Monday, February 18, 2008

I've Been Working from Seven to Eleven Every Night, It Kind of Makes Life a Drag

Motivation's hard to come by right now. I've been scraping enough of it together, day to day, to get some work done. But it's not coming easily. I've been managing by trying to keep a pretty steady eye on my dissertation and trying as hard as I can not to think about the job market. Actually writing philosophy feels alright, even if it's slow and painful in its own way.

But the job market's back. Deadline's are coming. I've been putting off dealing with some stray post-doc applications, because, right now, thinking about the job market makes me feel like an unqualified failure, too beat down to think a clear thought. But they couldn't be put off any more, so I started them today.

I got some shit done that needed to get done, but I can't work on any of these application without feeling a bodily, physical sense of revulsion. It's like my body's trying to get me stop, because it feels like it's taken enough punishment from this shit already.

Fuck, I hate doing applications.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

If you have questions about teaching school applications, please let me know... It is about the time community colleges do their hiring...

Anonymous said...

No, deadlines are coming!!

And you left the s off applications.

Anonymous said...

I find that the more applications I get out, the easier they become because I can cannibalize previous apps for body parts. Maybe that'll make it a little less unpleasant?

Or maybe this will make you feel better. I got a rejection today that said "Our search was inconclusive and we hope to conduct it again next year under a slightly different description." Inconclusive? What the hell does that mean, other than that I may have another shot at it next year?

Anonymous said...

No, the angst is over for another year. Forget about the market (even while still sending out applications). Go back to your original love, philosophy. Get tons of work done on your dissertation so that next year (if nothing comes this year), you'll be able to hit the market knowing that you dissertation is well in hand. You love doing the dissertation, so think only of that. You know that it is not personal about not pulling off a coup on the market this year; it is only a function of your inexperience, etc.

Mark said...

Keep plugging. You never know when something will connect and then you are off! It happened to me--- I was from a really good second-tier program. There was an application to a really sweet 1-year gig. I was not going to apply--- "there is no way I am getting this position" [at a top-tier school] was my thought...if I had surrended to exhaustion and not put that in... and this was after being getting one interview on the (other) APA job market.. I would have not gotten that position and spent an excellent year at that place and launched my career. Keep plugging.

Anonymous said...

This is completely off topic, but would it be possible to get a thread going for prospective grad students (other than, don't do it because you can't get a job)? It's that time of year for us when we have to choose between programs, and since this site is the home to quite a few knowledgeable grads, any help would be appreciated. What questions should we ask (and what questions should we ask the grad students there)? What to do on a campus visit, etc. Other than funding and placement (the obvious questions), what do you *wish* you had asked when deciding where to go? And even more helpful would be, how honest do grads/faculty tend to be when answering these sorts of questions?

~potential philosopher

Anonymous said...

Just get your phd assuming you are very close to finishing, and move on to some other more lucrative field!!

Don't waste your life making ten cents a year working super hard!

Enjoy life. Make money, use your marketable skills, and continue to do philosophy, publish, etc. You can still be a philosopher.

It is not worth expending so much energy for ten cents a year and being poor.

Just my two cents.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Potential philosopher,

This advice might be too late for you, or maybe you won't find it helpful, but here's my answer to the question what do I wish I had known/asked.

As an undergrad it's hard to read enough by the various profs in the various schools that are strong in the field you're interested in. So a terminal MA is great in philosophy, and there's really little downside. You get the time to start specializing, as well as filling in any gaps. You get references from a wider range of profs, and you learn something about how parochial your undergrad program was (most are). Most of all, you get a couple of years to read more widely and figure out who you'd really like to work with. It also makes you more competitive at PhD schools, and if you're applying to PhD programs straight out of college, it gives you a good safety school option. If you can figure out how to fund it, it might not be too late to apply to MA programs in the UK or Australia even if you just applied to PhD programs so far this year (Canadian deadlines might have passed this month, I think).

