Thursday, January 10, 2008

All This Rejection's Got Me So Low

I've been trying to write a job talk for the past while. Or rather, I've been trying to turn a paper into a job talk.

But in the last few days I've been seeing on the wiki that some of the schools I interviewed with have already contacted people for fly-outs, and I'm not one of the people they've contacted. My chances of having to actually give a job talk are slipping from slim to none.

How do you find the motivation to write a paper you'll probably never give? Fuck.


Anonymous said...

Is it a paper you're thinking of submitting to a conference? If so, you might feel better knowing that the presentation will come in handy eventually, although not necessarily now.

Anyhow, that still bites. :<

Anonymous said...

Now's not the time for despair. It's still really early. Though many schools have contacted their first round of fly-outs, that doesn't mean that these people will be hired, or that these flyouts are the only ones they will schedule. To take a for instance, I was flown out at a school only after the first round gave their talks. I ended up getting a job offer. So don't give up yet. A lot can happen between now and April.

Asstro said...

Ditto that. And remember, there's always the VAP market. That's coming up too. It's less sexy, for sure; but that's a great place to get your feet wet and become one of the top candidates in your niche. But yes, I understand the sinking and frustrating feeling.

Anonymous said...

It is definately early to give up on the jobs from the fall. I've also heard that there can be a substantial number of jobs that get announced during the spring. I checked the feb and may JFPs from last year and saw about 50 jobs in the US in the feb issue and about another 20 in the May issue (in both cases, most of the jobs were shorter term). Yet, this still suggests that 70 people who 'struck out' during the fall job hunt still landed jobs... and there are probably other jobs that are only announced in the Chronicle. Anyone have insights on the 'spring' job market? It seems that hunting for these jobs when the 'hot' students are out of the candidate pool also works to our advantage.

Anonymous said...

yeah, that sucks. i sympathize.

but let me tell you, i've gotten some pretty nice jobs at the last minute, and after they were turned down by other people.

don't get too obsessed with the stars and the kool kids. after you get one job, nobody cares whether you had twenty interviews or not.

the whole vibe here is getting so high-school, that it's worth remembering that the most popular kids in high school are not necessarily the most successful ones now. the ones who got the most dates are not the ones with the best marriages twenty years down the road.

getting a ton of apa interviews is like getting a ton of dates in high school--it's probably a rush, but it doesn't mean much in the long run.

so cheer up. it's going to be alright.

Weezyiana said...

Advice from the net:

Keep Writing. Publish.

"Keep your ass in the chair! If you work 6am to 6pm, you will outwork all the other academics around you."

"All work is work in progress. Don't get it right get it written."

"Consistenly apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and write."

"Ideas that are not written down as a paper are like day dreams."

cw said...

I got one on-campus interview last year. I got the call on Jan 19.

My grad program was trying to hire someone a couple of years ago. They brought three people to campus, and offers were made, but none were accepted. They ended up bringing more people to campus in March.

It's too early to slit your wrists. Just get back to work.

Lost in space said...

No offers yet; just thinking/hoping ahead ... For those of you out there who continue to harbor very serious research ambitions, is it advisable to take a job even at quite a decent SLAC? Is one thereby too far out of the serious research-world mix (i.e., with no grad students, etc)?

Mind you, I know it's *possible* to be highly successful research-wise from just about anywhere, but how often is it really the case that a heavy hitter (the kind of philosopher king some of us seek to become) works at a SLAC?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is actually better to take a SLAC job than one at a research school? Why? Well, if the grad students at the research school stink, guess what, in addition to teaching/grading you will be busy supervising some lousy grad students, and that can be disastrous for your work. A nice 2-2 at a SLAC can be a godsend when it comes to your research time. Lots and lots of people spend the first 2-4 years busting ass at SLACs, then re-emerge on the market with a shiny new impressive CV filled with lots of awesome pubs. At any rate, rest assured that the first plce you land a TT job will most likely not be the place you end up after all is said an done. But that is the point, isn't it? Get so awesome that folks start asking you to apply!

