Monday, October 20, 2008

Guest Post: Cut Off

Here's a depressing scenario from Lost to brighten your Monday morning. --PGOAT

I was just recently cut off by my Ph.D. granting institution. The secretary with the support of faculty and admin have decided that none of my requests to send out dossiers will be filled from now on. They say that I have exceeded the annual maximum. They put a limit of 100 requests per year and only for 5 years after being awarded the Ph.D. With the difficult job market and the possibility that it could take anywhere from 5-9 years to secure a TT position, this is a crushing blow to my career prospects. Has this happened to anyone out there? If so, how did you get around it? Is this the supreme vote of no confidence (you will never get a job, so it is pointless for us to continue sending out dossiers)? Shouldn't new grad students be notified that the department's support for their future job search will be severely limited? Any advice would be appreciated.

--Lost

45 comments:

Asstro said...

Just a suggestion: If you're sending out more than 100 applications, you probably need to refine your AOS and AOC. If you can't identify who you are and why you're good for the jobs you're applying for, your job prospects are doomed before you get out of your cage. I suspect that may be what's happening, and I further suspect that your department may be doing you a favor by restricting you to 100.

I applied very widely, in ethics, when I went out on the market, but at most, I think my application numbers hit 75 in one year.

Even if you disagree with my thought here, it can't be the case that there are that many _more_ job openings that you can't afford another 20 or so applications on your own. For chrissakes, there are only 250 _total_ openings in this JFP.

Hate to be a dick, but seriously consider applying a bit more selectively.

Anonymous said...

Umm, the department's policy is supremely reasonable. You really shouldn't be sending out more than 100 applications a year (my god, you must be King Generalist of Generalist Mountain). Moreover, after five years, you should be handling this stuff yourself. They aren't prohibiting you from applying for jobs, they are simply telling you that after five years, it is time to leave the fucking nest, sweet little birdie. This complaint is kinda like a 23 yr. old bitching about the parents' refusal to do his/her laundry. You can do your own laundry, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Are you able to set up an account with Interfolio? I used their dossier service when I was on the market. I was able to set up an account through the alumni office of my undergraduate college.

Interfolio is awfully expensive, especially for a big search. (I must have applied for 300 jobs over a couple of years, so at $7-$10 a dossier, that adds up to a lot of money for a grad student to be paying.) However, there are no limitations on how many files you can send out. It also saves some time on copying, envelope-stuffing, and dealing with your recommendation letter writers.

(Lest this sound like an ad, in full disclosure, I do not work for Interfolio).

David said...

There are commercial dossier services:

Interfolio is the easiest and most affordable way for:
- a Ph.D. or doctoral candidate to send an academic dossier to a search committee

Account options and pricing:
$19 for a one-year account
$39.90 for a three-year account (30% discount)
$57 for a five-year account plus 3 first-class USPS mailings (50% discount)
Account options include 250 MB of online storage.

Delivery options and pricing:
Electronic delivery - $4
USPS first-class delivery - $6
International Postal Service delivery - $7
USPS Priority Mail (2-3 days) - $12
2-3 day delivery and tracking - $16
Overnight 12:00 PM EST delivery and tracking (before 2 PM EST) - $28
Rush overnight 12:00 PM delivery and tracking (before 4 PM EST) - $40
International 2-3 day delivery and tracking - $45


(500 dossiers costs the department something like $2,500, to as much as $5,000 depending on staff time to assemble it. I know of few departments that take on this service at no cost, so you were lucky to have had this service available.

Though it is an understandable shock to have it removed.

Anonymous said...

I, too, hate to be a dick, but your suggestion that it's reasonable to expect it to take 5 to 9 years to land a TT job strikes me as wildly off. If it hasn't happened after 5 years, you might want to start coming to grips with the possibility that it just ain't gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

"If you're sending out more than 100 applications, you probably need to refine your AOS and AOC." I think that this is way, way, way false. Almost the opposite, in fact: if you find that, over the course of the entire cycle for a year, you are applying to less than 100 jobs, you've probably misconfigured yourself as too narrow! (Barring cases where someone has other reasons to keep their search restricted, e.g., they cannot leave a particular region for spousal reasons.)

