Wednesday, December 12, 2007

They Say Deep Down Inside, Lie Properties of a Healing Kind

It's late. I'm coming off of days of talking to students about final papers and exams, and trying to find some time between students to get ready for my mock interview. I'm starting to feel the first waves of rejection roll in as school after school I thought I had a shot at shows up on the wiki. I'm exhausted and I'm beat down.

But reading this today took the edge off it for a while. It's from a prof going by Old Fart. There's some stuff in here I'm not sure I get, but for now, when I'm getting the living shit kicked out of me, the empathy means a lot.
I was led to this blog by some conversations with my own students. (I've got a fair number on the market this year for whom I am either first or second reader of their dissertations.)

Hope my speaking as an anonymous old fart won't be taken in the wrong way. But here's the thing I tell them all. I know this job search business can be a terribly discouraging at times. It's can be especially discouraging if you are one of the many younger philosophers who probably won't land that killer first job that fully matches your talents and ambitions. Of course, some do land such jobs first time out. And fortunate those who do. But many, many don't.

To that majority, I say try to think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. And try hard not to let where you are at any given stage of the marathon get to you too much. You have to make up ground little by little sometimes on those who start out faster.

The first job is for most people just that -- the first job. It was for me. I started out at a two year job at good liberal arts college. It was a perfectly fine college, but it was just a two year job. Second year on the market, while I was still there, I got no interviews. Third year, after my two year job ended, I got exactly one, but fortunately I did get that job. It was a tenure track job at an equally good liberal arts college.

Eventually, hungering to teach graduate students -- since my work was then kinda technical and not necessarily accessible to even good undergraduates -- I went from there to a massive but underfunded state university with a mediocre graduate program. Hated it-- well I hated the university, but I did adore a few of my colleagues -- and was determined to get out of there. Eventually I did. It was at times very stressful, being at places I didn't really want to be. I tried hard to not let the demands of my job on me define my professional aspirations.

Through a combination of something -- hard work, good fortune, stupid blind thrashing about -- things eventually worked out -- after about 11 or so years in the profession. I finally landed a great job that I absolutely loved.

My old fart point. There are many, many paths to a good academic career. The race doesn't always go to the swift. The path is sometimes brutal. (I remember crying in the shower my first year on the market about how my advisors were so ineffectual and uncaring.) But it can work out. It doesn't always. But it can.

I hope you all take a little heart in that. I know it's not much. I'm not at all trying to sound like a pure pollyanna. I know how stressful and debilitating this can be for you all. I've watched generations of my own students go through it and I want through it myself many times.

It's hard to remind yourself, in the midst of it all, when you're watching your dream interview go to somebody else, that it's really a marathon for most of us rather than a sprint.

All the best to you all in these stressful times.
Thanks, Old Fart. It's really appreciated.


Anonymous said...

I was really encouraged by Old Farts post as well.

Would Old Fart, or anyone else with more experience like to tell me if one should schedule interviews earlier or later in the day.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it depends on what kind of person you are: morning or later in the day? My experience is that most won't call and just give an open ended interview request, "When do you want it?" They will have slots waiting for you to choose from.

Anonymous said...

I've done 36 convention interviews as a job seeker (in three searches) and 24 as member of a search committee (in two searches), and there is a definite pattern through these experiences: earlier interviews go better. All of my 'blown' interviews were late in the day or in the evening (by far the worst time, except on the first (half-)day, when it's merely a bad time), including one especially embarrassing interview with a top-20 department in which I had to keep apologizing that my mind was going blank (my ninth interview of the day, and worse than a waste, since I relive this embarrassment every time I think of any of those philosophers). And in two searches conducted from the other side all of the finalists had morning or early afternoon interviews.

I haven't surveyed others' experiences, but my own speaks very loudly on this question -- for whatever it's worth.

(One caveat: I tend toward early-wake-up insomnia, especially when stressed. So when on the job market I was up and ready for action at 5 am or earlier -- whenever I went to bed and however much I wanted more sleep. So perhaps that explains the first set of data.)

Anonymous said...

It's too late. I scheduled my interview late and on the second day.

Although I've never interviewed at the APA. In similar stress field situations I tend to loosen up as the day goes on.

I think I read on the chronicle forum that interviews at the end of the day can help you make a lasting impression. Since you are the last interviewee they meet.

Oh well I guess we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Although what morning person says is usually right, sometimes they do offer you a choice.

Most important, do not elect a time right after lunch, so never 12 or 1.

They just ate, all the blood from their brains have sunk to their stomachs, they are tired and can get kinda crabby as well. They won't be as attentive, and maybe even a bit irritable.

I personally always preferred the morning interview, just because I think being among the first lets you leave a clearer impression. Humans just get tired and bored after a few of these, and it must all start to sound the same after a while.

Come to think of it, almost all the flyouts I've gotten were from morning interviews. Yeah, 6 out of 7 as a matter of fact.

Also, that Old Fart is a very wise man indeed. I would describe his autobiography as "the least stressful path to success in academic philosophy."