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

weezyiana --

All good advice, but somewhat beside the point of my current motivational problems. My problem is, my main way of procrastinating is to . . . read and write philosophy--just nothing related to the tasks that really need to get done in the near term. So just like this time last year, I'm finding it harder and harder to put down the books relevant for various side projects. Which is great, and I owe a couple of lines of my CV to exactly that procrastination strategy. Except that I really ought to be getting a job talk into shape (just in case), and I just can't find the motivation to do that.

Now of course, once it's clear that I'm going to spend the spring ignoring my real work so I can scramble to find s VAP somewhere, and that I'll be moving my ass across the country for a single year of poorly-remunerated work--then I won't be motivated to do anything at all.

Prof. J. said...

On the comparative advantages of SLAC jobs:

It would be good for someone who has one to chime in. But I can think of a handful of very successful philosophers who either are now or else were for a substantial portion of their careers (early portions) at SLACs. Here are some:
George Bealer
Al Mele
John Heil
Alex George
Jay Atlas

Of course there are a number of top notch Dartmouth philosophers, too -- not a SLAC exactly, but no PhD students.

Still, I don't think it's common for someone to spend a few years at a SLAC and then move to a Leiterecognized research university. I don't really know why that is; let's wait for a SLAC philosopher to tell us.

Weezyiana said...

Pseudo. G. St.

I am the same way. I am working on a comment for the central APA in April, writing book reviews, and spending way too much time on my syllabus for "Philosophy of ____". I am obsessive compulsive about the most ridiculous aspects of my syllabi. Anyway, i try to motivate myself in weird ways (not weird to me but to others i know). For instance, I watch C-Span's "In-Depth" and listen to how writers describe their writing process (this usually occurs at the 1.5 hr. mark). When Niall Ferguson, in his "In-Depth" interview, says, "I have no idea why it takes some people 10 yrs. to write two books--I just wake up in the morning and start writing", I think "okay, let's get to work". Also, I read Fortune magazine's Secrets of Greatness" issue on "How I Work" (Vol. 153, No. 5). I also read Posner's one week diary of how he works. It inspires me to get back to work in fits and starts. It's here: If others have motivational activities, I would like to hear them. Maybe a thread on "How to be a Productive Scholar" or something thereabouts would be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I am probably someone who would really benefit from a post on productivity. In fact, I do have an on campus interview scheduled for this month and I *still* can't motivate myself to work on my job talk. Now, I can identify the problem - it's not like this the first time I've engaged in avoidance behavior in grad school - what I don't know is how to cut it out.

Anonymous said...

My experiences suggests that, while there are some exceptions, it is a lot harder to move from a SLAC to a research university than one might think. Here are a few things to think about:

- Yes, generally, there are no weak grad students to take up all your time. However....

- SLACs usually have a very high administrative load. This is partly because such colleges prize 'collegiality', which they interpret to involve lots of committee work in the college. But also, such departments are usually much smaller than those at research universities, so there are fewer bodies over whom to distribute departmental matters.

- at good SLAC, the demand in terms of teaching can be truly astounding. The load might be light, but it is dense. There are much higher expectations in terms of time spent on campus, comments on papers, lunches with students, etc. During the school year it can be very difficult to carve out time for research.

- Many SLACs, even top ones, are stingy about research funding. This hurts, especially, when it comes to traveling to conferences.

- Any decent research program will have an active colloquium series, which is a good way to get to know other philosophers and get some exposure yourself. (Smith? Oh yeah, I met her when I talked at Research U X. We had dinner. She's working on a really interesting problem concerning blah blah blah.) Most SLACs, in constrast, don't have much of a colloquium series.

- This is no doubt less of a problem than it was 10 or more years ago, but at most SLACs, you'll find there is no one with whom you can talk about your work. This will be a HUGE shock if you're just coming out of graduate school. In my view, this is one of the most serious problems....there are few opportunities for reading groups and informal colloboration that so often gets the philosophical ball rolling.

