Thursday, April 17, 2008

I don't have to think, I've only got to do it

At a conference earlier this year I was chatting with a Jr. Prof at a regular state school who said that his hiring committee didn't seriously look at any application where the candidate hasn't defended. Maybe I've internalized this a bit too much, but it makes sense. It's a buyer's market and departments might as well take people who are done.

But what the fuck does that mean I have to do if I seriously want to be on the market in the fall? I'm confident that I'll be able to finish the diss by the end of next year, but I figure to have any chance I need to at least have a complete draft by the end of the summer. In the meantime I've still got to do the other shit they want candidates to do: teach, conferences, try to publish etc. There's just not enough time to get all this shit done before the process begins..

Whatever. Today I've got to say fuck it, I'm taking the rest of the day off to have a beer and watch the undergrads frolic in this beautiful spring weather.

-- Second Suitor

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think this is right about the trend. At least for lesser Leiter schools. Maybe we all have it backwards. Forget about publications & conferences until the defense date is set. (I mean officially scheduled.) Then set about with conference submissions. What we may need then are a lot less graduate student conferences and a lot more recent-PhD conferences. There just aren't that many professional conferences happening often enough and distributed evenly enough during the year. And the Eastern APA? I will probably have changed my views between February 15 and December 26. Home departments, too, should be willing to extend post-PhD instructorships to their grads as well given that this is the nature of the market.

jp said...

I'm pretty surprised by this policy; I disagree with the suggestion that it makes good sense for the hiring department: most of the top grad students at top programs wait until a job is secured to defend.

Anonymous said...

You really need a separate letter from your advisor that need only say the following:

"Jane/Joe's defense is a mere formality at this point in time. I would sooner eat glass than think Jane/Joe's defense any later than May 1st. In fact, if you hire Jane/Joe and she/he hasn't defended by the time she/he arrives, I will personally pay her/his salary for that year. I promise. Here is some blood."

Otherwise, you are just another chump swearing that your shit will be defended in May. Guess what!? SC will think that you are just another chump swearing that your shit will be defended in May. Thank all those dipshits who take an extra year or two into their appointments to finish. So unless you can get a letter from your advisor like the above, forget about the market. If your diss isn't all but done in Sept, good money says that it won't be done in May. Fuck the money you spend job searchin', the massive time suck is what kills you.

mr. zero said...

I've talked to a bunch of people from both sides of the table, and I've been keeping track of the results of my own department's hiring successes & failures over the years. (We're in the middle fifth of the Leiter rankings.)

From what I've been able to observe, it's best to have defended the dissertation (obviously). But it's almost as good to have scheduled a defense date--that shows that the project is basically complete and you've just got a few administrative hoops. Even if some people won't look at these apps, I think a lot of people do.

It's not nearly as good, but still kind of OK, if someone can say that she's read a complete draft of the dissertation. Though I don't have a good sense for how helpful this is, I think this is where stuff starts to get rocky. It's pretty bad if you don't have anything, obviously.

That said, I've seen people in my department get hired from each stage, even where there was no draft. In fact, our best initial placements ever were no-drafts. These people had lots of good pubs.

my 2¢.

Anonymous said...

There is enough time. Many people who have good tt jobs have done it. Hmmm, perhaps all the complaining and self-loathing is getting in the way of productivity. You think?

Anonymous said...

It is a smart policy to get pubs before you defend so long as you still have departmental funding, simply because you still have departmental funding. If you have pubs in top outlets and your advisor swears you will be finished in May, that helps. But for mortals who do not have pubs in top outlets (and running/ran out of) funding you must be able to show substantial progress, if not a completed diss.

Anonymous said...

I think this policy varies greatly from school to school and SC to SC. Some SCs think that they should look closely at the ABDs to try to 'grab a gem' before he/she defends and gets out on the broader market as long as the ABD is actually going to finish this year.

I got a TT job as an ABD this year and I had ten interviews. And I'm not at a top school. I think that if you have a couple of good publications, work with good profs, and can provide what the school wants you've got a good shot as an ABD. But, there are definately SCs that hold it against you.

Anonymous said...

There is also the trick of trying to land a job (and hopefully succeeding) in order to force your committee to let you finally defend...

Anonymous said...

why are you in such a rush to get on the market? what is wrong with just taking another year to polish it up nicely, send some papers off to be reviewed, and get more experience? you don't want to rush into the market and then not get anything, and have to do it again. it will take a huge amount of time and energy and suck your self-esteem dry, but not make you any better off philosophically.

it's not a race, people. there isn't a checkered flag that gets waved because you went out one year, too early, rather than waiting another year.

Anonymous said...

If you are ABD and have made some good progress on your dissertation and you are not a superstar coming out of a super star dept, here is my advice.

Only apply to 10 or so places you'd really like to teach or live. That is, places where you'd be happy to land your first job, but maybe not your dream job.

