle of an ocean of desperation and socially awkward chit-chat.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Seriously. I've been putting off dealing with this for weeks. But I'm beavering away at it quite happily now. Nothing puts a better damper on the howling job market fantods (Which, btw, totally shoulda been the name of this blog. If only I'd thought of it sooner. Not sure PGS would've gone for it, though.) than a little liquid courage. Or, you know, a lot of it. That works too.
Monday, September 17, 2007
There's one thing about publishing I wish someone told me back when I was starting my dissertation. Obviously, I don't have a whole lot of experience publishing, so take this for what it's worth. But I wish someone had told me not to think of what I was writing as a chapter. It wouldn't make sense to think about it as a stand-alone paper, either. I wish someone had told me to think about what I was writing as neither a chapter or paper, but work. Because the work is going to be the basis for both a chapter and a paper. I wish I was thinking like that, because then I'd have been thinking about how the work would have to be packaged to be a chapter and how it'd have to packaged to be a paper. It seems like that could have saved a lot of pain in figuring out how to rewrite a chapter as a stand-alone paper.
Anyway, I wish somebody had told me that.
One thing is postdoc applications. Some of them have retardedly early deadlines. Last year, I blew the deadlines and I had to tell my supervisor, the Professor, I couldn't apply for postdocs he'd explicitly told me to apply for. That was humiliating, and I wanted to make damn sure I didn't fuck that up again this year.
Well, I might have already fucked it up. One of my letter writers wants to see what progress I've made on my dissertation since he wrote me a letter last year. The thing is, I've only got one new chapter more or less drafted. And I've thrown out another chapter I had last year, so it's a fucking wash. Now, I have made progress--I have a draft of another new chapter in the works, but it's a mess right now and not fit for my committee's eyes, and I have fairly detailed plans for another two chapters. But big plans and pieces of drafts aren't a dissertation, so it sort of looks like I've spent the year fucking off.
My cunning plan was to promise this guy a detailed abstract, so he could get a sense of the shape of the whole dissertation, and to promise I'd have it for him in two days. So now my head's down and I'm writing like a motherfucker, in between sending panicked e-mails to my committee about deadlines for their updated letters.
More later on those panicked e-mails and just how well and truly fucked I am.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I've recently been looking at a lot of CV's, with an eye towards finally re-writing mine. I've been surprised to find that a few of them (usually belonging to older British men) include the names of spouses and children.
Maybe these family CV's aren't meant for the job market, and maybe they stay put on the websites of tenured faculty. (In that case, some pictures might be better.)
Even so, it's pretty creepy to list one's family alongside one's presentations and publications. Or maybe I value my work too little, or my family too much.
Friday, September 14, 2007
For the solution, highlight the space below:
Fuck. Another weekend's going by and you're not working on your dissertation.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Jon has a great description of the "smoker," something so bone-chilling both PGOAT and I haven't quite been able to find the words to describe it. But beyond the general horror of milling around a loud, badly lit corporate hotel ballroom, trying to make small-talk with a bunch of social retards you want to hire you--besides all that, Jon describes a generational aspect to it I was lucky enough to miss out on at last year's smoker.
During the heydey of the post World War II great academic job market, these smokers were quite different. For one thing, people actually smoked. For another thing, the Baby Boomers actually smoked pot at the smoker. Unless you are a Generation X job candidate who has been stuck at a table with a drunk Baby Boomer during one of these things, and he (it's always a he!) is telling you how great it was "back in the day" when everybody had over ten interviews and there was a "dance circle" of pot smokers in the middle of the room. . . unless you've been through this, you maybe don't even know the meaning of the word "rage". . . .
I speculate that this is one of the main reasons Generation X academics are often so unrelentingly hostile (when talking with one another) about Baby Boomer academics. Baby Boomer academics had a much easier time getting jobs and tenure. Somehow on their watch we not only got Reagan, the two Bushes, and abandonment of cool plans to colonize space, but we also got a university system where now less than half the positions are tenure or tenure-track. And they don't care.
That sounds about right to me. Although my own rage-inducing experiences with this sort of dynamic have involved pre-Boomer philosophers more than Boomers, there's no doubt the earliest Boomers had a pretty easy time on the job market. And that's just not something I want to hear about when all my energy's going into not puking with anxiety into the over-priced, shitty beer I was forced to buy, just to make myself look like the kind of genial junior colleague some asshat Boomer would like to have in the office down the hall.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In comments from a few days ago, JC bemoans the PhD graduation rate at his alma mater. I can relate—my dept has a pretty dismal attrition rate. And while on the face of things this might look like just one more way my dept excels in its suckitude, upon closer reflection I’m not so sure.
A lot of the people who don’t finish the program really shouldn’t finish—they get kicked out or wither away because they just can’t hack it. This is a good thing, ultimately. Depts aren’t doing people any favors by stringing them along when they have no hope of ever working in the profession.
And then there are the folks who bail because they’ve got something better going on. It was a pretty formative moment in my graduate education when I realized that the people who made it all the way through my program weren’t necessarily the smartest or the best philosophers. Often, they were the ones who stuck around because they had nothing better to do.
