Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I'd Like to Shake Your Hand, Disappointment

I've mentioned before how discouraging it is to be doing spring applications. I keep thinking about how my senior profs talk about one-years. Way back when I was a first-year, Evil Columbo was talking to a few of us first-years about how to think about the job market. He said post-docs could be a respectable way to spend a year, if the market was really bad your first year out. Post-docs weren't respectable unless the market was really bad. And if you had to do more than one, that was bad too. His exact words were--yes, I can remember them--"fresh PhDs get dog-eared pretty fast." Message received. The longer we were out without tenure-track jobs, the less likely we'd be to get them. In the entire conversation about respectable routes to a tenure-track job, I don't remember one-years coming up even once.

Now, Evil Columbo's a buffoon, so what he thinks isn't hard to shake out of my head. A lot harder to shake is a conversation I had with my supervisor, the Professor, about a year ago, just after I got killed on the market the first time.

We were sitting in his office, talking about, well, how I'd completely fucking failed. At some point I asked him if I should be thinking about applying to one-years. The gist of what he said was, since I didn't need to finish my dissertation, I shouldn't worry too much about it and the department could probably find some work for me to do to pay my rent. He talked about how much it sucks to pick up and move your entire life for a single year. And, yeah, I hear that. But the Professor's exact words in this conversation were, "Generally, I don't think one-years are worth it."

Not "worth it." Those are the jobs I'm applying for right now. The one's that aren't worth it.

The Professor's moderated that kind of language this year. At least, he has when he's talking to me. I appreciate that kindness. But I also remember how he talked to me about one-years when he could say what he thought without having to bite his tongue. I can dismiss what a lot of people say about one-years, but the Professor's my supervisor. There's no way for what he says not to matter to me. So applying to one-years feels like shit.


Anonymous said...

If your advisors are anything like mine were, then a lot of their advice is not worth much. You see, the advisors at grad programs tend to give advice for how to get a job at a school with a strong grad program. But if your grad program places most of its people in undergrad teaching colleges and universities, then the advice they give is next to useless.

My supervisor set up a mock APA interview for me. I was grilled about my research, for a long time. Then I went to the APA and was asked about teaching--you know, how do you teach to diverse students, what is the biggest mistake you made as a teacher, etc. etc. The mock interview did me no good; if Harvard, or Pitt, or UCLA was going to interview me, then I would have been prepared. But of course, they did not call.

As someone who has been on four search committees in the last 6 years, I can say that in each search, independent teaching experience counted for a lot. Without it, we would not even consider your file--it went in the reject pile, no matter what your research was like. VAPs don't get you jobs; but a lack of full-time teaching experience at a place independent of your grad program can loose you a job.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same boat, although there are still a few possible TT jobs floating around. My impression--and the one given by my advisor--is that it just depends on how you spend the year--whether you get more work done, possibly develop some new classes--i.e. get more "experience." I've met too many people with TT jobs that did one or more one-years to discount this. A big dilemma I might face, however, is whether a particular one-year job would be a better gig than a particular TT job (e.g. a one-year at a Leiterrific school or a respectable SLAC, or a TT job at Crappy State U that only recently became a BA-granting institution).

As I have a family (an SO & one young child), instincts favor the TT, but ambition favors the VAP.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's very hard lifestyle-wise, but one-years can be worth a *ton*, both in terms of helping you be better at what will ultimately be your first tenure-track job and in terms of helping you get that first tenure-track job. Many TT hiring committees highly value such experience, as they should. This isn't just about teaching experience, but also about building one's research skills and experience after the PhD. (So, those who value dog-eared philosophers aren't just at teaching-first colleges: recall the earlier stories from folks who went through several one-years before ending up in great research-prioritizing jobs.)

rock and roll for president said...

I had the same problem as anon 12:41: the professor's at my program prepared me to apply to the jobs they had a shot at, not the ones I had a shot at. I don't understand why placement directors don't see this problem and correct it. For example, I was told that detailed cover letters are annoying (and they probably are to SCs at ranked programs), so I sent out generic letters. Did this cost me some interviews? Maybe.

I think this is symptomatic of a much larger issue: the education that many of us get at mid or low ranked programs does not prepare us for the jobs we have a real shot at. For example, many of us work on things that are only in demand at ranked programs, but for the most part, we don't have a real chance of getting these jobs.