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that you will be getting much sympathy about this here. Your department actually sounds extremely generous in this respect. My current department says that they can't afford to send out *any* student dossiers, and I don't know of any other departments that have a more generous dossier policy than yours.

Anonymous said...

My department doesn't send out dossiers AT ALL. They send out the letters only, which makes sense for confidentiality reasons. Otherwise, we're on own own.

I agree with the 100 limit, both as a departmental limit (see my above comment; you're lucky) and as a practical matter: I've never exceeded that many, even over the course of the job market cycle, from October to late spring. It's reasonable for a department to set such a limit. And also with the year limit, post-PhD. I assume any applying you do before you graduate officially doesn't count, so you've got at least one free year in there.

Miss P said...

I'm not sure that any other limit would be acceptable, but there seems to be a need to have a limit -- no?

As long as you can continue to get your recommendation letters sent, the rest is gravy.

My spouse is just finishing at a top poli sci program that doesn't send any packages, requires letters to be sent via their system AND has a terrible track record of actually getting those letters out. Complaints were met with 'we could cut you off' -- which would be serious.

Anonymous said...

Where I come from, you send your own dossiers.

Anonymous said...

A question about inerfolio. I was thinking of using this to send out letters, but then I was going to use the free mailing from my program to send out the rest of the dossier. But am I correct that interfolio charges one flat fee for sending out *all* the docs you tell it to send? Or does the price increase with the number of pages they send?

Anonymous said...

OK, just called intefolio (couldn't find info on their site). It's $6 for first 20 pages, then a dollar extra for every 20 pages after that.

Anonymous said...

What? Your program sends out your dossiers for you!? This is all news to me. My grad program only sends out the letters of recommendation. It is news to me that anyplace else does it differently. And trust me, I'm pissed!

Anonymous said...

Interfolio makes life easier for both you and your dept. admins. But you need to know that Interfolio won't be so kind on your pocket book. A forty-page dossier will run you 7 dollars a pop through Interfolio, but put together manually and with letters sent out separately, the total cost is more like 5 dollars (including total postage and copy costs). It all depends on what you think your own labor is worth (time spent photocopying and assembling and mailing).

Has anyone heard any nightmare stories of Interfolio mailing out incomplete dossiers?

Anonymous said...

There is a flat rate for a certain number of pages (I think it is up to 22) and then they charge extra after that

mr. zero said...

I basically agree with the conventional wisdom being expressed here. You're lucky your department sent out your first 100 dossiers--my department has sent 0 of mine. Also, although I agree with 9:05 that it would be easy to exceed 100 over the course of an academic year--including applying to a lot of VAP jobs in the spring, I agree with the other posters that you probably shouldn't have exceeded 100 already. Looking at the October JFP, I don't see how you could, anyways.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 10:51 --- I'm in a post-doc program that is really lax about postage costs. I know. I'm lucky.

Still, I was going to use interfolio for letters only, but it seems like that's already going to cost me quite a bundle. Maybe I should reconsider the interfolio thing.

Anonymous said...

Let's try to make an inference:

You don't have a job after 5 years and more than 500 applications.

Your department is cutting you off. Have they cut other people off at this stage? If yes, then no big. If no, then there is something about your candidacy that they don't want to support any longer.

I suggest you get your letters to interfolio and then mail the rest yourself. Double side everything and try to keep the writing sample short.

I was lucky, my department paid for mine and so did my VAP that I had for two years. Even my current TT department paid for my attempt to get out last year.

The point is that you have had it pretty good, and now you are going to have to be really selective.

I know someone that got a TT job in year six after lots of VAP work, so let's not get to grumpy about this person's odds, but in conjunction with other facts, it might be worse than you thoughts.

Just trying to be helpful

Anonymous said...

An off topic question:

When some places advertises AOC (or, less often, AOS) in "History of Philosophy," what am I supposed to think? Do they mean ALL periods of the history of philosophy? Or just one or more? What, exactly.

There's a related question. Sometimes you see an AOC in "critical thinking". Does anyone have an official AOC in "Critical Thinking"? I've never heard of it. If they're just looking for someone who can teach Intro to Logic and such, that's just about everyone with a PhD in philosophy, no?

bunny-hugger said...

My Ph.D.-granting institution has a rule that they will only send out 30 dossiers per year, 60 total, and only for the first two years. This has been enforced intermittently, so last time I was on the market they sent dossiers for me despite the fact that I'm over the limit, but they've decided to start enforcing it again so I'm on my own this year.