- Finally, my impression is that, with some exceptions, there can be something of a presumption, by people at research universities, that philosophers at SLAC don't have much to offer the research world. In other words, you'll get snubbed. I suspect this is less of a problem if you're at one of a very small handful of SLACs with a great philosophical tradition (eg. Swarthmore, Amherst). But by and large, a lot of philosophers seem to think that if you work at a SLAC, you'll a failed philosopher.

I should stress that there are many positives about working at a SLAC, and other people may have different, and more positive, experiences.

juniorperson said...

prof j. wrote:

"Still, I don't think it's common for someone to spend a few years at a SLAC and then move to a Leiterecognized research university. I don't really know why that is; let's wait for a SLAC philosopher to tell us."

I'm at an LAC (tho' not a *S*LAC), and not only have very serious research ambitions, but have a very serious research track record. I came to my current position from a TT job at a R1 institution where I was asked to put in for early tenure on the basis of my research, so maybe I'm in a good position to chime in here.

Obviously, this doesn't go for every LAC, but when you get to the top LACs they can compare very, very favorably indeed with all but the very top Leiter departments. My current teaching load is at most a 3/2; these are all small classes of very motivated students, even at the intro. level. (The LAC I'm at is very, very selective indeed.) This means that I can teach content, and the class discussions with the majors are equal to or better than discussions at generalist conferences, such as the APA.

My school values research. All of my colleagues publish extensively in top journals, and every TT person who came in with me had a book prior to being hired. (Indeed, the number of publications expected for tenure is significantly higher than at my former R1 position, and all must be in good or top journals.) The school also supports research financially; travel is a no-brainer, and it has a first-rate library. There is also money to support conference hosting.

My colleagues are fantasic. They're all active in research, pleasant, and ready to read each others' work and give constructive feedback.

The location of the school is also wonderful--in fact, it can't be beaten, really--and the salary is high, so you can enjoy where you are.

Given these conditions, it's very hard for me to think of how my situation could be improved by moving to a Leiterranked school. (And I say this as someone who has received un-sought soft job offers from such schools in the last couple of years.) Maybe I'd get to spend time with more famous people, and maybe I'd get some GTA help. BUT I'd also have larger classes to teach, graduate students to advise, and not much more time to myself. It's also likely that the LR school would be in a worse location. (I'm waiting for my offer from NYU or Harvard!) So, considered as a package, top LACs in great locartions with research-orientated departments are actually *more* appealing (at least, to me) than all but a few Leiter-ranked schools.

juniorperson said...

A few quick responses to anon. 5.47's comments, whcih I think are generally fair. I should note, again, that these are my experiences only, and so might not be representative.

"SLACs usually have a very high administrative load."

Possibly so. But I've taught at two (both TT positions), and the admin. load was *much* smaller than at the R1 I was at.

"The load might be light, but it is dense."

This is a reasonable point, but I think it's a generalization. At neither LAC I've worked at was I expected to spend additional time with students outside office hours or class. the point about paper comments, though, is spot-on. The teaching that was accepted at teh R1 I was at (a lot of movie watching, even YouTube watching, in class, minimal to no comments on papers, multiple-choice quizzes rather than essays) would not be tolerated when I am now. On the other hand, I've always assigend several papers to students; now I just grade about 40 a time, rather than 120. And they're written in English!

"Many SLACs, even top ones, are stingy about research funding."

This varies. It was true at my first LAc job, but not at my current one. Indeed, the funding i have now dwarfs what I had at my R1position--but then, zero for my first two years is easy to beat!

"Any decent research program will have an active colloquium series, which is a good way to get to know other philosophers and get some exposure yourself."

This is a VERY good point! My current position has maybe two speakers a semester, and the possibility of regular conferences, but this is unusual. But then, the R1 I was at had NO colloquium series at all--although I suspect this was unusual, too!

