Friday, February 15, 2008

The Blueprint

Second Suitor, a good friend of mine from my program, is going on the market next year. He's having a lot of the same experiences I did. --PGS

If philosophy’s a contact sport, the job market’s the gauntlet. I’ve been able to spend this year complaining about how long it takes to write a dissertation and watching the class above me try to tackle the job market. Now they’re done (one way or another) and all of a sudden I’m up next. The trick is figuring out what the hell I should be doing to prepare for this daunting process next semester.

Fortunately, figuring out what to do isn’t that complicated. Let’s take this one step at a time. A lot of jobs focus on research. Last week in comments, m.a. program faculty member kindly pointed out it’s time to try to publish. According to m.a.:
You should do so right now, in Feb., if you want a realistic shot of (i) sending off a paper, (ii) getting back reviewer reports and a decision, probably 'Revise and Resubmit' at best if you're lucky, and (iii) having time to revise and get an acceptance prior to job deadlines for the next Eastern APA.
Point taken. Too bad I didn’t get the memo before Christmas break.

--Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

I am surprised that so many students don't know that (unless they are a superstar from a superstar department) they really need to publish, and that getting things published is really hard and takes a long time.

Realistically, most of you who are realizing that you may need to start looking for a VAP should get used to the idea that the soonest time you should expect significantly more success on the job market is not Fall 2008, but Fall 2009. Chances are you won't be able to get an article accepted before job time 2008. But you might be able to get two things done by job time 2009 if you can find some way to quarantine the sorrow and stay productive. I know it's hard--trust me.

My advice for those of you not yet on the market is to keep this in mind: You shouldn't go out there until you are absolutely ready. I went out prematurely because some old people told me it was a good idea to just give it a shot. And given how fickle the market is, perhaps you should give yourself every opportunity to have some SC somewhere take notice of you. But, despite my best attempts at not letting the rejection affect me, it did. A lot. It was a painful, expensive, waste of time. I did get some interviews, but I just can't say they were worth it.

So I would say that those of you who are from non-Leiterific departments should not even sniff at the market until you are really almost done with the diss. I mean if you have a 5 chapter dissertation, 4 should be beautiful and the 5th well-underway. I'd actually recommend not going out until you have a defense date scheduled, or hell, wait until you have the degree in hand, but there are enough cases of success without the degree in hand (but almost done) to keep me from going all the way.

Why is this important? You have no idea who else you are competing against (well, after reading this blog, you have some idea). A typical competitor may have had a TT job or a VAP for a couple of years and 3 or 4 good pubs. Additionally, what most grad students don't understand is that when you haven't finished the diss (or are REALLY close to being finished) is that they way you talk about the diss, answer questions about it, almost always shows that you aren't done. The way your letters come across shows that your ideas are not quite as good as they need to be. When you are done or close to done, questions about the diss are easy most of the time, and you'll be able to assess its value and scope much more effectively. ABDs just smell green

So, the bottom line is that if you don't have the PhD in hand with a couple of good pubs, you should expect not to do very well. Should you apply to jobs before that point? That's up to you--you could luck out. But, the odds are against you, and there are serious costs. I thought I could just toss my hat into the ring and it wouldn't be a huge burden. I was wrong.

But for some practical advice about how to avoid the shock of learning everything about the market once it's almost too late, see Brian Keeley's advice about how to plan one's time in graduate school, year by year to prepare you for the gauntlet. I would only stress that since the time he wrote it, publishing has become much more important.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

Actually, one of the best things that can happen to you is to get a paper accepted right after the job deadlines. Then you get to send a letter or postcard to all the places you applied asking them to update your application. this can really make you app stand out. I'm not kidding. I've been on SCs, and when you see a little postcard paperclipped to the CV, and the postcard says "I just got this paper into phil studies," or whatever" it really impresses.

marketeer said...

totally offtopic, but just got a priceless PFO from waterloo, in which they told me they it was hard work but forgot the "fuck off" part.