This could be fixed. Mid to low ranked programs should hand new grad students a list of AOCs that are actually in demand (environmental ethics, business ethics, feminist philosophy) and say something like, "Have one of these AOCs before you graduate...it doesn't matter if you like the subject or not etc"

But to get back to the topic: the bias against VAPs seems to be a thing of the past.

Asstro said...

I strongly disagree that VAPs are not "worth much." To my mind, they're the make or break deal. They get your feet in the door, they lend credibility to your CV, they expose you to new colleagues, they give you new students to teach, and on and on.

Also, one-years aren't necessarily just one year. VAPs and one-years sometimes develop into a second or third year. In my case, I struck out on the market my first year, but landed a one-year at a good (extremely good) institution. This gave me creds. I then struck out on the market the next year, but landed three offers for two two-years and a three year. One of my two-years was at the same (very good) place that I had been already. One might have thought that I would stay there: it arguably had the best reputation of the three and was in the best location. But I didn't do that. I thought it would be smarter to expand my network.

Instead I went to the other two-year, and declined the three-year. (Now that seems really crazy; but the two-year had a PhD program, while the three-year had a heavier teching load. Also, it looked like there might be some flexibility and a looming opening in my AOS.)

The next two years were great. I met a brand new faculty. I taught grad students in my AOS. I began to make a home at the University. And, for the first of those two years, at least, I struck out on the job market _again_. Since I already had a contract for the second year, I felt secure.

And then, in the fall of my second year, I was offered a three year extension for this same two-year VAP. That would have meant security for the next three years! I accepted this offer, of course, but also decided to go on the market for a fourth time, glutton for punishment that I was.

Bingo. That was the trick. Finally, after four years on the market, my dossier suddenly generated lots of interest, mostly because of what I'd been doing for the previous three years. I got several TT offers and landed myself in a position to bargain.

Where did I finally accept my TT job? Why, at the same institution where I had been for the prior two years. Duh.

See? VAPs are nice little stepping stools.

Obviously, mine is but one story among many.... but I would say, apart from my experience, the benefits of VAPs far outweigh the downsides.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze at just how much is expected of PhD graduates in philosophy in order to get a job. The PFO from Sweet Briar college mentioned in the comments of a previous post and the comments by Anon 12:41 PM above are the latest instances of this. The latter says:

" . . . I can say that in each search, independent teaching experience counted for a lot. Without it, we would not even consider your file--it went in the reject pile, no matter what your research was like. VAPs don't get you jobs; but a lack of full-time teaching experience at a place independent of your grad program can loose you a job."

Well, they never told me THAT when I started my program: "Oh yeah, you won't get a job unless you adjunct somewhere else while completing your PhD here and teaching here to survive (because those adjunct slots elsewhere pay exactly SHIT for wages, so don't think you can swing it alone out there)"

I think these high standards can only be held, as we all know, because there's so many of us. At the same time, though, looking at Leiter's list of people who've gotten jobs, and then googling their webpages, some of them look pretty green to me. I'm sure they're all quite talented philosophers and teachers, but those who are ABD or new PhD haven't always taught anywhere else besides undergraduates in their own program. But they've gotten jobs anyway. I guess the lesson is, minimal or ideal qualifications are so irregular across hiring departments and SCs that (just about) ANY advice is completely pointless. Ignore it all.

VAP said...

Some VAPs have more stability than others. I'm in my second year as VAP at the same institution. I have an offer to come back for a third if nothing pans out. There are two other VAPs here and both have been here 4+ years. One is going to have a TT-line next year and the other might as well. Two other TT-faculty started out as VAPs.

It may be hard to gather from an ad how great of chance for renewal you have. Some ads will explicitly say there is a possibility of renewal, but just because they don't say that does not mean there is no chance. Look for places that are hiring to fill Gen Ed requirements. That is, some place where you will teach a lot of business ethics or critical thinking or whatever. Those sorts of job are usually temporary solutions for enduring problems. The gen ed requirement isn't going away so they may hire you into another VAP or open a tenure track line.

Filling in for a sabbatical makes it much more likely that you are one and done. Ads that say we need someone to teach modern or logic (or any course that majors need to take) are likely one year fill-ins. The faculty that teach that course is gone for a year and they need someone to step in.

Of course, likelihood of renewal is just one factor to consider. It can really suck to teach all gen ed. Teaching logic and modern may be a lot more fun. But as with much else on the market you have to decide what sort of place suits you best if you are lucky enough to have to make a choice

Anonymous said...