"This is no doubt less of a problem than it was 10 or more years ago, but at most SLACs, you'll find there is no one with whom you can talk about your work."

A problem at my first LAC job, yes. A problem at my R1 job, too! But NOT a problem at my current position, at all--and I suspect not a problem at similarly situated LACs.

"...there can be something of a presumption, by people at research universities, that philosophers at SLAC don't have much to offer the research world. In other words, you'll get snubbed."

A fair comment... But not really a problem once you establish yourself, or your colleagues are established, in research.

"I should stress that there are many positives about working at a SLAC, and other people may have different, and more positive, experiences."

A good, and fair, set of comments! I hope mine are useful, too.

Anonymous said...

Even it it's not, it at least sounds like Reed.

fellow grad student said...

to respond to the original topic: the same way you've motivated yourself through your diss?

maybe when you are close to the end you're motivated by finishing, but 1/2 way through it seems to be more of a 'grit your teeth and do it' thing.

becoming the √úbermensch

Anonymous said...

Back to the job talk...I'm a little concerned about the program you are in PGS...Now a decade ago, back when I was a grad student, all PhD candidates on the job market gave mock job talks in the Fall. That gave you a practice run and time to fix it up a bit better by the time you (hopefully) had to give an actual job talk. Hell, at the department I am currently at, the one time we did have a PhD student on the market, we arranged for him to give a mock job talk and gave him lots of feedback.
Those of you whose departments don't put you through this hell, you should ask for it next year. And in the meantime, if you might need to be giving a talk this year, if it is at all possible, you might ask your home departments to let you give a dry run of a talk. You need motivation? There is nothing like public humiliation in front of folks you know to get you motivated.

Sisyphus said...

PGS, I'm toasting some wine, and dark chocolate, in your direction. I hope you keep your spirits up, and remember that the hot shots who tend to get invited to tons of fly-outs can't accept multiple job offers, so a lot of schools then dip back into their interview pool for more candidates, so don't lose hope yet.

Besides, I totally envy your ability to procrastinate by doing not-directly-related work. I just waste hours thwacking penguins or something.

Anonymous said...

Sisyphus, you have done me a grave disservice is providing a link to the penguin-thwacking site.

Also, I wonder what we should think if we interviewed at the APA with some department, the department is not listed on the wiki as having invited candidates for on-campus visits, yet it seems to me to bet getting late in the game to not have made initial invites. Any thoughts?

Regarding the original post, I was going to say something along the lines of loading up on caffeine or maybe finding some intellectual steroids (ritalin, adderall, etc.) but focus doesn't seem your problem--you just aren't focusing on the right thing. Add ritalin to the mix and you might find yourself thwacking penguins in very focused manner for the next twelve hours.
(If you do this, please tell me your high score).

So here's the one thing I can say: as faculty members at my degree-granting institution would say (and they were right) our department never hired any young scholar who didn't hit a home run on their job talk. This is from a very top department, but perhaps (and my inductive set here is too small to be much more than speculative) in general departments set the bar quite high for job talks, and that meeting this bar is often a necessary condition for the department to make an offer. I can remember a number of candidates who presented at our department who had stunning resumes for junior folks, but who for their job talk gave a works-in-progressy talk or otherwise chose to deliver a paper that was not among their best. Even though we knew this wasn't their best work, they wouldn't get an offer. The point: allow yourself to be scared about the importance of a job talk if you are invited out, and maybe your focus will switch. Good luck to you!

tt assprof said...

PGS, I do empathize, really--I've been there, and more times than you.

No doubt you realize that a job-talk paper without a job-talk invite, may still be good as a conference talk and, eventually, a publication. So, for next time, you'll have an extra line or two on your CV.

But that that should not be sufficient motivation, psychologically, is what I get. I cannibalized my dissertation into 6 articles right away, so I didn't feel pressed to add more stuff on to my CV. And that was lucky, because for a couple of years I couldn't do shit. I just felt debilitated somehow (writer's block and all that).