Anonymous said...

I see some inconsistency here between the last thread and this one. In the last one, most everyone agreed that you should not be too selective in your search. In this one, most everyone agrees that 100 is a good limit on the number of dossiers sent out (BTW--some departments call them dossiers when they actually mean letters of rec only). If the non-selective search requires sending out far more than 100 dossiers, then (ergo) the limit is unrealistic. The candidate is stuck paying interfolio or doing it him/herself--neither of which is feasible for someone teaching a typical full-time VAP load (4:4) on a minimal salary ($35k).

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an official AOC in "Critical Thinking"?

No, and you're almost right to suggest that anyone with a Philosophy PhD could teach a "critical thinking" course.

I still know a few PhDs who could never, ever teach intro logic, and are so lost that even the probability and statistical side of "critical thinking" might throw them off.

Anonymous said...

A couple of remarks.

First, to the original poster, I feel your pain, I really do. But the consensus in the comments above is pretty much spot on: Your graduate program has gone above and beyond the call of duty in supporting up to 100 applications for 5 years.

Second, to anon 4:44, I would have thought that applying to between 1 and 15 jobs is clearly selective. Applying to between 50 and 80 jobs is clearly full-bore. There are unclear cases in between. More importantly, suggesting that applicants be 'more selective' does not mean 'be selective'. I don't see the alleged inconsistency between the two threads.

Third, having been on a search committee, I was surprised to see people applying for jobs that had little relation to the advertised AOS. This is annoying and a waste of everyone's time. If you are applying to over a 100 positions, probably you need to re-examine your selection procedure.

Finally, to anon 4:25's off-topic question concerning AOC's, this warrants a discussion of its own. However, probably the sort of school that advertises 'critical thinking' as an AOC is basically saying: We want to you to exclaim, enthusiastically, boy, I'd LOVE to teach critical thinking!

For some schools, "AOC" merely means 'I could teach that if I had to teach it'. For other schools, you should be capable of publishing an article in that area of study. Then there's everything in between. Good luck sorting out which schools want what.

Best of luck to all of you on the job market. It really sucks, but you'll survive.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:04pm,

Just to follow up on your advice--using interfolio for letters alone costs about $6 per job application. If you have interfolio send the writing sample, cover letter, and the rest, it costs $7 or so. So it might be cheapest, if you have to resort to interfolio and their excessive fees, to have them handle everything, not just letters.

By the way, if phil departments had any idea of how costly and time consuming being on the market is, and if they cared about our time/expense, they could easily handle all of this over email.

Anonymous said...

How about cutting off ALL your funding after 5 years? Got lucky this semester, but in the spring I have no idea what I'll do for money. The department is tight. There are younger people who are on new 4 year fellowships so the senior grad students, who are trying to go on the market, get cut. And yeah, 100 applications a year is enough.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:54:

On the e-mail point. Ah, but you forget about the bottleneck at the end of all application submissions: department secretaries. I have yet to meet a department secretary with sufficient computer knowledge to pull this off. Heck, I'm not even sure if I could pull such a thing off. I'm sure there are people, somewhere, who could make this happen, but you have some seriously old farts on some search committees who still write their papers on a typewriter.

Anonymous said...

If no, then there is something about your candidacy that they don't want to support any longer.

But be careful what you conclude; it might just be that they're concluding that Cut Off is taking up too many resources and needs to cut the cord, not that he or she is a bad scholar. Around here the department helps a little bit, but if someone had received his degree in 2003, that someone would be on his own in 2008. (And chances are, his dossier would have changed quite a bit since then.)

James said...

I personally was unsure what the original poster (Lost) meant. I didn't know whether to feel sorry for him/her (I don't remember if there are clear indications of what he/she is) or to think he/she didn't know the department had done a reasonable share.

Lost, is it the case that your department is cutting off your letters so that they are making it impossible for you to apply unless you find outside letters?

That would suck (though arguments could be made for why they would do that after five years -- they expect you to find a full set of outside letters by then, fair or not -- I think not, by the way, but I understand the other side).

Or is it that, as almost everyone here has assumed, that they simply expect you to pay for the sending of your writing sample, CV, cover letter, etc.? This seems a reasonable expectation at this point.