"dear -

This letter is to inform you that we have now concluded the hiring process for the position for which you applied. We had a large number of applicants, the excellent quality of which made it extremely hard for us to arrive at a decision. Please be assured that every application was seriously deliberated."

And a signoff. It's not even passive voice, since there is no moment in which they mention something along the lines of "and you didn't make the cut" Obviously, I know this, but to not even say it is cowardly.

Anonymous said...

Publications and other things that make you stand out are important. I come from a nominally ranked department. This is my second year on the market. I am doing a VAP this year. This year I had offers for two phone interviews, 6 APAs, and 5 flyouts. So far, I have had one job offer (I've only completed two flyouts so far).

I believe that this year has been a good one for me for several reasons. 1) My VAP gave me experience appealing for SGs looking at my cv; including opportunities of teaching a 'specialty' intro course. 2) I had publications before hitting the market this year and last, as well as paper presented at very visible conferences. 3) Good letters from folks well respected in the field. 4) Excellent teaching evaluations. 5) Having a well carved out specific niche (in terms of the kinds of school that I would appeal to) rather than a generic identity. This contributes to the 'setting onself out' aspect of the application. 6) Finally, I am definately an advocate of a specific and pointed cover letter. I belive that it makes it seem less like a 'give me a job letter' and more like a 'I'm perfect for this job' letter. Don't be bedazzled by the high end particularities of the market. Teaching is vital to the majority of the entry-level jobs. Making things personal is always important rathre than holding on to notions of 'raw talent' or 'Lieterificality'.

Granted, I did not attract the attention of those at Lieterific schools, but this is not a particular focus of mine at this point in my career. howeve, I have attracted attention of 3-3 and good 4-4 teaching load schools (I know some of you will say that 'good' and '4-4 teaching load' are not compatible, but I disagree).

Anyway, I thought that I'd share my experiences with you all at this time and I wish all other fellow searchers the very best.

Sisyphus said...

Yeah, you gotta try, you gotta get stuff out there --- even I knew that.

What I didn't know was that the response times people were quoting me of 6 months were actually *optimistic* for a lot of journals in my field, and that while a revise and resubmit *is* a good sign (particularly if there were relatively small changes and encouraging comments), you could easily have another 6 mos. to turnaround, and that it's hard to actually document R&Rs on a CV.

So, go go go, cohort of future job seekers! Just be warned that the pieces you are setting into place may not pay off until the following year's job search. That's no reason to put it off though.

Anonymous said...

Getting publications is important, but it's also important not to let success in that area blind you to just how competitive the market is. I got a number of publications before finishing grad school - in respectable places too (not top journals, mind you, but good ones). I also made sure my dissertation was done - and well done - before going on the market for the first time. Despite these apparent advantages, the result was fuck all - less than a handful of interviews at places without grad programs and no flyouts at all. That was really disheartening. Though I wouldn't venture to give any hard and fast advice based on my experience alone, one thing I decided to do was to do my damndest to publish in better places.

It can be tough to decide what to do when you're still in grad school, given the time constraints (it takes a while to even come up with work worth sending out and once you're at that point you have to worry about how long the journals will take and whether you'll be able to get anything out there before graduation time comes). While avoiding top journals is tempting, given worries about the possibility of getting jerked around - how long they might take and how much revision they might want - getting published in lesser journals might not do all that much for you (and they can still jerk you around - they certainly did that to me). Of course there's the whole question of what's top (or at least good enough) and what's not. Who the hell knows? Honestly, I'm still not sure. All I know is that I have to keep going.