But, it is still way too early--so it's still worth prepping the job talk. A lot of dept.'s don't meet until their semester starts, and lots don't start til the end of the month.

Also, a lot of places fly out two at a time. If they get denied by both, they move onto the next pair. And you may very well be the third or the fourth. But you won't hear from them until next month or even March.

With that in mind, you should have more motivation to crank out the job talk.

All the best to you. Just hang in there.

My motto again: If you persist, you will all eventually get something.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Sisyphus --

I'm with Anon 10:27: that penguin thing isn't helping. If I hit the penguin farther than 500 ft, can I put that on my CV?

lost in space said...

This has been a helpful discussion, thanks. I wonder though which schools folks regard as *good* SLACs. (This seems to matter in several of the foregoing comments.) Is it limited to the top five or so in US News & World Report (Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Carleton, Middlebury), or do others come to mind?


Any in the top 50?

Anonymous said...

"Now I just grade about 40 a time, rather than 120. And they're written in English!" So you're no longer able to assign Sanskrit prose comp like you did at the R1? That sucks.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of places fly out two at a time. If they get denied by both, they move onto the next pair."

Such comments are very heartening. I interviewed at one school at the APA, and they've already got two interviews posted on the wiki. I had figured the standard was three initial on-campus folks, with the expectation that one would end up hired. So the two-by-two interpretation increases my odds of being near the top, and hence of getting a shot. But despite all the optimism from those with jobs, I'm still thinking it's much better to be in the initial run of candidates, cet par. This is an unfair question, but does anyone have a guestimate of how many times the first two or three candidates fail, and the department digs deeper into their list? If it half of all searches? Ten percent? Two?

Anonymous said...


I can now start my day.

languagepolice said...

577.6 ft!

...ok, maybe now it's time to get back to editing that dissertation.

will philosophize for food said...

Last year I was contacted in late February by an institution which advertised in the Fall JFP. They hadn't conducted APA interviews, but instead waited until initial offers had been made to contact their finalists. I thought, before I had heard that I had been granted a phone interview, that I was done for the year. But I ended up getting a campus interview (although, sadly, I did not get the offer).

Likewise this year I'm looking at being out of the running again until the February issue; but experience does give me a glimmer of hope (albeit faint). So I'm working on finishing that last diss chapter, that book review, etc., to keep my mind off the sting of the still open wounds from the APA. There's nothing like diving head-first into one's work to keep one's mind from wandering into despair--which, given my personality type, is a constant struggle.

Keep the faith, all. And thwack the penguin when he's a little below your head--that's when you can get that three-hopper for 500+ points.

Anonymous said...


Beat that, suckers.

juniorperson said...

"So you're no longer able to assign Sanskrit prose comp like you did at the R1? That sucks."

What the undergrads. (and some of the grad. students) produced at the R1 wasn't recognizable as English at all. It was frequently written phonetically indexed to the local (strong and almost incomprehensible) regional accent, so for most papers I had to imagine it being read by the author before being able to understand them.

Given the accent in question, this was pretty close to torture!

Sisyphus said...

Duuuude! I keep topping out at about 512 or so!!

I have friends at some northeast schools that aren't coming back from break until the _end_ of January ---- I don't know about philosophers but lit people don't meet over break to determine candidates. And I know _lots_ of people who got picked for campus visits after the top people rejected the job, so there is some hope yet.

And now, I will go beat my chapter draft into submission.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


I wonder if there's a trick that would enable you to pass 600? The very possibility is exhilarating. Only one way to find out...

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

posting the scores from the penguin game is so absurdly beautiful.

Anonymous said...

More time-wasting games/sites here for procrastinating philosophers:

Anonymous said...

All you penguin-wacking philosophers could do something more useful with your time: why don't we start contacting the remaining members of section I to see why they haven't contacted anyone for interviews of any sort -- there's a few dozen jobs lying around there.