Anonymous said...

If the APA--an organization to which we pay a not insignificant amount of money in dues--had their act together, then all of the ads would be standardized, and all of the job dossiers, including confidential letters of recommendation, would be uploaded by candidates and letter writers to some secure server where search coms could access them. Then all that would be necessary would be for the candidate to send some sort of notification (maybe also via the APA site) to the departments to which s/he wanted to apply. Or, the database could be constructed so that the candidate could input a list of jobs to which s/he wanted to apply, and then a list of candidates (with links to materials, or one link to a folder with all the candidates materials) could be generated for each department. Seems like this would not be too difficult to set up and once done, it would work forever. Also, it would then be up to the searching depts to print up whatever materials they deemed necessary. The candidate and the candidate's home institution would not have to cover printing/mailing costs.

Anonymous said...

Re Anon 11:26

I'd like to speak up on behalf of department secretaries. I *have* met the department secretary who could handle all of this by email (or semaphore, or smoke signals), and much more besides.

I'm in a top 10 department, and this secretary is unquestionably the most competent person on faculty or staff. This secretary has solved problems for me before I even knew they could be problems.

Though I have met some exceptions, the vast majority of department secretaries in my experience have been the overlooked force holding the department (of "seriously old farts" some of whom still only write *longhand*) together.

My top 10 department is not Harvard, but I'm reminded of the rallying cry when Harvard's clerical workers organized: Harvard works because we do.

Props to the department secretaries, people.

Frank Fessenden said...

This is Frank from Interfolio. Just wanted to add a couple of things to this discussion.

First, we now work with a handful of philosophy departments that sponsor their students' (and sometimes alum's) Interfolio accounts and sometimes provide delivery credits. If you ask your department, you might find they are doing or willing to do this.

Also, we're seeing a trend towards more search committees accepting letters and full dossiers via email.

For positions that provide an email address for applications, Interfolio users can select the email delivery method. We manually verify the email address, then send the file as a PDF attachment. We also assure the recipient of the confidentiality of the letters when appropriate.

This is faster and less expensive- $4 no matter how many pages are included in the delivery.

So be sure to inquire if email or electronic delivery is available when you are applying.

Kevin Timpe said...

Anon 8:19 wrote: "If the APA--an organization to which we pay a not insignificant amount of money in dues--had their act together, then all of the ads would be standardized, and all of the job dossiers, including confidential letters of recommendation, would be uploaded by candidates and letter writers to some secure server where search coms could access them."

I'm on the APA Committee on Academic Career Opportunities and Placement. I strongly doubt Anon's request will happen anytime soon, for various reasons that you all can likely guess. But what I'd like to hear is exactly how the JFP (in roughly something like its current form--print and online copies) could be more user-friendly and helpful for folks on the market. This is something the committee was discussing earlier today. I've heard the desideratum of a standardized format, with fields for easy mail-merge. What else would PJMB readers like? Consider this the opportunity to design your ideal job ad, in terms of form/structure (rather than specific content).

Anonymous said...

If the APA--an organization to which we pay a not insignificant amount of money in dues

Really? I thought the student fees were only on the order of $25/year. I think you're massively underestimating the operating costs of the organization generally, and of your proposal.

However, I did like your proposal. The main issue I see is that it would be a pain for (already overworked) search committees to have to search through and print out everything that was important. This might lead to them just printing out CVs and then deciding whether to read writing samples on the basis of those, which might be a disadvantage to some of the candidates with less impressive pedigree but with really intereting writing samples nonetheless.

Will Philosophize For Food said...

I've got a question, for those in the know. I'm currently in my first (sadly, terminal) VAP position. Since I'm 1200 miles away from my Ph.D. granting institution, and my letters were mishandled by the Placement assistant when I was down the frackin' block, I've decided to go with Interfolio (hereafter, "IF") this year. Since it's crazy expensive, I think it's more cost effective to have IF send everything rather than just the letters (viz., avoiding the double mail cost per application). To those out there who have used the service for their entire dossier, could you help a brotha out with some strategies for using IF? I emailed the (un)Help(ful) Desk and they replied with a fucking advertisement: "Interfolio delivers on your behalf a portfolio designed to represent the highest standards of professionalism, blah, blah." The informative point is that IF sends the documents with "no staples or dividers," but rather the "documents are collated in the order you specify as one large packet." My big worry is about organization. I want to avoid my dossier looking like Bobo the Chimp put it together. I've got a CV, cover letter and 3+ letters or rec per app, plus a longish (25+ page) teaching portfolio, and a 15 page writing sample (for most jobs). Most of the cover letters will be tailored. Should I try numbering pages? Using page dividers? A TOC--or, at least, a single page section divider for each? Since I will be writing multiple cover letters and uploading them, how do I avoid the potential chaos of 50+ cover letters sitting there in my account?