Also, try to talk to as many grad students and recent grads as you can. I think it's not unreasonable to send cold emails to recent grads (you can find them listed on the dept's website, or by searching for dissertations in the university's online library catalog). I'd suggest you have a short paragraph explaining why you're writing (you've got several acceptances and you're trying to choose between them) then explain a little about your background and interests, and ask the person whether they think you'd find school X a good fit, or if they know anything about Y or Z where you've also been accepted. Don't ask "did you get along with your advisor" type questions, but you might find some of them will volunteer this sort of info. I wouldn't be offended getting this sort of an email, and while you might bat 1/4 for getting answers, recent grads are probably your best bet for getting the scoop on a dept.

Anonymous said...

dear potential philosopher,
anyone still reading this blog has just got pummeled on the job market. please take your shiny-faced optimism elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:51

Ask about specific supervisors -- and ask specific questions about the sort of support they give (for the dissertation, for publications, and for job applications). Departmental placement records are great, but a lot rides on your supervisor's ability to promote you.

As for funding, make sure you understand what your commitments will be as far as TAing or RAing goes: these can vary considerably, and can take up large amounts of your time.

Anonymous said...

anyone still reading this blog has just got pummeled on the job market. please take your shiny-faced optimism elsewhere

That's why this is the perfect place to ask. It's people who've had a rough time on the market that will tell you what they wish they'd done when choosing departments (and getting started in the program). I appreciate the helpful comments from anon 10:11 and 10:18. Too late for a masters, and you're right in that I *wish* I knew more about the people at the departments I'm looking at. I think emailing current grads is a good idea, and I'll be sure to do that. I'll be sure to ask about support as well. Thanks.

~potential philosopher

(sorry for the double post, accidentally hit the trash thing)

Anonymous said...

Usually I like to kick people when they're down, with a "I told you so" on the way out...but this has just become way too sad. I hope you land the job (or whatever it is) that will make you happy. Being depressed all the time is too much work.

To prospective grad student:

While you're in the exploratory phase, also take stock of your other strengths and interests to hatch a backup plan in case you want to quit philosophy after the MA level. If finding a tenure-track job at a respectable school will be important to you in the future (i.e., if you're not independently wealthy or don't have some great backup plan that can be easily implemented), then stick to the Leiter-ranked schools.

I entered a PhD program at a L-ranked school without ANY idea of what I was planning to do with it or even what area of philosophy I wanted to focus on. (I just liked the location.) But I knew that, worst case, it still would be personally fulfilling to "go all the way" with academic philosophy. Even if you work in the biz world, a PhD still commands respect (maybe unless it's in Continental philosophy, French poetry, etc.).

Happily, I ended up with a tenure-track job despite not having much of a plan, but that's also because I've always been lucky like that and trust my destiny. If you're a risk-taking kind of guy or gal, give it a shot!

Anonymous said...

Okay everyone; chin up. I started reading this blog just post-APA, where I got to see all of my friends rock their interviews and just in general rule in everything. While I'm not a cheerleader by any means, I must echo--if for no other reason than to remind myself--that your worth as a human being and viable philosophy scholar has little to nothing to do with your success as a candidate, especially the first time around.

Most everyone here (on this blog) has proven to be articulate and thoughtful, and that's even in cyberspace, where loyalty isn't required and friendship doesn't mean much. I don't find these postings self-loathing or pity-filled, which is a sentiment I'm gathering from other threads here; rather, they're thoughtful commentaries on the state of academic philosophy in a world that by and large doesn't care what we do.

I write this post because I'm discouraged by how some people in this blog seem to speak only to how self-serving or undeserving all of you are, which is certainly not the case (at least not for all of you!). Philosophy is tough, it will always be tough, but less so because of the at-large world opposing the very notion of a philosophical life than because of the practical problems that those engaged in such a life come up against. (We all already know what the world at large thinks of us.) Thus, to me, the nit-picking and such is negligible in light of the overall purpose of this blog: to commiserate with others in similar positions, and to reflect thoughtfully on this whole crappy process of vying for jobs, which probably everyone here deserves.

So good luck to all. Really. I'm rooting for you.

Anonymous said...

"Even if you work in the biz world, a PhD still commands respect."

Not true, I'm afraid. When I did my MBA, I was urged by a number of people (career counselors, alums who got good jobs and knew industry) not to list my PhD on my resume. My response was "but that would leave an eight year gap on my resume, wouldn't that be worse" and the response was a consistent NO. There's a lot of prejudice in many fields against PhDs. I've heard the same thing from friends with professional PhDs. It's sometimes better as an engineer or statistician not to have a doctorate.