Anonymous said...

shit, that penguin game sucks...I keep hitting into double-plays.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that many of you are just now discovering the penguin game. What did you do with your time between 2004 and now?

Tired of PGS said...


Perhaps you come across as just as much a whiny bitch in person as you do on the internet. That would surely explain why no one's asked you to campus. Why would someone want to hire a colleague whom they can expect to complain about how underpaid he is and about how stupid everyone else in sight is? I'm sure wherever you end up, it's not going to be good enough - it's going to be "fucking stupid," beneath you in a number of ways. I suspect something about the way you carry yourself reveals this quality to people and they run your file through the shredder immediately. You're a prick.

Anonymous said...

Preach, 8:15! If more than a couple people think this of you, PGS, then you would do well to pay attention and adjust accordingly. Our public versus private or anonymous personalities really aren't that different...

Anonymous said...

To 8:15,


How can you not expect the range of feelings expressed here when we are faced with the possibility of not getting a job? I don't call that prickish, but fucking normal.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I find PGS entertaining as hell. I have to assume I'm not the only one since we're all reading this blog...

A Whiny Bitch said...

Look fools, you are all a bunch of whiny bitches, including those of you who are meta-bitching-and-whining.

Borrowing from Austin, whining about the existing state of the world is an occupational hazard, but for the sneaking suspicion that it's our occupation.

tired of pgs said...

To "wanker":

Surely even a chimpanzee could decipher the grim job prospects of a newly minted philosophy PhD. Yet we enroll and we proceed and we delude ourselves. Then we have trouble getting jobs and we bitch.

But the bitching by and large isn't about how odd the particular process of getting a job in philosophy is. And it's not about the irrationality of the profession at large, which is determined to train far more candidates than there are jobs. And it's not about the economic pressure on departments to do precisely that, either. All of those are worthwhile conversations. We should be having those. But that's not happening here. Rather, PGS shits on his departmental administrative assistants for making mistakes sometimes. They're not as smart as he is, so the implication is that someone of his intelligence would never fail to misplace a file. And he shits on his professors' advice. And he's irritated that departments won't subsidize his hotel stay at a hiring conference. Here's the thing: PGS fucks up, too. And his professors, though they're easy to caricature, are by and large trying to give him helpful advice for dealing with a process that, far removed as they are, they likely found just as inane when they went through it. Nevertheless, they fail to escape his scorn. One day, PGS will be an associate professor with crumbs on his shirt and someone will point out what a "fucktard" he is. The difference is this: that person will actually be right.

If you find this blog resonant or cathartic, your cynicism - and your irrationality - make you the wanker. Eat a dick.

Tired of 'tired of' said...

Dear "Tired of",

Rather, PGS shits on his departmental administrative assistants for making mistakes sometimes. They're not as smart as he is, so the implication is that someone of his intelligence would never fail to misplace a file.

Do you think you could point me to the place where PGS does that?


Anonymous said...

Dear Tired of PGS,

Here's a plan - since you're so tired of PGS, just stay away from this site. Spend your time eating dick or whatever else brings you ecstasy and leave the rest of us alone.

James said...

Why must even a philosophy blog eventually descend to homophobia?

In any debate about who is the bigger asshole, the first person to make a homophobic reference always wins.

Anonymous said... who's assuming genders of philosophers?

James said...

Anon 1:17,

The question is what gender the author of the phrase had in mind, and since the author of said phrase used pronouns that reference the male gender (in case you don't know, these are "he" or "his"), we can assume the sign out, "Eat a ****" was meant to be a slur against homosexuals and not casual advice given to a female philosopher -- which of course wouldn't make it more appropriate, or would it in your eyes?

Anonymous said...

PGS refers to himself using masculine pronouns.

Anonymous said...

However, the implication is that 8:48 is continuing the homosexual comments, which would only be the case if 8:48 is assuming that "tired of PGS" is male...