Remember, folks, even if you get nothing this round, there are still one-year gigs at the Central. As someone else mentioned, those are not that bad and, in some ways, advantageous, since you'll get your teaching routine down and have some more time for those tardy journals to OK your stuff.

Along related lines, I don't think fresh PhDs with little teaching experience and no pub's locking a top-20 gig is the most enviable. I recently met someone who came in that way. Six years down the line, he's staring at not getting tenure, and has developed the most bizarre bunch of tics.

Anonymous said...

Where were you guys at 15 mins ago. I hope I didn't screw up my chances that bad. Anybody else want to chime in on when to schedule interviews? Has anybody scheduled late and got a fly out?

Anonymous said...

I've had a fly-out (and then a job offer) from the last interview of the day, from the first one, and from interviews in between--so I don't think that the time of day matters much.

But I would avoid the time slot just after lunch!

Anonymous said...

I am happy after lunch!

Anonymous said...

Darnit! The nice university with plenty of cool young junior faculty and a Masters program scheduled my interview at 1:30. At least it was Friday. And my mock interviewers gave me three big thumbs up, so I'm feeling ready to take on the world. Just hoping the world gives me a little more of itself to take on.

Anonymous said...

Hey, PGS. Don't get down on yourself. Old Fart's words express a sentiment that lies behind all dream-seeking: "if you build it, they will come."

You guys have built up a loyal following over here with your bald wit and irreverent charm. Why not take a page out of Leiter's playbook and earn some advertising revenue for your good work? Surely this blog must have exceeded even his in the number of hits you get.

Anonymous said...

I don't think right after lunch is a problem. It's between 3 and 6 that people start fading (in my experience). And evening is even worse.

Btw, my experience is similar to old fart's: a long slog over many years to a position I like. First-timers do need to be looking five or ten years down the line and remembering what "tt assprof" says about the tenure track: it's not necessarily a good thing to land that coveted top-whatever job right off. (I too have a friend who is staring at a tenure denial.) Moreover, it's good to see how different departments function. You just need to keep the work flowing -- easier said than done, of course, but also perhaps easier without the perfectionist and other self-destructive temptations that go with that elite job you covet.

Anonymous said...

Darnit! The nice university with plenty of cool young junior faculty and a Masters program scheduled my interview at 1:30.

OK, I think y'all are starting to psych yourselves out a bit too much. I think my interview for Current Job was right after lunch, and everyone was happy and nice -- not crabby at all. It notably went lots better than all my other interviews.

I don't think you can predict or control how the interview committee is going to feel, so don't sweat it. My advice is schedule your interviews for when you think you'll feel good (e.g., I probably shouldn't have scheduled one at 8 am -- never say "Oh, my schedule's pretty open, what works for you?"), you have more control over that.

And hey! You got an interview at a place with an MA and cool junior faculty! Congrats! Now get the job!

Anonymous said...

(I remember crying in the shower my first year on the market about how my advisors were so ineffectual and uncaring.)

as with Wittgenstein, the best stuff comes within brackets. I haven't come to that yet, but i'd like to

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the morning is the best time for interviews? In the morning, there's a good chance your interviewers will still be drunk from the night before.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, far more important than the time of any one particular interview is how I scheduled my interviews in relation to each other. I tried to space things out not only across days but within a day, and I found that having an hour to unwind (and then get back wound up) helped keep me relaxed and focused (and helped me get over interviews that didn't go so well.)

Having said that, my two best interviews ended up being back to back, and I think I was so high off the first that it carried into the second.

So maybe the REAL lesson in all this is that you shouldn't sweat these kinds of details too much - their influence on the outcome isn't worth the effort. (In my limited experience as a searcher, me being tired and cranky after lunch didn't really effect my evaluation - or at least, not even CLOSE to the level at which the ability of the candidate to engage the group in interesting and penetrating philsoophical conversation did.)

So my real suggestion would be to instead spend your time worrying about improving your opening spiel and working on your job talk paper.

(Further antecedote if you ignore the last paragraph: I had a great interview at 7pm once. It was with a CA school - they were in great spirits and might not have been if they were suffering from jetlag at if you *want* to stress about insignificant details, don't forget to take geography into account!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, recent hire. And you're right.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you about my academic career: it might cheer you up. I got my PhD. I then spent 4 years without even an adjunct position. I applied for everything: I didn't even get replies to most the applications. But I did publish (about a paper a year, in decent though not spectacular places). After that, I got an adjunct job, for 6 months. That was extended for another 6. The job was at a good research university. The next one wasn't: it was a university you haven't heard of. But the position was TT. After 1 year there, I went to major research university, TT. Now I'm at world famous research university. I did well. But I had a slower start than most of you.

Anonymous said...

Let me chime in from my lofty perspective of someone currently in a one-year visiting position (ha!). My department is non-US but world top-20 or better. I came to the interview and faux-lecture, which took place on campus, seriously underdressed, since the airline had lost my luggage and hadn't yet delivered it. I was the last of five interviewees, and I swear some of the faculty were nodding off during my lecture. Since I thought the lecture didn't go down well, I felt no pressure for the actual interview - I thought I'd blown it already. All I did to prepare for it was walk around the sunny campus and listen to The Ark.