Aw, your advisor only meant it wasn't worth it *compared to the other options you had*. It's *not* worth it to pack up your life, leave your advoisor with dissertation not finished, find an apartment, and teach a heavy course load -- not when the alternative is to basically be a grad student for another year. Less teaching, familiar community & presence of advisor == more work done.

But that's not at all to say that one years are crap, or worthless, or not a stepping stone to something better.

placement trainee said...

I'm going to be placement director at my institution for the first time next year. This thread has me thinking: maybe I should try to organize TWO mock interviews for each candidate. One in which we pretend to be a Leiterrific research school, and one in which we pretend to be an unranked teaching program.

Would that be worth the extra time I & my colleagues put in? Any other recommendations for my maiden placement voyage?

Anonymous said...

My grad program was really good. Several people who finished around the time that I did got very nice TT jobs at ph.d. programs or elite teaching schools in their first or second year out. That was viewed as success, and so if professors thought well of you they would sort of assume that you should be preparing to go that way too.

But I didn't; for a mix of reasons, I started out with some visiting, and only after a couple of years made my way to a tt job that I am happy with. My experience was that the people back in the department adjusted very easily to my being in a visiting job once I was actually in it. I stayed in decent contact with my advisor and some others, made sure to send work and inform them when I was doing anything interesting, and I really did get the sense that they were not that tuned in to the fact that I was situated as a visitor rather than a TT person. After all, these profs are used to having former students who ARE in TT jobs try to make moves after a few years in them.

Of course, I assume that I was not thought of in the same way that student x with the awesome job at Top U was, but I take it that that is a different matter. (I guess that that did bother me for a little while...maybe that is part of what is hard to adjust to?)

My very well-meant advice is that it is worth giving a try to the perspective on visiting jobs that many of us are describing. Leaving the grad school nest without the triumphant announcement that you are headed to TT nirvana may sting a bit, but the truth is that there really isn't the sort of stigma in visiting that your profs may be indicating.

Once I was in the world, in my visiting position, meeting and hearing about lots of other good philosophers so situated, I saw that more clearly (so maybe one really needs to get out to feel better about this).

wish you well!

Anonymous said...

I have no idea if VAPs help or not. But I did not apply to any. So I wonder what someone like me should do? I plan to defend soon, and have nothing lined up for the fall - not even any adjunct work. What should I do to prepare for this fall's job market? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Hm, the first Anon's remarks are eye-opening for me. I have a feeling I'm guilty of the worthless advice-giving described.

You may have saved some of my grad students some pain.

Anonymous said...

Placement trainee,

Maybe a better idea is to do the "research profile" interview yourselves, then bring in some faculty from a local liberal arts school or CC or 4-yr small state school and have them conduct the "teaching profile" mock interviews. Professors in research programs may THINK they know how to act like the latter in a mock interview, but after too many years in the research side mentoring grad students and whatnot, I think that such a skill atrophies. That is, if the way my professors have tried to mimic an interview at a teaching school is any indication. (Of course, they're busy with their 4/4 or 5/5/5 loads, so maybe sweeten the deal with a fancy dinner out.)

Sisyphus said...

Well, visiting positions may not be worth much, but from what I hear they're more prestigious than adjuncting at your own school or local colleges once you graduate.

There haven't even _been_ that many VAPs listed in my field since the new year, so I'm not sure what all those tons and tons of people who didn't get tt jobs are gonna do (and me too). Is this the first sign that those people are going to get shut out of the profession? Are they going to get a bunch of crappy, ill-paid adjunct positions and manage to work it up to bigger and better things? I dunno. Maybe it's not open season on VAPs yet.


Anonymous said...

I had four interviews at the APA, and I can see exactly why I didn't get the job at any of them. One was a very specific position that had few applicants, and I was surprised I got an interview given that I don't really do what they wanted I have a related AOS, but it's not the very specific thing they wanted. I could do some of it well and some of it barely competently. I don't know if they hired someone at all, but I don't think they considered me seriously. I suspect they interviewed me out of the hope that I was closer to what they wanted than my dossier conveyed.

The other three places have people listed on Leiter's comment thread. One was a in-house hire. They hired the guy who had been a VAP there.

Another hired someone from a higher-ranked institution with several years of experience as an assistant professor. I'm ABD set to defend this summer, with a book review as my only publication but a lot of adjuncting experience. Even with that experience, I don't compare.