But there are also people—really good people—who don’t finish because many of our faculty members are perfectly happy to let good people fall through the cracks. I’ll save my bitching about those fuckers for another post.
Still, it’s sort of a mixed bag, the attrition thing.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Also, if a school admits you to its PhD program, but offers no funding, I’d think very long and hard before committing to it. (I would never have, for one thing, I already had enough loans from college.) If they don’t believe in supporting you financially, it’s not clear whether they really believe in supporting you at all.
No. I can't make it any clearer than that. You should not "think very long and hard before committing" to the PhD program, and yes, it is clear they really won't support you. There's no thinking to do here. Your decision's been made for you.
I recently found an ad for a T-T job at a university on the West Coast that in many respects could be considered my dream job if not for the salary. In terms of numbers, I live in an area where the cost-of-living index is around 90, and the university is in an area where it's around 160. At the same time, the salary they offer is 35% below what I am making now, and according to CNN Money, they would have to offer me 2.5 times as much as they do now if I wanted to maintain my current lifestyle. I'm going to pass on this job, but I still wonder how these universities can get away with such offers? Has it become so much of a buyer's market that some applicants are willing to accept anything?And the answer is. . . . Yes!
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Also in the Chronicle's comments section is this awesome response:
In writing and sending such a letter, the applicant confirmed his immaturity and the department probably breathed a sigh of relief that they indeed had rejected him.
Um, in writing and posting such a comment, the commenter confirmed he's a total knob. How's that for maturity?
Far too many students attach themselves to professionally marginal faculty members, who may happen to be charismatic or congenial or who seem to loom large in local departmental affairs. No matter how good their subsequent work, these students will be at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to getting a job. What matters isn’t how important and impressive your advisor looks in Austin or Madison or Berkeley or New Haven. What matters is how he is perceived in the profession at large.
When I was new in my department, some of the best senior students got killed on the job market because they fell into the orbit of Evil Columbo. With breadcrumbs and bits of sandwich meat falling out of his mouth, he told them not to bother engaging with recent work on their dissertation topics, because, well, what did anyone younger than him have to say anyway? And he told them search committees wouldn't care about publications, since real philosophers don't need some journal referee to tell them what's good work and what's not.
The man doesn't have a clue, but the force of his personality's stopped some fuck-off smart people from seeing that.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Remember when I sent you my paper and you replied with an e-mail saying this would take four months? Remember? You might not, because it was way more than four months ago. I'm sort of wondering what the fuck happened to my paper? Can you see it lying around the office somewhere? Is it stuck in a drawer? Maybe you should ask the referees if it slipped down behind all the old copies of the New Yorker they keep beside their toilets for reading during snatched moments of quiet repose. Anyway, I'm going to be trying to get a job in, like, six weeks, so any news about the paper sure would be great.
How's that for a first draft?
Thursday, September 6, 2007
NS, for one, points to a slowing demand for profs in the humanties. Job Cogburn raises the possibility of something that seems pretty plausible to me. The massive growth of pre-professional BAs has sucked a kids away from a traditional liberal arts-based education. Take a look at the Princeton Review's summary of the top-10 most popoluar majors in US colleges. Only four of the 10--biology, english, communications, and poli sci--are not pre-professional. And even then, in their blurb about why people should consider biology, the Princeton Review people say talk about students being pre-med.
Even worse, although the list doesn't say it ranks majors by popularity, I don't exactly feel all warm inside by the fact that number one is "Business Adminstration and Management." Ugh. I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't really believe in the value of a liberal arts undergrad education, so it really, really hurts to think of b-schools peeling off majors from philosophy and physics and Spanish or whatever.
And besides having all these bright, shiny ideals about undergrad education, I also want a fucking job teaching philosophy. But for that, there's got to be some philosophy students to teach.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Feminist Theory? This is philosophy?To which some other guy responds:
I was peeking around the ol' internets this evening, and stumbled across a page listing philosophy jobs (mostly schools hiring for philosophy teacher positions) and more than a few of them were hiring for "Feminist Philosophy" or "Feminist Theory".
Since when is this philosophy and not sociology? Can anyone tell me what "Feminist Theory" is beside what I think it probably obviously is? Can one devote an entire career to the "theory" of feminism? . . . .
ETA: If "Feminist Theory" is considered philosophy, couldn't "Football Theory" be a valid discipline at that point?
There are 2 or 3 philosophers at my school whose main interest is feminism. I don't know anything about it and don't care to. I avoid those classes like I avoid race theory classes. I don't have a problem with it or anything; I just don't give a damn.
I might check out "football theory" though. :)
Where the fuck does that hostility come from? Both these asshats seem to be undergrads, so they hardly speak for the profession. But they had to get these attitudes somewhere, and I'll bet it wasn't from random goons they talk to in laundromats.*
*Yeah, I know this post doesn't actually have anything to do with the job market, but I've been looking for an excuse to link to those two knobs for a while, and that Haslanger article is too awesome not to mention.
the Philosophy job market is just now beginning to change from conditions of severe shortage of jobs to ones where, in a few years, there will likely be a shortage of candidates.