Potential philosopher (and undergrads/MA students generally): you might consider, if you're not dead set on an academic career, stopping before or after the MA and getting a couple of years of work experience. This might convince you that you want nothing to do with anything outside the ivory tower, but it also gives you some experience and lines on your resume that you can fall back on if you end up going through the grad school ringer and have no career to show for it in the end. There's no difference between being PhD'd at 28 or at 33. The clock starts once you get the degree. You don't want to get the degree in your 40s, but otherwise a couple of years here or there makes no difference.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:01 said " Even if you work in the biz world, a PhD still commands respect (maybe unless it's in Continental philosophy, French poetry, etc.)."

Yes, exactly, people in the "biz world" know a lot about the distinction between continental and analytic philosophy and know that the former is crap while the latter indicates that you are chock full of skills transferable to the marketplace. How astute! [And how fondly I remember the work in Nike's human resource office which demanded that I take a position on whether vagueness was linguistic or ontological.] Also, all "biz people" know that studying French poetry is unworthy of respect because, hey, who would ever think that studying poetry from other languages and culture might give one research skills, reflect analytic prowess, or provide some insight into culture? Those biz people sure know a lot, maybe even as much as you do...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words regarding terminal M.A. programs. One small correction, though:

If you can figure out how to fund it, it might not be too late to apply to MA programs in the UK or Australia even if you just applied to PhD programs so far this year (Canadian deadlines might have passed this month, I think).

Actually, a lot of U.S. terminal M.A. programs have later deadlines too (around April or so), so that they catch applications from people who were overconfident about being able to get directly into a highly-ranked Ph.D. program and are looking for a backup plan.

Anonymous said...

Question for MA Program Faculty Member:

If people apply to terminal MA programs at this point, are they likely to still be in the running for TAships, fellowships, out-of-state tuition, or any other source of funding besides loans or work-study?

As a grad of a Leiter-ranked terminal MA, I'd advise students to think carefully about going into debt at the MA level because a lot of people take on some debt in the latter stages of the PhD, plus a PhD program is long enough that the interest will really build up. That said, I'm the guy who mentioned the UK, and I think people have fund themselves for so-called "taught master's courses" there. US terminal MA programs are probably cheaper because of travel costs, cost of living (except Tufts), and the dollar-pound exchange rate. Also, in the US there may be the possibility of getting funded in the second year of a 2-year MA (I knew someone who that happened to, though it may not be common).

Anonymous said...

Dear potential philosopher:

Here's my unfettered two cents.

1) I think the advice on doing an MA first is sound. But do not under any circumstances take on any additional debt for an MA in philosophy.

2) Whether you're in an MA or a Ph.D. program, do a bang-up job your first year. Especially, especially make sure you have no incompletes by start of year #2.

3) In the fall of year #2, whether you're in an MA or a PhD program, begin applying for other things: law school, PhD programs you think you might like better, jobs in industry that you might find intriguing. Do NOT ask yourself whether you would like doing these things more than staying where you are now. Just apply for some things. Create some options for yourself.

4) When you get an offer for something else, only THEN ask yourself if you'd rather stay where you are. Also, ask your faculty for an honest assessment of your prospects as a professional philosopher before making a final decision. NB: You may not want your (current) faculty to know that you're applying for other things, though. You have to be careful with this. If it comes up somehow (or if you want to ask one of them for a letter), make sure your outside applications are not portrayed/interpreted as the result of dissatisfaction with where you are.

5) Keep in mind the following: the median time to degree for a Ph.D., across all fields, is 7.5 years (and that ignores leaves of absence). (Source: Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients.) The APA claims that the "average" time for a Ph.D. in philosophy is 7 years.

6) Do ask about TA and RA loads, as others have advised.

7) If all else is equal (or even almost equal), go to the school that has overall (not just in philosophy) the better reputation. Anecdotally, this helps you on the job market, even though perhaps it shouldn't. It will also help your resume if you do end up leaving philosophy. And it increases the odds that you will find intellectual peers outside the philosophy department, which is a valuable thing. Similarly, if all else is equal or nearly equal, choose the geographic location you would most prefer (and/or where you think you would be most likely to meet people outside the department/university that you could relate to).