In the interview, I was asked, among other things, about 'alternative assessment'. I still don't know what that means. When they said "Do you have any questions?", I blanked. I went away to get a bite to eat, thinking that at least I'll know what to expect next time. When I got back to the hotel an hour later, I had an email waiting where they offered me the job.

Moral of the story: bad clothes, late interview, no answers to obvious questions, and I got the job. Granted, it's easier to get a visiting position, but still, in my experience the number one thing the people doing the job interview are focused on is whether you're right for the needs of the department. If you are, they won't really care about the small stuff. If you're not, no tricks will help. And if they really care about your tie, you don't really want to work with them for the next ten years, do you?

And now back to grading students who all have more money than I do.

Nate said...

I think Anon. 9:23 brings up an issue that I'd like to hear more veterans talk about. Suppose one is trying to get a job at a non-leiterranked school (that means most of us).

Does publishing in moderately respected journals and sub-discipline specific journals really help?

I've been given conflicting advice. Some people say hold on to what you got so that you can make it better and get a shot at some of the top tier journals. Others say one publication is better than none so get your stuff out there.

Remember I am not asking about the standards for getting a job at great PhD program U. Just your run of the mill U, maybe with a masters program maybe not, 3-3 load, and moderate research expectations.

Anonymous said...

To answer Nate:

I am recently tenured at just the kind of school you describe. I can tell you we require about 6 articles in decent peer reviewed journals, usually specialty journals. None of us has ever published in JofP, Nous, Mind or Ethics. However, if you do get an article on one of those journals, then you would have to publish fewer.

Anonymous said...

Freakish: a week ago I had 4 APA, then none for a week, and now I have two more. Wierd.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:36:

Four years without even an adjunct position? What were you doing, besides research? How were you living? For that matter, how did you get library access? And how did that level of publishing set you up for the job you currently have? (I'm in a somewhat analogous position, though not four years into it.)

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 11:11am

Great! Good for you!

What is that horrible burning feeling? Oh, it's the salt in my open wound of no interviews.

Anonymous said...

The person accepted the position at Tilburg University already. I don't know what their situation is, but it seems kind of crazy to do that before all the other interviews get goig. What about better job (location, money, prestige). Maybe its an inside hire.

Anonymous said...

First time on the market. Five interviews but only one I'm really excited about; two I'm sorta excited about; two I almost certainly wouldn't take even if they begged. There are still a handful which have yet to make decisions, and there's always the post-doc stocking, but I'm very bummed that none of the places I'd really hoped to hear from (with that one exception) called.

Am I a schmuck for feeling this way?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

bbm, I suppose almost all of us have different reasons to feel crappy right now, but I'm wondering if you are interviewing at the schools that there's no chance you'll take? That not only seems to suck for those schools (which we might think is made up for by your need to practice and perhaps the schools' general lack of care about us), but it also sucks for the next person on their list who could use that interview to go after a job they really want!

Nate said...


I think morning person has a point there.

Anonymous said...


maybe not for feeling it -- but maybe so for complaining about it here, where plenty of others would love to experience your version of "bummed"

Anonymous said...

bbm, one thing you may learn is that jobs that you now think 'suck' are actually pretty good jobs. And ones that you would be damn happy to have! Is it your first year on the market? A common experience is to go out with inflated hopes.

Give it a year or two. Then you'll be happy for any job where at least a couple of the faculty do something that you would recognize as philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. I'll take me gripes elsewhere. Sorry for seeming ungrateful; I'm not ungrateful for what I have, just somewhat disappointed about what I don't.

For what it's worth, I really do need the practice interviewing (in the hope of succeeding in the interviews with places where I'd really like to end up), so as much as I feel badly about using those interviews as means to an end -- and I do feel badly about taking a spot away from others -- well, I care more about my end than I do about (anonymous) others' ends. In this game, where being able even to put bread on the table next year is at stake, aren't we all more or less out for ourselves?

Anonymous said...

I have a general question: is there any reason whatsoever to go to the APA if you don't have any interviews? Has anyone ever actually gotten a job at the APA when they didn't have an interview going in (or better, has this happened in the last 40 years)? I'd rather not have to leave my family to travel to Baltimore right after Christmas for no good reason.

Nate said...


I think been there gave a good reason to go to interviews for jobs you currently couldn't imagine accepting.

But using them as "practice" seems a bit unfair to both other job seekers and the depts who are interviewing you.'s just "practice" man
--Allen Iverson

Anonymous said...


Yes, go. They set-up interviews at the APA. There will be a room where they post places that want to set-up interviews. I'm sure folks have gotten jobs that way. Even if you don't get a job, it is more job interview experience.

Anonymous said...


You could see how late you can get a refund on airfare and hotel, then email all the departments (REMEMBER to bcc them all and email it to yourself) and let them know that you won't be going unless you hear from them by December XX. I think that's fair for everyone, including you. In the past I've said in cover letters that I'll be at the APA only if I have interviews ahead of time, which is the same basic strategy. It's expensive.