Don't apply to research jobs, unless you are extremely confident you writing sample kicks ass. Only apply to these jobs when you are ready to put you best face forward.

If you are lucky you might get an interview out of this. You probably won't get a job. But you will gain some valuable experience. You'll have the opportunity to put a good CV, cover letter, and teaching statement together. And the experience of getting things organized for a job search. And, if you get the interview you'll have the opportunity to experience what that's like.

This is what I did. I really think it has helped. I fell ready for October, but this year I'll have my Ph.D. in hand and a better writing sample.

Anonymous said...

I'd put the diss at the top of the list of priorities. Like Anon 11:35 said, forget the conferences; they're just nowhere nearly as important as the other stuff at this point. And publications will come easier the closer you're done with the diss anyway (unless you've already got something close to finishing that's independent of the diss; then it might be worth finishing and sending out ASAP). I agree also with Anon 12:21: if you haven't actually defended by the time you send applications out, you need to get your diss-advisor to state explicitly that, no question about it, he/she is certain that the diss will be done at such-and-such a time, well before the proposed date of hire (it's especially good if he/she can go into some detail as to how far along you are exactly and what you have left to do, just to make it more believable that you will be done). It's probably best to make such priorities even if every place you apply to doesn't have the exact hiring policy you describe, because doing all the above should make you look good (or, at least, as good as possible) to almost any hiring committee. As far as the teaching goes, it is a distraction, but it's just something you have to deal with if you have teaching duties while you're finishing your diss. If you're applying to a number of places that "focus" on teaching, try to make sure you get good student evals; but don't let even this interfere too much with the diss - that still is the priority, I think. And as any half-wit knows, the (sad) truth is that there are ways of ensuring good evals without spending much time on teaching.

Sisyphus said...

Second Suitor, one of your posts from way back noted that you'd have to be sending out shit _right now_ if you wanted pubs or even R&Rs come job market time, and I completely agree with that. Since journals have such long turnaround times or your article can get pinged back and forth several times for revisions and reviews and craziness, it's best to get that started as soon as possible.

I would say at least have stuff out before going on the market, whether you're done or not.

On the other hand: beer! Yeah, crack one open for me, eh?

It's nice work if you can get it, but no use driving yourself crazy with worrying.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, I went on the market for the first time. My dissertation director just wanted me to get my feet wet. He said in his letter of recommendation that I was all but done with the diss and that he fully expected me to defend in May. This stretched the truth a bit. I didn't have a defense date set, but I had a full draft and could have gotten my diss into defensible shape by May, if I'd needed to.

I got five APA interviews that year. My PhD program is not Leiter ranked, and my interviews were for teaching positions at non-Leiter schools. Still, four of the positions were 3/3 teaching loads, one was with a very good regional state college, and one was with a top-ten SLAC.

I got one on-campus interview, for a 3/3 with a decent regional state school, but didn't get the position.

mr. zero said...

Here's Leiter stating more facts about how various faculty moves will affect the rankings, when they do the surveys.

Anonymous said...

just finish your damn dissertation. why not skip watching undergrads frolic today?

Anonymous said...

If you guys are characteristic of all my competition, then this blog is giving me lots of hope. First, on the last post it's taken as some huge revelation that you should include a complete set of student evaluations with your teaching materials. Yes, a computer print-out of objective quantitative data (2-3 pages at my school), instead of a list of quotes you've selected and some faculty member has signed off on. What a surprise to know that one is worth more to an SC than the other! And now this other guy takes it as another revelation that to get a job offer you need some external evidence that you are going to finish your PhD rather than just your own say-so.

Honestly, overall I tend to be more sympathetic to you guys than not. I enjoy your writing and I want you to succeed very much. But can you really be this much in the dark about things so important to your own future?

Anonymous said...

October is when jobs get posted. If you can get a paper together by the end of June, and send it to a journal that reliably accepts/rejects within two-three months, then work on a pub and during that time treat your diss as dessert (you can work on it after you've done your day's work). Forget conferences and whatever teaching you haven't been able to do. If you can't get a paper together by the end of June, then work on your diss and forget publications anyway.

As long as you can get the diss done within the next 14 months, you can be a serious candidate in Fall 2009-just don't try to defend this August or December. If you think that's a reasonable time frame, go on the market this year and say "I expect to have the dissertation completed by the fall of 2009 though I might not defend until December 2009", then see what happens.

You probably won't get a TT job this coming search cycle, but then again, maybe you will. It's probably unlikely, but certainly possible. Maybe your odds are 1/3 or 1/4 if you've got good intangibles, which isn't bad.