The final one hired someone with as much teaching experience as I have but with a whole mess of publications. Otherwise he was a lot like me, but that easily favors him. I'm sure it was a no-brainer why he moved to the campus interview stage over me.

So my experience of the post-interview stage is that it's not a crapshoot among those interviewed. (This is consistent with its being a crapshoot at the initial stage of sorting through 300 applications). The people being hired for positions I interviewed for do seem to me to be superior in qualifications to me, even if I was good enough to get interviews at the same places. I'm actually pretty glad to have gotten four interviews for TT jobs the first time on the market while ABD with no full-length publications (and from a bottom-half Leiter school).

akratic Irishman said...

Regarding: "Message received. The longer we were out without tenure-track jobs, the less likely we'd be to get them."

Well, I'm not so sure about that! Or rather, while this might be true for TT jobs at top-20 Leiterrific departments, it strikes me as incorrect for other departments or SLACs.

I had two VAPs, both 3-years long. So that's 6 years without a TT job. Now, starting August, I have a TT job at a good department (2-2 teaching load, good research reputation, etc.). My TT job is better than the jobs landed by (I'd say) 70-percent of recent PhDs from my program (a top-10 Leiter program) who got TT jobs right away.

I also know lots of excellent philosophers who 'wandered the earth' for a while with VAPs before getting good TT jobs. One was hired last year at King's college at the University of London (an excellent place to do philosophy).

So, don't be so mopey about VAPs! You can have a VAP, or a couple, and still get a good TT job. (Also, if you get a few things published along the way, you'll be in a better position to eventually get tenure once you land a good job!)

Chin up, PGS!

Kalynne Pudner said...

This post inspired a VAP-id post on my own blog.

Whether it's worth it has to depend largely on the institution. Where I did my Ph.D., VAPs were TT faculty from other institutions who really were visiting for some reason or other. Where I teach now, we have a posse of VAPs to cover the university's core ethics requirement. The teaching load is staggering, but except for whoever redesigned the departmental website to clearly demarcate us from the regular "professorial faculty" (ok, and the difference in salary and office accommodations), it feels pretty much like a TT job. VAPs can be renewed for five years, with extensions available at the Dean's discretion.

But thinking about those VAPs who have left in the scant two years I've been around, only two have gone on to TT positions elsewhere. The other four have given up on academia entirely.

Researching the fate of the institution's former VAPs might give you a better idea of whether it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:10 (and perhaps others):

I don't think that what is expected is unreasonable. We're being hired to do a job, and we should be qualified for that job. Why on earth should anyone be hired to teach at a university (even at an R1 with a 2/2 load - that's still 4 classes a year) without any teaching experience? Why is that a "high" standard? It's very basic.

The answer need not be to adjunct like crazy while getting the degree - take a VAP after the PhD to get sufficient teaching experience (as well as experience at being a professor, not a grad student - a colleague).

You may not be thinking this, and no one's said it explicitly, but I think that there's a general feeling among job candidates that a job is a reward for doing a PhD. You've worked hard for years, without much support and for no money, so you feel like you desrve a reward for all that hard work. But I think it's a mistake to think the job is that reward. You get a job because you're qualified to do it, and just having a PhD is not enough. The reward for doing a PhD is the PhD.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:47,

I certainly don't think I'm entitled to a job just because I put in the hard work for a PhD. That's not the source of my complaint. The complaint is that while earning the PhD, I've also been working part time teaching philosophy, some TA, some instructing my own classes. Now people come along and say that if we REALLY want to be qualified we need to get a one-year or two-year full time teaching job so that we can be qualified to get a permanent teaching job. What's being asked is that we have the experience of being a professor before we're supposedly qualified to be a professor on a permanent basis. No one deserves anything, I'll grant. But you've had as many incompetent professors as an undergraduate or graduate student as I have and, like me, I'm sure you're wondering how they ever got there. Yes, I know, times are different, so don't bore me with that story, but that's just it: the standards appear to be quite different now than before and things are being asked of us that were not required of those who are making decisions about our qualifications. Maybe I'm too rosy about the transition from grad student to TT in the pre-2000 period. Yes, of course, VAPs have been around for time immemorial. But it looks like being VAP is the new standard post-Phd rite of passage. (That certainly makes it easier for universities to keep these perpertual VAP slots without needing to turn it into a tenure line.)