Anonymous said...

What's up with the wiki? It won't load up. I need my fix...

Anonymous said...


Practice is one good reason to take interviews even at places you think you might not want to work at.

Here's a better one: interviews are a two-way street, i.e., search committees have two main tasks:

(1) to determine whether you might work out at their school; and

(2) to show you, the candidate, that you'd really like working with them.

If a department wants to interview you, it's because they see something they like. You ought to take these interviews, and give these schools a chance to sell themselves to you. They might change your mind -- you may have a good time and find out that you get along with them. If the school does well in the interview, then they could move up on your list.

I think things are different, though, when it comes to on-campus visits. Much of what I said above applies even here. But I think that if you accept an on-campus, you ought to be willing to give the school a fair shot. If you've really made up your mind, you shouldn't go.

(By the way, I say this despite the fact that I haven't gotten as many interviews as I'd like.)

Anonymous said...

undetached rabbit parts, I can think of three good reasons to go:

1. To see the freakshow that the Eastern APA is (in case you haven't seen it before). This way when you are on the market next fall and have interviews, you won't have the extra stress of seeing that shit for the first time.

2. To see friends, talk philosophy, meet people, and so on. This shit makes a huge difference, both in terms of connections made and in terms of helping you take yourself seriously as a philosophers.

3. There is free beer at the first smoker, I believe. Although it is that watered-down shit from hell.

Anonymous said...

There are so many expectations coming straight out of grad. school, and these seem to be constructed to a significant degree by (1) the sense that our famous advisers have about what kind of school would be acceptable, (2) what counts as an acceptable school in the eyes of friends and family and the public "Das Man," (3) whether or not a school is at the right kind of level relative to where we went to undergrad/grad, (4) the general snootiness of academia. These expectations can lead to a ton of stress. There is no way that we are going to get a job as a prof as a school that we could not get into as an undergrad or grad, at least not straight out of grad school. We can get another job first, and then try to publish and move up, but the expectations here really have to be tempered. And it's probably a good thing, in line with what Old Fart was saying, just because there is a lot to be said for taking a tt-job for 3-4 years (and settling in), then going on the market again after having already been vetted, and with a few pubs, and then having a longer tenure clock overall (esp. given that it can take a few years of rejections and revisions to get a paper into a good journal). And similar (though not nearly identical) considerations apply in the case of taking a visiting position. But there's also a good chance that one will come to really value their first tt job and stay with it. I think it really helps to get some distance from one's Phd program, and also to experience the job market first-hand. I realize that we can't do this if we are just finishing the degree and going on the market for the first time, but it does really help to try to vividly imagine our situation a few years from now -- being on the tenure clock at a school we really like, and whether it would be all that bad (or any good even) to have started the clock immediately, or with some more experience, and more writing in the pipeline. So if we're not in a Leiter top-10 there's almost no chance, given the odds and given the backlog of folks on the market, that we will end up in a Leiter top-50 school our first time out, but it's really not such a bad thing. I say this as a someone who has gone through a lot of the permutations above.

Anonymous said...

My two cents of the day.

BBM: my first year out, I had 6 interviews at solid places, top SLACs, research places, etc.

I got two flyouts, neither of which panned out. The year later, just one interview, which also didn't pan out.

So please reserve the gloating and smugness until a tt slot has been secured!

Rabbit: just once I got an interview for a one year gig at the Eastern off of the bulletin board. Second-tier SLAC. I had 8 tt interviews and told the nice person from said SLAC so. Three months later, I get a call from her asking whether I was still interested. I'd already lined up two offers so turned her down. But if I hadn't had those two offers, she would have been my life saver for the year. A long shot, but may still be worth the gamble.

And let me emphasize again for the third time: one-year gigs and post-docs are SOOOO much better than nothing. And they're all cropping up just around the corner. That's comfort a lot warmer than cold.

If you persist, just about all of you will eventually get something.

Anonymous said...

I must confess that bbm's comments really angered me, but I guess that is how one learns how this business is really done.

Anonymous said...

tt assprof sez:

"If you persist, just about all of you will eventually get something."

Leave it to the assprof to be able to turn a phrase. I think I'm going to use this as my motto for the dissertation.

From bbm:

"First time on the market. Five interviews but only one I'm really excited about; two I'm sorta excited about; two I almost certainly wouldn't take even if they begged. There are still a handful which have yet to make decisions, and there's always the post-doc stocking, but I'm very bummed that none of the places I'd really hoped to hear from (with that one exception) called."

And also:

"I feel badly about using those interviews as means to an end -- and I do feel badly about taking a spot away from others -- well, I care more about my end than I do about (anonymous) others' ends. In this game, where being able even to put bread on the table next year is at stake, aren't we all more or less out for ourselves?"

You're very lucky. However, let me give you a perspective from the those at the ass-end of the Leiter report.

This is my second year on the market (last year was a sort of "trial run") and this year I have only one interview (a very good SLAC). I do not have a fantastic vita (only one book review, another forthcoming), but I work in history of philosophy and have tons of teaching experience--so my target is really the liberal arts schools.