Oh, it would help if you could go back in time and make sure your specialization is super-competitive. If you can't swing that, don't sweat it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say that this is always the deal at my mid-to-high end SLAC. TOO many problems with contracts with ABDs. You have to get all the language just right and then decide if you are really going to cut them lose if they miss their graduation date. Too many PH.D.s on the market.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21,

The "revelation" wasn't that we should include numerical summaries of course evaluations rather than selected student comments. Everyone knows you should include several numerical printouts if asked (or some such summary). The revelation was that, IF we include student comments for a particular course, we should include ALL the student comments, positive and negative. This was a revelation for me because (a) including comments is pointless anyway, so I would never have thought to include them except that so many people do nowadays, so I worried that if I didn't, then I would look bad; and (b) but if you're going to include comments, why would you include one's that makes you look bad when, in fact, put in context, may just be noise (student was unjustifiably bitter), but nonetheless gives the SC a reason to eliminate you. Again, including the comments is dumb, but since everyone does it, I feel compelled to, but now I'm being told, "you've got to include them all, good and bad". Maybe I'm just not seeing the truth here, but this is just dumb.

Anonymous said...

...why would you include one's that makes [sic] you look bad....

Cuz it may then be obvious that you're only including the good ones, so they'll disregard them altogether. Better to have them see some of the bad if they are overall good. And maybe even: Better to have them see exactly how bad they are rather than have them presume the worst by withholding them altogether.

This answer may be obvious, but Anon 7:58 did ask....

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what's been written on this post, but I've never understood the strategy of selectively applying to desirable jobs when you're ABD. I mean, either you're just doing this essentially as an exercise in getting all of your paperwork in order, so it'll be easier next year, or you're at least somewhat serious about getting a job. You're almost certainly not getting a job, and probably not an interview, by applying to 10 schools while ABD.

I went all-in while ABD. I'm not sure it was a fantastic idea, but funding was getting dicey at my PhD program. Of course, applying to open positions at Michigan and NYU was completely pointless. But if you want to get some interviews (and, in my experience as a not-naturally-great interviewee, it is helpful to go through some of these), you need to apply for some jobs. It's possible that you will get a job this way--not terribly likely, but possible. For me, I was 10 months away from defending when I sent apps out in October. I did, in fact, finish before the start of the next academic year, but it wasn't a sure thing and I had only a notion of what my final chapter was going to look like. I got 7 interviews, 1 flyout, and was runner up for that job. Funny to think about how the last few years would have been different had that worked out. It wasn't a high powered job, but it was 3/2 in kind of an interesting place. It wasn't as good as the TT job I ended up with this year by any stretch, but I had to walk the earth as VAP for two years, not one, as I had planned.

I guess that's why some people think selectively applying is the way to go--you don't want to take a job while ABD, if you think you can get one that's better than whatever you're offered as ABD. But knowing what I know now about the vicissitudes of the market, wondering how many more APAs I had in me... I probably would have (and should have) taken a decent TT in '06. In conclusion, then, I have no point. Thank you for your attention.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:18,

Well, I know what SC members might infer including only the good comments, but I always thought the point of including comments was to show just that: your best. Anyway, as I said, I think including comments was dumb anyway, but if SC members will only think the worst of me, then I'll leave them off entirely.

Mr. Zero said...

4:18,

I don't know. I mean, why not send a letter of recommendation from someone who doesn't like me, just to show the SC that the people who don't like me do so for stupid reasons? Better to have them see some of the bad if they are overall good. After all, what can you really infer from cherry-picked recommendations?

But seriously, folks. I know lots of people who've been hired, and I don't know anybody who included anything negative about themselves in their dossiers. So you can definitely get a job if you don't do it. And, what can you infer from student evaluations, anyway? Nothing, right?

Asstro said...

7:45: I think you said it pretty well.

The danger with applying to places that are less than desirable (for you) while you're ABD is that you very well may land one of those jobs. It's an ugly pickle to be in, I'll confess. I more than once had fly-outs at places that I was less than enthusiastic about. The whole way back and forth I kept asking myself how I would break the news to my wife. ("Yay, I got a job! Shit, our life is gonna suck!")

Also, I have certainly seen it be the case that talented but financially-pinched ABDs go out on the market prematurely and land a job that is, so to speak, somewhat less than what they would likely be capable of landing if they had had more time to mature.

Honestly, I think walking the earth as a VAP is, while a very large pain in the ass, a very good way of wriggling into a better position on the market.

Having said all this, I by no means aim to belittle jobs at teaching schools, with 4/4 loads, or in random midwestern locations. I can think of plenty of completely strong and rational reasons to prefer such jobs over the hard-gunning 2/2 research jobs at mammoth institutions. A TT job is a TT job, and if it offers you what would make you happy as a philosopher, by all means, apply for it. Just be careful if you haven't ripened completely: applying for jobs _solely_ because they're jobs (and knowing, for instance, that you'll hate those jobs), is a very bad mix indeed. Really, for all involved, including the hiring faculty.