Anonymous said...

As a member of the department that just hired the akratic irishman above, let me add that all our finalists this year had done visiting positions. Doing one or several visiting jobs didn't hurt a candidate at all in our eyes -- and not primarily because of the teaching experience. Rather, people who'd done visiting positions also tended to have better research portfolios as well -- as long as the visiting positions weren't too teaching-heavy.

Anonymous said...

Starbuck's is still hiring. Espresso, cogito sum.

Anonymous said...

It was recommended by my advisor not to take a one-year and to stick around another year since I had funding. He did not have anything against one-years, but that when applying for a TT job, the question will always be raised in the heads of the search committee as to why the applicant is in a one-year and not a TT. I am certain that the reasoning is faulty somewhere, but it does not make it empirically false.

Anonymous said...

The "pre-2000 period"???

You're kidding right? The job market has been much better in the 2000's than it was in the 90's.

But anyway, the point is moot. The fact is that what is required of people will vary according to supply and demand. You cant have it both ways. You cant complain that the market is a crapshoot, and want for it to be more meritocratic, and at the same time complain that too much is being asked. When supply exceeds demand by as much as it does, the only way to make it meritocratic is by demanding more in the way of qualifications.

I would rather have search committees expecting candidates to have more teaching experience, more publications, etc. than for them to just hand out their jobs to the people from the most leiterific dept or with the letters from the most famous advisors. those are the only alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:36,

I agree with all of what you say. I'm not disputing that market forces justify upping the minimal qualifications. What I was disputing was Anon 7:47 apparent claim that being in a VAP was a necessary qualification for a TT position. Of course people in VAP positions are usually more qualified in terms of teaching and research. They've been doing it longer than ABDs and recent PhDs. But if you've been teaching your own class while working on the PhD, why isn't that enough to begin a TT position. Afterall, it's enough to get a VAP position. The difference between them is 1-2 years versus open ended number of years (assuming you get tenure). Yes, being a VAP gives you a chance to teach more classes and work up new course syllabi, but one or two years in your TT position gives you that experience too. All I'm disputing is that somehow we're unqualified to take a TT position until we do a VAP gig in cases where we've also been teaching our own classes part time during grad school.

Anonymous said...

10:36 again here.


you ask: "But if you've been teaching your own class while working on the PhD, why isn't that enough to begin a TT position. "

The answer is simple: There are more of those sorts of people (all of whom wrote good dissertations, etc). there are TT jobs. So, some of the TT jobs are going to go to the hotshots while they are ABD, and the rest are going to have to be distributed by some other means.

How do you want that to be done? It can either be a crapshoot, or they can be given to those who are willing to pay yet another round of dues.

you say: "Afterall, it's enough to get a VAP position. The difference between them is 1-2 years versus open ended number of years (assuming you get tenure). "

Again, its supply and demand. Its not that TT job REQUIRE more qualification that VAPs. They are simply in greater demand, so they draw higher qualifications.

There is simply no way around the fact that TT jobs are a scarce resource. There are fewer of them then there are people who would, in some ideal world, "deserve a job", or in some abstract sense, be qualified for them. You can either raise the qualifications above what they would normally be, or you can make the system a lottery. in reality, we employ some combination of the two, but the former is much preferable, in my opinion.

And this is nothing recent. Its not "post 2000". It goes back to at least the early 80's if not earler.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:02

7:47 here again. I reread your initial post and realize I misread it the first time, so a lot of what I said is misplaced. I agree with you that the mere requirement that one has taught elsewhere other than one's grad institution is not very good evidence of teaching ability.

I can understand the logic behind it to an extent - it's a kind of laziness or shortcut that is similar to evaluating a candidate's research on where they've published as opposed to reading the publications yourself. Basically it's evidence that someone else thought you were good enough to teach, just like the fact that someone else thought your paper was good enough to publish. So presumably it's here that the prestige of the VAP gig counts - when you go on the market as a VAP you're saying that wherever you're currently teaching has already vetted you and thought you were good enough. If it's a place with a good name then it would presumably be worth more than a place without.

I do think there's still something to be said for working in different institutions in terms of one's professional maturity and thus suitability as a colleague, which for a t-t job (ie: a strong commitment for several years and hopefully for many more beyond that) might well matter more than just a visiting gig where you don't go necessarily go to meetings, vote on hires, etc.

Anonymous said...