It takes a lot to compete with people coming out of postdocs or a series of one-years who have had time to amass a decent list of publications and other qualifications - not to mention the ABDs from fancy schools who can breeze through this process (comparatively speaking) and end up with amazing jobs. The market's not a gauntlet - it's a fucking meat grinder. For most of us: you have to start planning from the get-go, work your ass off for a long time, endure a lot of shit and even then you still have to be prepared for utter failure - or, if you're not quite so unlucky, having to work your way out of jobs you're unhappy with. If I'd known that six years ago, I doubt I would've bothered, but that's the way it goes.

Anonymous said...

Why do people keep writing "SG" as short for "Search Committee"? "G" doesn't appear anywhere in there. Or is it short for something else?

Anonymous said...

Marketeer -- who did Waterloo hire?

Anonymous said...


I think there's something wrong with your screen. no one is writing "SG."

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to tell Second Suitor to give up now and just apply to law school. After all, I'm really depressed right now with how the season's gone. But the fact is, it isn't tough for everyone, and not all the golden boys come out of the Leiterrific departments. So advice about publishing now is good for SS, but to tell the truth, I'd add that he shouldn't read this blog too much more until, oh, January of next year.

It's good for people who are already stuck in the meat grinder, as catharsis, and for undergrads and 1st and 2nd year grad students because they can still profit from our advice. But when you're going on the market you've got to be optimistic. In part because it keeps you sane and helps you write and keeps your loved ones sane. But also because SCs can smell blood, and fear, and last minute puke, and desperation. Oh yeah, I was trying to be encouraging. The point is, at this point SS has no reason not to be optimistic, and if he can be optimistic and wise, that's the best, but for a lot of people optimistic (and kind of bathed for the interview) might be enough.

As for the rest of you: Anon 11:05 is so worried about failure that he thinks no one should ever try. Fuck that. Anon 11:58 really did mistype "SC". Let's drag him out and beat him for it (irony, irony). Sisyphus is talking about her experience with some journals, and that's fine. I've always heard back from journals in 6-12 weeks, so your experience may vary from hers, or mine.

Anonymous said...

As for Waterloo, my understanding is that no one made the cut. The search was cancelled.

Anonymous said...

no one made the cut? What were they looking for? Or was it a funding cut? (I guess the PFO won't say).

akratic irishman said...

anonymous 11:05 am said: "My advice for those of you not yet on the market is to keep this in mind: You shouldn't go out there until you are absolutely ready."

This is spot on. I made the mistake of going on the market too early 5.5 years ago. My dissertation was still taking shape (only the first two chapters of five were well developed) and I had no publications. I had only one campus visit (no interviews at the APA, just a campus interview/visit at a Canadian university) and it was a complete, soul-destroying disaster. It rapidly became clear to the interviewing committee that I was not ready for prime time.

Around May I managed to get a 3-year contract teaching job at an excellent institution, which made me rush the completion of my dissertation over the summer. As a consequence, my dissertation was not nearly as polished as it could have been, and thus not ripe for easily squeezing out a couple of articles. Writing articles thus took a lot more effort than it should have at this stage of my career, when I was busy with teaching. (I think that, ideally, you should be able to mine your dissertation for 1-3 articles within two years after defending.) Consequently, I didn't get anything published until 2.5 years after defending my dissertation.

Now, after two temporary jobs (both 3-year contracts at good places, but non-TT nonetheless) I've finally achieved my goal of a TT-job at a good department (2-2 course load, focus on research, etc.) in a good city. However, I'm sure that this road would have been much shorter had I not gone on the market prematurely, and instead had worked more on my dissertation and getting an article or two out there. Had I taken one more year at graduate school to do these things, my life over the past 5.5 years would likely have been quite different.

In short, if in doubt about, take an extra year to get the dissertation in shape and a publication -- or at least something credibly 'under review' (even listing articles 'under review' on your cv conveys the impression that you're serious about publishing).

Anonymous said...

I have also been confused when people write "SG". And it has happened numerous times. In fact, it has happened so many times that that is exactly why I also assumed there was some alternate name for search committees that I was unaware of: it seemed unlikely that so many people were all making the same mistake (it's not like the keys are next to each other). So the person asking was not at all being a dick, while the smartasses who responded almost certainly were.