At the time I asked, "where the fuck does anyone get the idea there's ever going to be a shortage of candidates?" Well, maybe this is part of the answer. This piece in the Chronicle points to a 1989 report by William G. Bowen and Julie Ann Sosa. The Chronicle's original article about the report opened with this lede:
The arts and sciences face severe faculty shortages in the future, especially in the humanities and social sciences, a new study has found.
"Severe faculty shortages"? Wow. And that's under a headline that says, "Big Faculty Shortages Seen in Humanities and Social Sciences." Apparently Bowen and Sosa's big idea was that lots of faculty were due to retire in the late '90s, leaving buckets of jobs for everybody. I guess it didn't work out that way.
Was this a common thing to think in the late '80s? It's hard for me to understand where that kind of optimism could come from.
Monday, September 3, 2007
So in the spirit of taking very seriously the thoughts of non-academics on the job market, I offer these real-life suggestions about how to get a job.
First, just to get warmed up, you have to fully exploit your mother-in-law's connections:
Recently we moved across the country. Before we left, my MIL told me that a guy in her office had a brother who was in the admissions office at a university in our new state and that she had talked him into asking her brother to hire me. She means well, but despite my frequent explanations still has no idea how the academic job market works and was offended that I wasn't more excited about her "inside contact."
This plan is sure to work. Your mother-in-law's co-worker's brother--got that?--works in the admission's office. And that guy's got juice with the philosophy department.
Okay, so maybe that doesn't work out. No problem, you've got options. Have you tried a headhunter?
A friend suggested to me that I hire a professional headhunter. I explained that headhunters know the corporate market; they don't understand the academic market. He insisted that a headhunter could let me know about all the jobs available that I'm not aware of. I told him I pretty much know about all of the jobs available in the US in my field, that I am linked to several job posting sites and get email notifications about jobs, and the problem is not finding jobs to apply for, but getting the job after I apply. He was not convinced.
The real genius of this plan is, after you've applied to all the jobs in the JFP, the Chronicle, and the all the listservs you're on, you can pay a guy to tell you about all the jobs in the JFP, the Chronicle, and all the listservs you're on. He can also probably offer professional advice about how to jazz up your "resume" with things like your professional goals and personal interests.
But if the headhunter doesn't do it, you're going to have pull yourself up by your bootstraps:
No, I can't just decide I really really want a job at, say, Princeton, and get a job as an administrative assistant in X department and "work my way up."
Why the hell not? You can be just like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, except you do epistemology. Once the chair of the department at Princeton sees how awesomely you answer phones and make photocopies, he'd be insane not to give you a research budget. After all, this is America.
My mind's made up. I'm totally trying these out.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
That kind of confusion can be funny or it can piss me off, depending on my head space. But something more subtle made me grind my teeth more than any yuppie dumb-ass telling me he'd "put in a good word" for me with his old professors. All kinds of people--friends, family, random people--asked me what my top choices for jobs were. Sometimes they wouldn't use exactly those words--"What are you hoping for?" "If you got to choose, where would you go?"--but that's what they were asking. You can tell that's what they're asking because when you answer by saying you're hoping for any job and, no, you don't get to choose, they don't think you've answered their question. They think you're being evasive and obtuse and weird. Or worse, they think you're just being a dick.
But what they don't get is, I wasn't being evasive or obtuse or weird. What's the point of having preferences when getting even a single job is a long shot? I don't want to consider the inevitable counterfactual, "Yeah, but if you got to choose. . .?" What's thinking about that going to get me? An extra crowbar of disappointment laid into my ribs when I get rejected? That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. But how do you explain that to someone when they're just trying to make small-talk?
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Guess what turned up in my inbox on Friday? A PFO! I guess the department that sent it wanted to get their rejection e-mails out of the way before, you know, the Labor Day weekend. That's like, what? 10 months between the application deadline and the rejection?
But I bet I know why it took so long. Someone obviously put a lot of thought into it:
Thank you for your interest in the following position:
Position Title: Assistant Professor
Posting Number: [blah, blah, blah]
Your application has been reviewed and based on our current pool of applicants, you will not be considered for an interview at this time.
We appreciate your interest in this position and we wish you well in locating the opportunity you desire. We invite you to log on to http://blah.blah.edu to apply for other job opportunities at [C]SU for which you feel you qualify.
Not having a salutation of any kind is pretty awesome, but what makes this PFO super-awesome is the way it's just signed with the school's name instead of a real person's. Now that's class.
Update: In comments, himself puts a positive spin on how late this PFO was: "[w]hen universities send you rejections before they've interviewed applicants, that's when they're really telling you to get fucked." Fair point.
Now, I did a very selective search last year. I only applied for eight jobs. But, I received one (one!) rejection letter, and that was from the only school that gave me an interview. (I must have made a good impression to deserve a letter.)
Maybe hiring committees have been reading PGS’s rejection letter posts and decided that my feelings would be hurt less by being ignored than by receiving a letter written in the passive voice. Or maybe I should add another item to the list of things that are dehumanizing about the philosophy job market.