To 11:02--

There is a big difference between Ta-ing a few sections, or teaching one class a semester at your grad program on the one hand, and teaching 3 or 4 classes a semester as a VAP on the other. When a SC is looking at candidates, one thing we are wondering is whether the candidate can handle the stresses of teaching more than one class at a time and getting some research in at the same time. I hate to say it to those of you on the market, but things get more difficult once you get your job. You are expected to publish (whether in a TT or VAP), and are given more teaching responsibilities and service commitments as well. And given the slowness at which journals move these days, you need to be producing stuff from day one. So starting your new job will have you working harder than you ever have before. The fact is, some people don't respond well--they stop publishing, and then do not earn tenure, and then a whole new search begins. SCs are trying to ensure that whoever they hire will get tenure; one thing we check for, then, is full-time teaching experience. If you can continue to do research while under the stress of a VAP, then you have been tested.

Anonymous said...

Anons 1:25 & 1:05,

I understand that seeing someone in a VAP makes them a stronger candidate for a TT position and understand the reasons why. Of course, a number of people are getting hired ABD as well with less TA/instructing experience than many people who must now try for VAPs. Anyway, so VAPing is now a weeding out process, designed to see how newly minted PhDs endure the grueling life of having to teach 3/3 or 4/4 while also publishing. Teaching a class per semester while one is an grad student is insufficient to test one in this manner. Granted. However, say I get a VAP next year. I send out apps late October. I've been in my VAP slot for exactly 2 months, just started my post-dissertation research program, and I barely know the faculty where I'm a VAP. How does that help an SC assess me for a TT slot? Perhaps its enough that someone somewhere thought enough of me to hire me for a year. Or is it that they know that if they hire me for the following year, I'll have accrued all this experience (keep in mind, they're looking ahead to me starting at their TT slot in 9-10 months away). What is it, exactly, that the SC will see come next fall? Like Anon 1:25 said, journals are S L O W, so I probably won't have any publications yet. I'll have only been teaching full time for 2 months, so there's no evidence that I'll meet the standards mentioned by Anon 1:25. Is it that I'm not ABD but, rather, PhD now while last fall I was ABD? I don't need the VAP slot to demonstrate that. Perhaps what really helps is 2 years of being a VAP, no?

Anonymous said...

While teaching experience of any form is good, having a VAP usually counts for more than just adjuncting or teaching while you are a graduate student at your own school.

Graduate students are guaranteed teaching, and they get to keep teaching for those guaranteed years even if it is recognized that they aren't very good.

While adjuncts don't have that sort of security, they typically hired from a small enough pool and through a casual enough process (no interviews or job-talks etc.) that their teaching isn't scrutinized too carefully.

VAP's on the other hand, do tend to have their files vetted more closely, and are often expected to give a sample lecture or at least talk to the department about their teaching.

Consequently, just having a VAP will, in most cases, suggest that the candidate can teach competently, while simply adjuncting (unless you've been kept for multiple years at the same place) or teaching a class in grad school won't carry that sort of presumption.

Anonymous said...

Sorry excuses for advisors. It's a wonder they can even feed themselves.

Anonymous said...

The advice on this blog is getting increasingly worse. At the level at which most of us work, there is a real amount of complexity for each individual situation. The general advice that people are offering on this blog will be more than misleading for a few people. The range of variables not to mention the staggering contribution of luck would suggest that anything beyond the most general advice (publish as much as you can and teach as much as you can, in that order) may not apply in every case. Candidates (and anonymous advisors, who are probably other candidates) ought to keep this in mind.

Those who run this blog and regularly contribute might wish to consider rethinking it's purpose. Venting can be useful but only up to a point. Anonymous advice is not likely to be useful after a certain point.

What are some useful topics this blog might be used for?

Anonymous said...

anything beyond the most general advice (publish as much as you can and teach as much as you can, in that order) may not apply in every case.

Even that may not apply; many programs (esp. in the top portion of Leiter) discourage publishing unless it's your really polished word on the subject, and certainly discourage publishing too much.

Overall, I agree with 1:27, so sorry to quibble with something so minor.

But I still like this blog. It helps me deal with the anxiety.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as somebody who, like PGS, is ABD and is in the revision stage, but unlike PGS (I think) has one good publication, I have to say that I am completely unable to relate to his disappointment at not landing a TT job out of the Eastern. Maybe I should have done so, but I didn't even bother applying to those jobs this year, because I didn't take myself to have a realistic shot at them without PhD in hand. Had I applied to them, I would have been thrilled to get one, but hardly disappointed if I didn't. I'll consider myself lucky to get a VAP or halfway decent lecturer position this year.