VAP said...

Discussion after my ethics course:

Serious Undergrad: Have you heard of this job market blog.
VAP: Uh yeah.
SU: Is it really that bad.
VAP: Yeah, it is.
SU: Oh
/looks heartbroken
VAP: Sorry, but it's rough
/returns look

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:56 said

"As for the rest of you: Anon 11:05 is so worried about failure that he thinks no one should ever try. Fuck that. Anon 11:58 really did mistype "SC". Let's drag him out and beat him for it (irony, irony). Sisyphus is talking about her experience with some journals, and that's fine. I've always heard back from journals in 6-12 weeks, so your experience may vary from hers, or mine."

I (as Anon 11:05) did not say no one should try. In fact, I said it may be more rational to try as often as possible, but one should realize this comes with a financial and psychological cost that spills over into getting work done. Do you want to guarantee you won't be able to finish the diss? Here's a good way to guarantee that--apply prematurely!

As for the claims that one might hear from journals at 6-12 weeks, I can't stress enough that this is exceedingly rare. Like the market--you could luck out, but...just don't assume it is guaranteed to be finalized anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Smartasses?? Here??! Say it ain't so, mammy. (Philosophers are so predicatable.)

Anonymous said...

Question for any SC (or SG) members still out there after all the flaming etc. I'm surprised more offers haven't been made. I was surprised how many on-campus interviews were scheduled really early (still in December, even) and I assumed this meant a lot of schools were trying to beat each other out in getting offers out. But Leiter only lists 5 acceptances, and I think people are likely to advertise new hires promptly there. Judging by last year, next week should come with a flood of posts on his list. Can anyone weigh in on where they are in their processes, or thoughts on the relative timing of interview scheduling, interview flyouts, offers, acceptances? Thanks

cw said...

Many journals do not respond as quickly as they ought to, or even as quickly as they say they will. But it's not unusual to get an initial response from a journal in 6-10 weeks. I've had to wait longer than that once (12 weeks) only once. I know this makes me lucky, in some eyes, but my point is not that this always happens, but that it can and not infrequently does happen. That said, the initial response is just the initial response -- if it's r/r or even accepted, what happens next can take a long time.

Check out the Philosophy Journal Information wiki (and add your experiences), or the occasional Leiter thread before submitting.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I don't know the details about Waterloo, except that they are rerunning the search next year with a different ad. How different? No idea.

One thing worth adding about journal turnaround is that authors play a larger role in determining how long the process takes than you might think. When I was first out with my Ph.D. I sent articles out into the void, waiting (sometimes as long as a year) to hear back. I was simply too hesitant to send inquiries. When I finally did, I found out that either (a) a rejection had been already sent and I didn't get it, or (b) the paper had been lost and they hadn't bothered to tell me. Both of these happened twice -- and at journals people consider top notch.

I realize editors might not be happy about this advice, but I do think sending an inquiry after ten weeks is perfectly legitimate. In some cases, the response email has come with the decision (both positive and negative, though usually revise and resubmit). In other cases, the editor has fired off emails to referees and kick started the process. If that email doesn't move things along, give them four weeks and send another. The sooner you know, the better.

I can't think this harms your chances -- no one has ever responded angrily or testily -- and in virtually all cases it has sped up the process.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:00,

Many places have made offers, but the acceptance of that offer is likely to be delayed by both (i) other positions that the candidate interviewed at but hasn't heard back from and (ii) the time devoted to negotiating a final contract with the relevant dean or administrator once the initial offer has been made.

I also know that some of the offers indicated on the wiki are announced there on the basis of a verbal offer from the department; getting the offer in writing from the dean (or whomever) can take another week. And people would be illadvised to formally accept without the offer and writing and then negotiating

fwiw said...