Unlike many here, I do not fret my inability to get a job at a top-50 school, since my candidacy would not be taken seriously at any of them. I don't have the right pedigree (despite what they say on the Leiter blog). I spent my time in grad school teaching, not publishing. And as a consequence, I'm probably not going to be able to get a job at a graduate degree granting department--period. In fact, I only applied to one top-50 this year, and that was kind of a joke.

Also unlike many here, I am not fretting the number of interviews I have at the APA, most likely because I'm probably not going to get a job from an APA interview. In fact, our department chair has explicitly told me and the others on the market this year not to expect any job from the October or November issues of the JFP. You see, for us here at the ass-end of the Leiter report, we have to wait for Rutgers to release the Fodor clones from the cryogenic chamber in which they're stored, and then wait some more while they all get jobs. In March, while you may have an offer, we all will start picking up the scraps you have left behind. That's reality for us, given our place in the academic food chain.

The point is: while you are complaining about going to interviews you have for jobs you could care less about, there are people like me waiting for people like you to get your jobs so we can have a real chance at ours.

You can do what you wish. Free country, and all that.

And since some are better candidates than others because of nothing but one's own philosophical abilities, then there certainly is a trivial sense in which it is true that "we [are] all more or less out for ourselves."

But you might want to consider this while you're explaining your mercenary strategy away: I am also bummed about not being contacted by a few places at which I would have really liked the job--some of which very well may be same ones you are using as 'practice.'

My $0.02.

Anonymous said...

Wow, BBM, in only two posts in this comments section, you have outed yourself as a grade A jerk. Now stop to think how you are going to avoid doing the same thing in a 45-60 minute interview at the APA. Who knows, maybe they are more forgiving than you, and you need only to beg to get a flyout. Ha! I knew interviewing was good for something.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those (been there etal.) who gave advice on why we should attend the APA even without an interview. You've convinced me to go. (Well, to be accurate, you've convinced my wife that I should go, so she's basically making me go, but maybe it's for the best anyway?)

I've been interested in all this talk about the possible virtues of VAPs. I just assumed that they did not look that good on a CV (it looks like you didn't get a TT job your first time out etc). But from what I can gather here, some schools (e.g., teaching schools) might see them as a good thing (you have teaching experience etc). Is this accurate? Can they actually make your application stronger in the eyes of some SCs? And does this mean those of us who do not have them are at a disadvantage to those who do? This is important because often a failed job applicant has a choice: stick around your grad. program for another year or go take a 1 or 2 year position. I would have thought the 1st option was preferable, but now I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

I have a VAP this year. Last year I had 4 really random APAs. So far this year, I have 8, all of which are good fits. So, I say, VAPs are good.

Anonymous said...


I've had 1 2-year post-doc, and 2 and a half VAPs. THAT is too many; and I thought I must have looked like shit last year going on the market for the fourth time.

But I had 8 tt interviews and 2 one-year interviews, got two tt offers, and am now happy with the MA job I got. So, people, I keep telling you: take heart, y'all just got here!

I've had friends land cushy research gigs--albeit outside of Leiter, but there is a good number of rich, plum, well-known universities outside of Leiter (y'all ever notice that?)--after being out for five, six years. Chin up, chin up! You will all get there (provided you don't give up).

But going back to your question.

Having too many VAPs, I think, does look like shit.

But being a VAP for a year can only make a difference in your favor, esp. if it's at a good place. A two-year post-doc at, say, Stanford IHUM? I think that would look great. And exactly for the reasons you state: this guy has teaching experience. A VAP for a year will not make you look worse, it will only make you look better--to everyone, but esp. to teaching places.

However, there is some definite shelf-life to prolonged VAP existence. I would say my case is probably at least close to the expiration date, but I am my own counterexample, so maybe someone like Old Fart should step in and opine about that.

Also, since you have a family, a series of VAPs would be especially problematic. That should be obvious.

But further, even if you didn't have a family, adjuncting in a part of the country that you actually enjoy living in maybe preferable to VAPing in a part of the country that may not be to your taste.

Since in grad school, the focus lies so intensely on getting a job, grad students often forget that they may actually not want to live in certain parts of the country even if someone payed them. The last VAP I had was in such a depressing part of the country that I almost became an alcoholic.

And once again, I know it's hard to see beyond this tunnel at the moment, but there is a whole bunch of opportunities on the horizon for all of you.

(BTW, if I'm being irritating somehow, do let me know and I'll stop.)

Anonymous said...

My case yields more evidence that VAPs are good. First assault on the market: 10 interviews, 1 flyout, 0 offers apart from VAP position in the 'second round.' Second assault: 20 interviews, 6 flyouts, 4 t-track job offers. The improvement was primarily due to experience, and to having defended. But the VAP position didn't seem to hurt me at all.

Anonymous said...