Anonymous said...

m.a. program faculty member said...

A couple of comments about the advantages of VAPing when looking for a TT job:

(1) The main advantage, from my point of view as a SC member, isn't that you've been pre-screened by the VAP search committee and found to be (likely) a competent teacher. Instead, it's that you will be coming into your TT job with some experience of teaching multiple sections of different classes, etc. etc., so that you're less likely to make the sorts of rookie mistakes that folks fresh out of grad school often make. Of course, that factor can be easily outweighed by lots of others, but it's there.

(2) If you're going into your first VAP, you won't have teaching evals from that place during the job search, but you can still try to beef up your teaching portfolio. Of course, you'll have actual syllabi, and maybe other actual teaching material (handouts, etc.).

In addition, if folks at the dept. seem friendly and supportive, try to get a faculty member (preferably the dept. chair) to sit in on a couple of your classes, and then (if they go well) get a letter from the chair testifying that you're a good teacher and decent colleague. Another useful thing is to give out anonymous 'mid-term' course evals to check how things are going. This is a good idea anyway to help make mid-course corrections if need be, but also, if the results are encouraging, you can include them in your portfolio.

Anonymous said...

1:27AM here again.

I think the blog is indeed useful for venting and blowing steam and anxiety and whatnot. So people should tell more stories here about stupid things that SCs or colleagues or profs or competitors have done.

But the unending stream of advice on the same topics over and over seems increasingly misguided. We cannot predict all this stuff in a general way: you have to consider who you are and what you want (you may not know what you want), as well as what sort of department you are applying to and what they want (they often have no idea what they want even down to the aos and aoc as every new round of hires suggests), as well as all kinds of other factors including how well you are connected to different networks which channel information throughout the profession. There are just too many details, contingencies, and bits of luck for the tone here of fretting in very general terms to be useful.

There has to be a better way for this blog to actually contribute something positive to our every-Winter discontent.

Anonymous said...

From the Leiter postings of job appointments:

"David Baker (Princeton) hired by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. AOS: Philosophy of Physics. Also had tenure-track offers from NYU and University of Wisconsin"

Now this guy is probably a bad-ass. And, quite possibly, even reads this blog. But how pertinent is it to mention the schools he turned down in order to take the job at Michigan? A bit of "rubbing it in NYU's face" or instead a "hey, this is one bad-ass MF we got here"?

Here's what mine'll read:

"Jack-Ass Dumb-Scmuck accepted post at Sesame Street Community College of the Northeastern New York Ghetto. Rejected by...yeh, pretty much everyone else."

***Note: before somebody starts bitching, I ain't picking on the guy who got the job...He didn't post it.

Anonymous said...

Totally unrelated, but I wanted to share some "rocking the passive voice" comments from a PFO I just got:

"I regret that we were unable to match your talents with our hiring needs at this time"

They were unable to match my talents with their needs. I'm left to wonder if my talents actually matched their needs, but they were unable to connect them somehow. Or was it more of "I'm sorry, we're unable to fit this square peg in the round hole" ?

I also like "at this time." Maybe tomorrow we'd be able to make a match, who knows?

Anonymous said...

David Baker (Princeton) hired by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. AOS: Philosophy of Physics. Also had tenure-track offers from NYU and University of Wisconsin.

Gratuitous. What the fuck is the point of that?

Anonymous said...

That Leiter blog is really starting to move now!

an impressive philosopher said...

Anon 1:52 didn't even comment on the best part of that letter.

Although it begins with "Dear Applicant", it continues on to say that "we were very impressed with your application".

Does that mean if I had sent them shit in a bag - appropriately formatted, of course - they still would have been impressed? Were they impressed by everyone's application? Or did they send these personalized "Dear Applicant" letters only to their impressive applicants?

Anonymous said...

"Now this guy is probably a bad-ass."

I know him. He's seven feet tall and drives a motorcycle, and he couldn't care less about what you think.

Prof. J. said...

I agree with Anon 1:27 am. I'm glad someone said it, and it deserves a second. I wouldn't want the point to be mistaken for something trollish.