I had an on-campus a couple of years ago. I was one of three, and I came in third. My on-campus visit was first. So, week 0, I had my visit, and week 2, the last philosopher visited. The department took a week to make its decision, after the on-campuses were concluded, then contacted their first choice (week 3). They asked Dr. First to respond w/in two weeks. Dr. First used up all of that time, and then (week 5) asked for two more weeks, since she was waiting to hear from someone else. They really wanted Dr. First, so they gave her the extra time. In the end, though, Dr. First got her better offer, and so turned them down (week 7). Dr. Second was then contacted, and she too was given two weeks to respond. Dr. Second finally accepted (week 9).

This is when I was finally contacted. Had Dr. Second not accepted, the school would have contacted me, and given me two weeks to make up my mind. Instead, they told me (finally) that the search was over.

This school did not keep me informed, but, since I can count, I had some idea what was probably going on. In response to my email requests for more information, they said only that "things are progressing, only more slowly than we hoped."

My point is not to complain though. I'm describing a situation in which it took a school fully 9 weeks to let me know that they had made an offer to someone, and why it took so long.

inquiring mind said...

Can anyone weigh in on where they are in their processes, or thoughts on the relative timing of interview scheduling, interview flyouts, offers, acceptances?

I am trying to decide between three offers. But for all of you out there who think these decisions are easy and that those of us fortunate enough to be in such a situation should just get on with it, trust me, it ain't easy. There are many factors to consider, many non-professional considerations to weigh, etc. I'm trying to make the best decision ASAP, but, given all of the information that must be taken into account and all of the conversations that need to be had (e.g., with the spouse), it'll take at least a week.

Anonymous said...

I started grad school at a (very good but) bottom-ranked department. Let's call it 'Department A'. Their advice, literally from week two, was: start now thinking about presenting at conferences and publishing, especially the latter. That was the best advice they could have possibly given me, and the best time they could have given it to me.

So, here's the story since then: I later moved much further up the Leiter report to another school, let's call it 'School B'. This season, one chapter away from a dissertation, I went on the job market. My CV had six publications and a bunch of conference items. On the market, I had many interviews at the APA, several on-campus interviews, and now have one job offer at a very good school.

A natural thing to think: 'Sure, anonymous, but you said you were coming out of the higher-ranked school B, not the lower school A.' Yes, 'tis true, and I have no doubt that helped me on the job market. But my publication record also helped a lot -- I know it did with the offer I have right now, as SC member came right out and told me so. (To compare: to my knowledge, no one else at school B has an offer yet this year, nor had the number of interviews I did. So there is at least some evidence that my experience is not solely a function of being from school B.)

And -- and here's the important bit -- all of those six publications were at least begun when I was still at school A, and some of them had been accepted by their final resting places before I even applied to school B. I've still tried to publish, etc., since coming to school B, and I have a number of pieces under review. But none of them have been accepted yet, so if I hadn't been thinking about and trying to publish things from day one (well, week two) at school A, my CV would have had zero publications rather than six.

Why start so soon, and why does it take so long? Two reasons. First, despite what some people's experiences here to the contrary, unless you're sending a paper to Analysis you can expect between four and six months for an initial report -- and if it's R&R, that's another four to six months. And that's if the journal is responsible -- I have one (still unpublished) paper that languished two years at one journal before rejection, and another that went a full year at a different journal before its eventual rejection. (And yes, I did pester both with e-mails during the wait(s).)

The second, related reason to start publishing early is that the secret to publishing isn't being a super-hotshot or anything like that. It is this: collect rejection letters. I haven't counted, but have at least four rejections for every paper accepted.

Put those two facts together, and it can easily take four or five years to get a paper accepted for publication -- especially when you factor in time spent to write the paper in the first place or make revisions in light of referee's comments, etc.

