Monday, September 29, 2008

Guest Post: Bored

I'm not entirely certain Anon. 5:04 makes total sense. But she/he did make me laugh. Parsimonious rejection of explanatorily impotent entities? Prophylactic antidepressants? I love it. -- PGOAT

I can't believe that I just read that post about why there was a deadline of Oct. 10, and that I'm now responding to it. I must be very bored. I hope most of you are posting out of boredom too...my worry is that the job market has made many of the people anxious and compulsive in a way that would place them along some clinical continuum. The job market SUCKS. My happy story for finishing my dissertation is not the great work that came close to deadline, but the three months of regularly remembering and even saying outloud to myself that I had actually finished the program. It was very awesome--phenomenologically like getting short flashbacks of a strong opioid drug. Everything before that, though, was for two years bad or terrible or sucky. Makes people who are confident to the point of unpleasant start to treat animals kindly, become so anxious that they lose a great deal of weight, develop self-effacing humor, and almost make you like them. Like Palin. I almost like her. Have you noticed that she is not hot anymore? Strange things happen when your spirit gets crushed, especially if you already don't believe in spirits on account of their failure to meet any reasonable standard for explanatory potency. Speaking of entities you rejected as a teenager on grounds of parsimony, you will likely try out an abortive prayer or two in the final weeks of your defense.

If you get a good VAP job, which I did, you might surprise yourself by being happy. I did at least. If I had had to jump around for several--or even two, who knows?--years as an adjunct it would probably lose its charm. But for a while there you feel like a professional, and, in the context of grad life and debt and collection agencies, rich to the point where you think you might donate some of that extra cash to Oxfam, and then don't. ...

No moral--just some reflections on a mixed experience that, I know, if often not nearly as leavened as mine has been by fairly pure enjoyment in the subject itself. If I had the anxiety problems that all of you seem to have, I probably wouldn't have liked grad school as much as I did. I went on antidepressants very early, though, as a prophylactic to the misery I saw coming.

Sorry, I bet I made those who were previously anxious bored. Read it again maybe before your defenses for its anxiolytic properties?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's a question:

It's generally the case that one's chances on the job market improve considerably when one is applying as a TT asst. prof as opposed to an ABD or even a VAP (depending, obviously, on where one is ABD or VAP'ing and all that sort of thing). Do you suppose that the same general rule applies to postdocs, or not so much? I imagine that going from (TT Asst. Prof at Crappy School in year 1) to (Postdoctoral Fellow at Decent to Awesome School in years 2 and 3) would be a huge boon on the job market in year 4, especially if one actually completes some kick-ass work as a postdoc! Thoughts?

Max said...

I'm not quite sure what you're asking, 6:12. I think it's this: you're wondering whether a postdoc is a big enough step above a VAP that it would make sense to give up a tenure track position for a good postdoc, at least if the TT job is on the low end.

I guess that's true. Postdocs are both more prestigious and better working conditions (sometimes by far) than VAP jobs. I'd still be a little wary, though. If the tenure track job is one you actually hate, then fine. But if it isn't, I'd advise trying hard to be allowed to take the postdoc while keeping the TT job. Some places will let you do that, since the postdoc is cool and reflects well on your 'home institution'. But some won't let you take long leave (even unpaid) as a junior faculty member. I'd try, though.

Anonymous said...

Off topic alert:

Here's to hoping that the early publish ads in JFP, Chronicle, HigherEd.Com are not indicative of this years market. Unless you had the foresight to have an AOS in Ancient or Applied Ethics

Anonymous said...

Even more off-topic, but totally enjoyable, an entire website devoted to correcting people about the proper use of "begging the question":

http://begthequestion.info/

Anonymous said...

Can't.... focus....

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w232/cogitocogito/distractions.gif

Anonymous said...

And even better, you can buy a "Begging the Question" thong.

Anonymous said...

just a little sob story: a friend got a "postdoc" at a halfway decent state school - and the scare quotes are because it is scary: they call it a postdoc, but it's a crappy 2-year VAP, with a 3/2 teaching load. brrrrrr.

Anonymous said...

I think anon 8:43 is right to point out that the value of a postdoc (both for one's own happiness and as a career booster) varies *widely*. Some postdocs are awesome opportunities to focus on one's own research and add a CV line (here I'm thinking of things like Princeton or U-Mich's general humanities postdocs, or the Greenwall in bioethics), and others are just shitty VAPs with a fancy name (can't think of any of those of the top of my head, but presumably they'd be obvious from the ads). My general impression was that hiring depts tended to assume most postdocs fell into the second class rather than the first (perhaps because postdocs are still a relatively rare beast in philosophy) and so in most cases a postdoc wouldn't help one all that much on the market. But I'm curious whether others have gotten similar impressions.

philo said...

I tend to think of those teaching postdocs as extending the sell-by date of your PhD by a few years. The idea being that they don't help you all that much in themselves (beyond extending the variety of courses you can teach), but it means that your PhD doesn't go stale as quickly as it might otherwise.

Since most jobs out there are teaching jobs, a teaching postdoc really might not be such a bad thing, but it is true that one's research might really take a back seat during the time of a 3/2 or 3/3 postdoc. That could be a concern for SCs -- even maybe for those same teaching schools. Still, that may be a better scenario for the job market than being a freeway flier (something I am learning all about this semester).

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:12 here -

Yes, I went on the job market ABD last year and landed a TT job at a crappy school just before getting my Ph.D. in May. This job sucks and I want out. Why? Well, there's no philosophy department, I have a 4/4 load and that will probably never change, etc., etc. So, although my chances on the TT job market this year are ceteris paribus better than they were when I was ABD, I was just wondering whether the same holds true for postdocs. And the reason I was wondering THAT is because I probably don't have the necessary credentials (I graduated from an unranked program, not too many pubs to my name yet obviously, etc) to get a job at a research school or anywhere where I'll have a relatively low course load. So I figure my best bet is to try for a 1 or 2 year research-based postdoc so I can get some substantial work done without worrying about teaching... Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm hoping this doesn't come across as harsh, but why do you think you have a decent chance at a research post-doc? I suppose the bar is a bit lower, in terms of having pubs, but I would think that in a certain sense that makes such a post-doc even harder to get - namely, all they have to go on is your grad school's name, your letters, and any awards you may have won. I'm just spitballing here, but I'd think you'd have a better chance getting out of your current situation by either publishing one or two awesome things in awesome journals over the next year, or else really focusing on building a teaching portfolio (like seeing if your current school has any sort of teaching awards, or pedagogical programs) and trying for a position with a lighter courseload at a LAC or some such.

Anonymous said...

6:12,

That makes sense. I hate to have to tell you this, but you'll never get one of those research-based post-docs--at least, it's pretty unlikely. Those things go to people from top programs who already have a proven record in research, not people from unranked programs who need to beef up. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

6:12 here -

Thanks for your comments, guys, all of which make a good deal of sense.

Perhaps the best I can hope for this year is a slightly improved lateral move (4/3 or 3/3 instead of 4/4). If that happens, I could theoretically concentrate on more research (publish my way out) or, more likely, better teaching (teach my way out). If I end up having to stick around here for another year, god forbid, there's no way I could publish my way into a vertical move with a 4/4 course load. I'm not that talented. Teaching my way out is a possibility, I suppose, since this is a supposed to be a 'public liberal arts university' and all.