TT Assprof, you are not being irritating (this is all very helpful). This has really changed my view of VAPs. One concern I have involves publishing while in these positions. I've heard that at some places, any publication you have before you get there does not count for your tenure case. What if you publish your dissertation while in these VAPs; now you have used up a lot of your work but it can't help you get tenure. I guess that's a better problem to have than being unemployed though.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a philosopher, but I finally found success on the poli sci market (which is about as bad, from what I can tell) last year. My postdoc (which had a pay title of VAP) was absolutely invaluable in finding a job at a SLAC, because it gave me the chance to teach courses the SLAC wanted me to teach that I'd never have been able to teach in grad school. SLACs need people who can teach diverse subjects, because they have maybe 3 people in each department; a postdoc is a chance to do that. Try not to get one where you're teaching six or eight sections of 101, though.

Anonymous said...

Rabbit went:

"One concern I have involves publishing while in these positions. I've heard that at some places, any publication you have before you get there does not count for your tenure case. What if you publish your dissertation while in these VAPs; now you have used up a lot of your work but it can't help you get tenure."

At my own MA institute, none of my six articles will count for tenure. And, yeah, I used up all my dissertation juice in those. So that's a real bummer.

And I'm pretty sure at most research places pre-appointment pub's won't count, at least in the official tenure file.

But here's the thing you may want to keep in mind, which may be a bit surprising.

First, I think it's entirely legitimate to ask at your interviews the following: "What is your requirement for tenure?" I've always asked this question, since it's one of those things that's almost impossible to find out on line. And why wouldn't it be a legitimate question? Furthermore, like I said before, you have to ask them something to show interest.

Second, at a number of very good SLACs with which I've interviewed (I'm talking top fifteen to top forty--not Amherst or Vassar--but up there) the research expectations were surprisingly low.

The president of one told me that (during the on-campus), basically, he didn't give a shit about research, that even if I published ten books and was not--and I emphasize--an "excellent" teacher, I wouldn't get tenure.

The chair of another airily replied, "oh three should be good," to which his younger colleague quickly added: "and NOT excluding book reviews." To which the chair nodded his emphatic approval.

These were, respective, a top 15 and a top 30-40 SLACs. No shit.

In fact, my guess is that for a lot of these SLACs publishing TOO MUCH may actually be a liability.

As a grad student, a guy I know interviewed for his alma mater, a really good liberal arts place in the mid-west, and he told me they dismissed some candidates because "they were too good"--so either wouldn't take their job, or try to publish out as soon as they got there.

If you actually take a look at some of these dept.'s, a lot of the tenured faculty have done little to nothing in research, but are regarded as gods by their 19 years olds--so everyone there's happy.

With this in mind, during my last VAP, I stopped publishing. I kept writing, but didn't send any out, because I wanted to build up a stock (of 2 articles) once I got a tt job.

A good friend of mine, who's a graphomaniac, began omitting pub's from copies of his CV--with a "Selected Publication" line--that he sent out to SLAC's. In his case that was still too much.

If you're out for a year, and you have two articles in good journals, a couple of book reviews, and enough conference presentations, that should be good enough for most jobs. If your dissertation is that good, start looking for publishers, but hold out until you land a tt job.

Finally, there's still this Friday, and a whole week ahead of you. Because Christmas lands on the week after, I can see a lot of calls coming in next week. The chair of our search committee won't be calling until tomorrow, though they've already decided on the list.

And let me add again: It won't be over until around FIVE YEARS from now!

Anonymous said...

"I think it's entirely legitimate to ask at your interviews the following: 'What is your requirement for tenure?'"

I think that it's perfectly legitimate for a campus interview. At the first round, however, it can come across as presumptuous.

Anonymous said...

Asking about tenure requirements can also come across as asking "Exactly what is the amount of research laziness and/or stinkage allowed by your instituition?"

Anon 9:21 is right, save that for the flyout.

Sometimes if you don't actually have a decent (non-stock) question to ask your interviewers, you should think about some yap closure. Your interviewers might welcome silence after having heard 2 days worth of BS.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:14 asked about the 4 years of unemployment. I was doing Burger King! Just enough to keep me in food & rent. I stayed near my grad school, and they arranged library access for me. They also allowed me to use an office - when it was empty. It helped that I didn't much care about having decent (or any) clothes.

Anonymous said...

Two years ago I had an interview with a top SLAC. They told me that "professional development" was necessary for tenure. They considered publishing to be one kind of professional development, but not the only kind, and not necessarily the best kind, given their intense focus on teaching.

By the way, I didn't ask about tenure. They volunteered the information.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who chaired a philosophy department at a regional state college. He encouraged professors there to publish. His view is that publishing gives us a critical edge that makes us better teachers.

But, when making tt hiring decisions, he was leery of candidates with a lot of publications. He worried that they would used the position at his school as a stepping stone to bigger things, and that he'd then be back at APA, doing another search.

Anonymous said...