Of course, as Second Suitor points out, for a lot of people on the market right now, this info would have been a lot more useful five or six years go. I'm extremely grateful to school A for being upfront about this, and think it's kind of scandalous that other schools aren't. So I'm partly saying all this for the benefit of those who are still a few years out -- you really need to be thinking about this now. But I'm also saying it in the hopes that it lends some support to the optimistic claims by people more experienced than I that, even if things aren't going fantastically now, a good focus now on publishing , with a VAP or two to fill in the time gaps, can still produce a great outcome in the long run.

Anonymous said...

>Can anyone weigh in on where they are in their processes, or thoughts on the relative timing of interview scheduling, interview flyouts, offers, acceptances?

I have two offers, but I am not finished with flyouts. And I know that one of my flyouts is not going to make offers until the second or third week of March. (Sorry.)

Anonymous said...

Hey, don't apologize if you have multiple offers. First of all, you don't owe me anything. Second, yes, I'd kick you in the nads if I met you, but so what? And third, the more people have multiple offers, the more searches may go to a second round of flyouts or postpone their searches (which would give the rest of us a chance).

Anonymous said...

I am in a situation in which there are two universities (1 and 2) and two applicants (A and B).

Both universities interviewed both applicants. Preferences are as follows:

University A:
First choice - applicant 1
Second choice - applicant 2

University B:
First choice - applicant 2
Second choice - applicant 1

Applicant 1:
First choice - university B
Second choice - university A

Applicant 2:
First choice - university A
Second choice - university B

A has given an offer to 1 and B to 2. If either 1 or 2 refuse, then everything will get resolved to the applicant's advantages. If 1 refused A, then A will give 2 an offer, 2 will accept A's offer and 2 will withdraw from B, and then B will give 1 an offer, which she will accept.

My question, would it be appropriate for applicant 1 to get in touch with 2 to discuss this plan? In this situation, the applicants know who the second choices are and the universities have stated that they will give the second choice an offer if they are turned down. I'm just afraid that getting in contact will be considered inappropriate or awkward.

Anonymous said...

Good question, 2:36 PM.

First, somewhat relatedly, this could be mistaken for a Prisoners' Dilemma, but I'm assuming there's at least cordial trust between 1 and 2 (or at least not distrust). This would be an interesting scenario to explore if, say, 1 and 2 were mortal enemies (like the world's foremost Proust scholar vs. the number two from "Little Miss Sunshine").

I don't see a moral problem with the scenario you posited. Though it gives some advantage to the applicants, the hiring process is so lopsided to begin with that even this doesn't balance the process. If schools A and B were to work together, however, that would amount to collusion and unethical (to the extent collusion is bad).

Even if it feels awkward, I'm sure candidate 2 would appreciate it; that's a small price to pay for your dream job. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

"A has given an offer to 1 and B to 2. If either 1 or 2 refuse, then everything will get resolved to the applicant's advantages. If 1 refused A, then A will give 2 an offer, 2 will accept A's offer and 2 will withdraw from B, and then B will give 1 an offer, which she will accept.

My question, would it be appropriate for applicant 1 to get in touch with 2 to discuss this plan? In this situation, the applicants know who the second choices are and the universities have stated that they will give the second choice an offer if they are turned down. I'm just afraid that getting in contact will be considered inappropriate or awkward."

I'm just a grad student, so what do I know, but I would *not* turn down an offer unless you can discuss the situation with the other candidate (first) AND both universities (after you get in contact with the other candidate). You don't want to take the risk that the other applicant will accept, or the 2ndd offer won't come through, or whatever!

Also, I think it's totally not weird to talk to the other candidate. She can always refuse the contact if she doesn't want to talk about it, but it is clearly in her advantage to talk to you as well.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd be nuts to turn down an offer on the assumption that everything is then going to work out perfectly for both applicants if you do. Who are you to assume you know for certain who the second choice of the university is! This could change anyway, even if you think you know!

You can never know for sure who will be extended an offer after the first choice declines.

Crazy talk, I say.