8) Ask (current or recent grad students) about how the department's budget situation has changed recently, as well as what the future looks like. If dollars have been getting tighter in a place, they might continue getting tighter.

9) Look very, very seriously at a department's placement record. No matter how brilliant you are as an individual, you will carry that department's "brand name" when you go on the market.

10) In general, I would place more weight on a program's overall ranking than on rankings in specific sub-fields. Your own interests may well change, and faculty often move anyway.

11) Give a lot of weight to a top-5 program over others, and a lot of weight to a top-25 program over others. Also consider the length and history of a program's ranking. NYU, Princeton, and Rutgers never seem to leave the top 3, but a fair number of schools bounce in and out of the top 10 or the top 25.

11) Ask recent grads, "If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?"

Anonymous said...

First-year on the market, ABD but defending in April. I had one APA interview this year that didn't pan out. Then I start to get e-mails from schools that had post-APA deadlines asking if I'm still interested in their positions. THEN I find out that I'm on short lists for three of these positions, all TT. I have a phone interview with one of them tomorrow. Also, I've been interviewed for one CC job, so those are starting to roll in now too.

Point: The schools that interviewed at APA are starting to fill their positions (or cancel their searches) so the candidate pool is shrinking. Schools that had post-APA application deadlines are starting to bite, as are community colleges... Then there's all the positions to which I applied post-APA which have February and March deadlines... Then there's the jobs that will be posted in tomorrow's JFP... Still a lot of prospects out there, people. In lieu of mass search cancellations, a lot of us who were passed over in the proverbial "first round" will end up with SOMETHING. It may not be a TT job, but there are a lot of good positions that are neither TT nor limited term - full-time renewable lecturerships, for example, and CC jobs. Sure, the teaching loads for a lot of these jobs will be high, but it's not impossible to do research with a big course load if you're committed enough... and the teaching experience can go a long way too, for myriad professional and person reasons. So let's stop acting like we're living in some sort of post-apocalyptic world in which all hope is lost. There's no reason to start crying in your beer until at least June.

Anonymous said...

At our program, at least, you can still get funding (assistantships etc.) with little problem, although the longer you wait, the lower your chances get.

Even if you apply pretty late you'd probably still have a shot. What happens at a lot of places is that all of the aid packages are promised to people by date X (say March 1). But folks who apply after that date can still get wait-listed for aid, and if they're really good, put at the top of the list.

Then, as people turn down the assistantship offer from Terminal M.A. U (because they've just been moved from waitlist to acceptance at Ohio State U), Terminal M.A. U might give somebody an aid offer on April 13 or so.

Anonymous said...

I think the advice offered by MA Program Faculty Member and anon 12:02 is spot-on. I'd offer an extra caveat, though.

If you enroll in an MA program, keep this fact at the front of your brain at all times: You do not have two years, even though it's a two-year program. You will be sending out applications over the winter break of your second year, which means that you'll be preparing applications, personal statements, writing samples, etc during the fall of your second year, which means that nothing you do during that second year will be seen by any Ph.D. admissions officer, which means that none of it will have any impact on where you end up. Instead, you must rock the shit out of your first year. Get to know all the faculty. Make sure they know who you are and know your work. Make sure you do excellent work. Be your program's best student that year.

Anonymous said...

The people who say "ask about TA loads" are fucking cherries. Sorry, that's how I see it. At a well-ranked state uni I had a TA load of 6 courses per semester (up to 150 students per term), whereas at an Ivy Plus school I had 1 section per term. Which do you think was more helpful when I taught a 4-4 load as a VAP? Heavy loads teach you how to manage your teaching obligations, how to get good teaching done on a schedule, and are great preparation for the rest of your career. I think a heavy teaching load is one of the best things you can get in grad school.

As for location: do keep in mind that graduates of southern schools generally end up teaching the south, so unless that's for you be forewarned. I don't think that's as much the case for coastal or midwest schools, but it is true for Catholic schools and, I suspect, schools in highly rural or urban areas (U of Wyoming or Bates College might look favorably on a Colorado grad, and CUNY might prefer Penn to Cornell, rankings notwithstanding).