VAPs don't hurt at all--in fact, they can help a lot, for the reasons outlined. (1) They give you practice teaching in stable and non-exploitative conditions, (2) They give you the opportunity to learn the ropes vis-a-vis publishing, and to get publications out, (3) You get acclimatised to being a faculty member, rather than a grad. student--and this does help, both on paper and in person. Plus, at the higher end, they can indiacte your research potential. All things being equal I would look more favorably on someone with a two-year VAP at, say, Western Washington, than someone applying to my dept. who had a TT at a branch campus of a mediocre state university, or who'd done a couple of extra years in grad. school. (Note that this shouldn't be taken to imply you should necessarily prefer a VAP to a TT job--this will just depend on how risk averse you are, and the jobs in questions!)

I would also like to temper some of the previous comments about research and LACs, since while they're accurate for most places they might give the impression that LACs and research expectations are exclusive. Not so, in all cases!

My current (and I hope, permanent!) TT position is at a LAC, albeit not a SLAC. The research expectations are FAR higher than the well-known R1 institution with an (admittedly crappy) MA program I was previously at. At the R1, someone recently got tenure with the dissertation getting published at a good trade press, and three papers from the dissertation--effectively nothing new post-PhD. The LAC I'm currently at unofficially requires at least two papers a year in good journals, encourages a book (indeed, everyone in my incoming faculty class in the humanities had a book, except for completely non-book areas, like music) and also uses citation counts to gauge professional visibility. All of my colleagues in the dept. are very active, with papers in Mind, Ethics, etc.. And the resources for research are incredible!

I'm very, VERY, *VERY* lucky!

So, in brief, if you're looking for research places, don't restrict yourself to looking at the Leiter top-50.

Oh, and to give heart to "will philosophize for food", my PhD is probably from the same sort of institution as yours! So, take heart--with luck, and hard work, and luck, and being a good philosopher, and luck, very, very good jobs can be had by all!

Anonymous said...

Philosophy prof,

I think you exaggerate when you say someone has virtually no chance of landing a Leiter Top 50 job the first time out.

My own department is one of the ones tied for 16. In the past six years, we graduated probably 20 PhDs at most. Likely fewer. Of those, 1 got a top 10 job, 1 a top 20, 1 a job in the 40s. That's 15 percent. Moreover, the percentage jumps considerably if you only look at people who went on the job market seriously (as opposed to law school or whatever).

So far this year, I have a top 20 interview and 2 other top 50 interviews (plus three unranked schools). It's not that big a deal to me if I get one of the ranked jobs or not, but I'm not going in assuming that there's virtually no chance.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and just to underscore my point above that R1 departments don't necessarily want research, and LACs could, when I was at Pure Hell R1 I was turned down for an internal research grant than "everyone got automatically", according to the Chair and all the senior faculty I asked as, and I quote, "juniorperson has already published too much and in too many good places".

I won't even go into the time when, during working on my first book, the library at PH banned me for a month because I was, to quote the Dean of Library, "reading too much".

I know, I wouldn't beieve this either if it hadn't happened to me....

Anonymous said...

Been there -- I should have added the caveat that a person who comes from a school in the 11-30 range may have just as much a chance (to land a 1-50 job) as someone from a school in the 1-10 range, so long as they come from a school that has a lot of reputation and tradition (e.g Yale, Chicago, Brown). I also hope that I emphasized that a person who does not start at the kind of school that they want can try to prove themselves and move up as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

Since there seem to be some established philosophers here (TT or tenured), I wonder if you could say a bit more about the "move up in the world later" strategy. In particular, (a) when would one think about going on the market again, (b) how does one manage that vis-a-vis one's current colleagues, and (c) how do folks at other institutions feel about / assess applications from already established philosophers?

Really anxious to hear folks' thoughts on these issues -- particularly if we're supposed to take some solace re: our right-out-of-the-gate options.


Anonymous said...

I'm coming in on this discussion late, but I wanted to emphasize that one's expectations coming out of grad school can be skewed in ways that are really unhelpful. I came out of a Leiterrific-ish department and was prepared to go on the market twice (in retrospect, the presumption of being "prepared" to do that is staggering), so I applied only for jobs I really wanted, thinking I could always apply for crappy jobs the next year. At the last minute, a grad student I knew in another department told me I should apply for a job I was on the fence about -- someone from his department had ended up there. I applied, but the school was at the bottom of my list, and it was a borderline case of "I'd rather go through job market hell again than take that job." I got the job -- and loved it. My colleagues were fantastic, personally and professionally, and the city -- which had a horrible reputation -- turned out to be amazingly livable. I was really, really glad to have gotten the job. (I have since sold out and moved up, but that's another story.) Anyway, all this is to say that jobs that you might look down on while you're in grad school can actually be really great once you're there.

Anonymous said...

To IM:

Ok, I'm about to open a can of worms here given the previous discussion of this topic (which occasionally became vitriolic) but here goes...

"(a) when would one think about going on the market again"

No good answer to this, I'm afraid. It will depend upon your reasons for wanting to move, and what other jobs open up.

If you want to move because you're faced with a two-body problem, or because you hate your department, or the area in which you live (and by "hate", I mean just that--not just you'd prefer to live elsewhere or have cooler, more active, or better-looking colleagues!), obviously you should move as soon as possible. If you want to move because you'd *really* prefer to live in a certain area, then I suggest that applying selectively to schools in that area from your second year would be fine if you still feel that way after settling in to your new place.