Some of the advice here really has been good and valuable, but a whole lot of it is grain-of-salt kind of thing (mainly as 1:27 says, because it's over-generalization). For instance, some with SC experience have insisted that having a VAP on your CV is a big plus, but others have expressed skepticism. The tepid truth, I expect, is that for some jobs and some SCs, your peak moment is your first year on the market, whereas for others your case gets stronger as your VAP experience grows.

So, job prospectors, ummmmm. Don't take the advice here too seriously.

Anonymous said...

"In addition, if folks at the dept. seem friendly and supportive, try to get a faculty member (preferably the dept. chair) to sit in on a couple of your classes, and then (if they go well) get a letter from the chair testifying that you're a good teacher and decent colleague."

I had a VAP where I didn't get this type of "support", though I did ask for it, and feel rather fucked over as a result. My attitude is that when VAPS are paid less AND teach more than standing faculty, departments should at least have a plan for reviewing their work and writing letters. It's hard when you ask a senior professor to visit you class several times and he says "yes", then won't set a date and never actually does it, to push him on it.

I think it's a gap in my CV that I don't have such a letter, and I'm afraid it hurt me on the market this year. Unfortunately, there's nothing to do about it. I hope SCs will be understanding when people coming out of VAPs don't have such letters, recognizing that it may reflect on the department more than the candidate.

Anonymous said...

If I'd thought I had a chance at NYU or Wisconsin and had actually applied, I'd be glad to know they were going back to the well once more. That's one advantage of the wiki, and also of Leiter's list. Sure, it's rubbing my face in it, but I can live with that if I get useful information.

So everyone, PLEASE keep posting detailed info like that.

Don't like the face-rubbing? Stay clear of the comments thread on that posting.

Dave Baker said...

My buddy, Anon 5:06, pointed this out to me.

The post on Leiterreports is pretty zealous, I agree, but there's a benign explanation. The poster is my advisor, I'm his first student ever, and we're good friends. So he was pretty psyched about the offers.

Anonymous said...

yeah, it does feel gratuitous when some guy lists the jobs he turned down along with the plum he took. especially when some of us don't get any offers at all.

but you know what? it isn't.

remember that everyone on this blog has been going on at length about how placement information is the most important thing in the world.

leiter agrees that placement information is really important.

so you know what counts as important placement information that prospective grad students should get to see?

they should get to see which schools will not only get you jobs, but will get you your pick of a menu of plum jobs.

knowing that is knowing more information than just knowing who wound up taking a job where.

if students at department A get five jobs in a year, and students at department B get five jobs in a year, then it is worth knowing that the students at B all got to choose from several options, where the students from A did not.

so, look, it stings, yeah, but given that the whole point of the exercise is to get placement information out there and public, it is not gratuitous.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Dave --


Everyone else --

Since it was clear Dave didn't write the post, maybe we can lay off a little?

Anonymous said...

look, i posted the original comment about dave. and dave, though you've no idea in hell who i am, please accept my apologies if i've somehow insinuated that you were the gloating type.

i found the post funny. thought it was sorta' the "stickin' it to NYU and Wisconsin", which is all in good fun.

if folks get hot under the collar about it...get a life. but, pgs, i've noticed no one who was rakin' on dave himself over the post, so i don't understand your call for forebearance.

again, dave, congratulations. you are one badass MF. seriously. outstanding appointment.

Anonymous said...

no one's attacking dave...so there's nothing to lay off of.

i wrote the original post, because i thought it was funny. stick NYU in the eye - always a good thing, i think. but whether or not that sort of post is actually called for...just doesn't seem practical.

congratulations dave. seriously. you are one badass MF. excellent appointment, man. if i caused anyone to humiliate you, my apologies...but i don't think that was anyone's point.

Anonymous said...


Weren't most of the people you're asking to lay off actually supporting Hans' posting the info about Dave Baker?

I'll join you: congrats, Dave!

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Point taken, people. Sorry for being a bit heavy-handed.

Philosophy Prof said...

One of the reasons that the info. about the multiple offers seemed a bit much is that no other Leiter-blog poster included that info., and then all of a sudden there's a guy with lots of fancy offers, and it seems like something is being stuck in our face. But it used to be (a few years ago at least, I can't remember) that most if not all posters would include such information, which in general is very valuable for placement purposes, as many have noted.

Anonymous said...

The most remarkable thing about Dave Baker is not that he got three amazing offers, but that he is friends with his advisor. Fuck, man. How did you pull that off?