I wouldn't advise going on the market in your first year in a job AT ALL. Give yourself time to see if you could fit into your new department or area--and remember, that unless you're used to the area or people there already, you're likely to experience some disconnect as you adjust both to your new status and new environment. So, don't rush to any decisions! Plus, SCs are likely to look askance at anyone applying to them after just a few months in another job--they'll wonder what's going on. And, of course, it's just not really fair to your current colleagues to take a job that you're not going to give a fair shake at, especially if you're applying from a small place that has few resources and expends a lot of them on a search.

Having said all of, of course, I can't fault someone for taking a job that they can't see themselves staying in for any length of time at all, if that's their only offer. But I suspect that such offers are rare, if only because it would be difficult for a candidate who wanted to move on asap to convince an SC to hire them.

If you're looking to move to a more research-orientated department, the timing of your move will depend on how well your own research progresses. Given the glacial pace of journals, I suspect that it would be two or three years before most people would be in a good position to move up. At that point, selective applications to schools would be a good idea if you still want to move then.

"(b) how does one manage that vis-a-vis one's current colleagues"

This is tricky--and will depend on your colleagues. Generally, I would suggest not to mention it. If your research clearly surpasses that of the rest of the members of your department, they'll probably guess that you'll be looking elsewhere, anyway, even if they won't say anything to you. Most people won't hold this against you, although, of course, a few will. (Witness the vitriol from some--in the logical sense--tenured people on this board when this subject was first broached.) Don't ask, don't tell, seems to be the norm here.

I've changed TT jobs twice, and in both cases the senior people in my department were either supportive or--to be honest!--indifferent when I announced my leaving. But then, in the second case this was a department where everyone who could leave did, so maybe that colored things. But in general I've found that in philosophy very few people begrudge others professional success.

I know of a couple of people who've left my current institution recently. Neither were in philosophy, and both were wished well. In fact, since both went on to top research institutions (Cambridge for one, an Ivy for the other) there was general pleasure both at their success at at the implications this "poaching" had for the quality of the school in general.

"When and (c) how do folks at other institutions feel about / assess applications from already established philosophers?"

From my experience on SCs and as a candidate they're looked on very favorably. My first time out I secured about 7 interviews from just over 100 applications. The second time I was asked to apply to the job when I wasn't on the market--one appication, one interiew, one job. The third and fourth times out (in my third and fourth year at my second TT position) I applied selectively to jobs I very much wanted. In each case, this was under 10 applications, and in each case I secured interviews around 70% of the time or more. (Then fly-outs and job offers; I didn't accept any in year 3, as my wife didn't get the TT position she had an on-campus interview for close to my offering schools, but did in year 4--it's my current position and it's PERFECT!)

Since I'm very far from being a "top" candidate (Decent but not blindingly wonderful publications, degree from a program far from the top) I think this speaks well to people's ability to move from one TT job to another. But, remember, too, that I was VERY VERY lucky, and my experience might not be typical.

Anyway, I hope this helps, and that it's encouraging. Old Fart is right--the job market isn't a sprint to the perfect job, but a long, slow, and sometimes disheartening slog.

Anonymous said...

Tremendous help, junior person. Thanks so much!


Anonymous said...

You're welcome, IM!

Anonymous said...

What Junior Person said seems right on the money to me. I would add just a couple of things:

my sense is that generally speaking it would be better to take most tt-positions over most visiting positions. it's really hard to get a tt-position, and search committees know this, and so it's very impressive to an sc if a candidate has been good enough that a department has already hired them to a tt-position. my first time out on the market i had a tt-offer at a decent place, and two offers for visiting positions, and the chair at one of the latter places (a very prestigious SLAC) told me I really should take the tt-position. I did that and I don't regret it at all. Another possible benefit is that when I moved on to a tt-job at a nice research u., I was able to negotiate a shortened tenure-clock (this is standard, where all completed tt-years get counted except for one maybe), and all of my existing pubs ended up counting (just because they were produced during the tt-years at the first job, which in effect counted toward my tenure-clock at the new school).

i would also add that folks should not be shy about taking advantage of stress-management services, etc., that their campus has to offer. Obviously all of this stuff is really stressful on individuals and relationships, and there are trained professionals who can get a much better perspective on our own situation than we can. I got such assistance while on the tenure-track, and it's amazing how there are a few skills that many of us are not born with but that we can acquire, that can make this sort of situation a lot more manageable.

Anonymous said...

A word on moving up. My impression is that there are going to be lots of vacancies in the next five to ten years. Lots of good places will advertise for assistant or associate professors, and be happy to hire somebody with an established track record. So somebody who wants to switch jobs will have lots of opportunities in coming years, and with a good record of publications and teaching, s/he will be in demand. You may be a non-entity (or unknown entity -- is there a difference?) now, but you won't/needn't be in a few years.

As for late-in-the-day interviews, while fatigue is admittedly a factor, it helps to write down and rehearse short statements about your research and teaching interests -- to say them again and again to yourself or to close friends until you can sound coherent in your sleep.