Anonymous said...

Oh, anon 8:19, Amen to that!
I absolutely do not get why the APA does not do ANYTHING to make this process a bit easier? WHAT do we pay these dues FOR, for fuck sake? How hard is it to set up such a process? 8 programmer hours? That's peanuts, seriously!

Anonymous said...

Let's not bang on dept secretaries. They are usually the least paid, but most knowledgeable person in the department about these matters.

At my grad program and my VAP, the dept sec were worth their weight in gold.

Anonymous said...

I think that my department's policy is to print/send out dossiers for one job search (probably fall through the following summer). Regardless, this is my second full search and I am paying for my own stuff. I think that I mailed most of my own stuff the first time around anyway, but I imagine this is because I am a bit of a "control freak". The department still sends my letters for free, however.

Oysters Rockefeller, The Employed Philosopher said...

Frank from Interfolio,

$4 for sending a pdf? What a bargain!

Will Philosophize,

Having received Interfolio dossiers as a committee member, I can tell you that Interfolio dossiers look like Bobo the Robotic Chimp sent them. The search committees receive a cover letter from Interfolio, indicating the contents and their order. There are no dividers, etc.

When I used interfolio for my own search, I deleted the cover letters from my account soon after sending out each batch of deliveries. After the mail has been sent, you can just delete those. So there was no problem of clutter in the long run.

It is cheaper to send all your stuff by Interfolio than to just send the letters with them. However, over time, you will send a boatload of cash to Frank.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:19 here. When I said "we" pay a not insignificant amount of dues, I meant all of us: students, assistant, associate and full profs. I am actually a full prof, paying a LOT of dues. The combined amount of dues that we all pay should surely be enough to warrant at least a minor rethinking of how the job ads are presented to everyone, if not a full scale overhaul of the process for collecting materials.

Anonymous said...

A 25 page teaching portfolio?? Is that at all within the average range? I am an ABD who has nonetheless taught quite a bit (between my home institution and a few adjunctin gigs), and I have a typed set of comments and teaching statement, which altogether is certainly under 10 pages and probably more like 7. (Not including a teaching letter, of course.)

Anonymous said...

I see why someone might have to use interfolio to send confidential letters. But why would anyone use the service to send other, non-confidential, parts of the dossier?

I sent CV, writing sample, dissertation description, and the such last year for roughly 2$ per dossier through the good ol' USPS.

If you sent 80 dossiers out then the savings would be at least 300$. You would have to assemble things yourself but that is not always a bad thing.

Canadian said...

One other thing to think about( or remind your departmental administrators if they do this). A couple of years ago we had a job (it's in Canada) and a top-one-ish-Leiter department didn't realize that sending mail to Canada costs more than sending it to other places in the US (or they didn't realize we were in Canada...), and so their students' materials were sent back by the Postal Service, delayed, etc. In the end everything arrived, but by then the department had already made a medium list for interviews - of course they considered these late applicants, but I can't help thinking this hurt them.

Anonymous said...

Lost: it sounds as though you have had a very good run. At my top-ten PhD-granting department, they provided two years of support on the job market complete with collecting and sending dossiers to however many jobs I wanted. It was great.

Anonymous said...

I sent out about 80 after the Ph.D. was in hand, landed a TT, now I send out 1-2 a year for the last 2 years for the premium jobs in my field.
About the AOS/AOC "History of Philosophy" most graduate students (myself included when I was there) assume they will work in the type of environment that we experienced in Grad School (R1 for example) the reality is that most of us work in small institutions that need people to teach everything. My historical AOS would be ancient but I teach it all.

Frank Fessenden said...

Interfolio delivers an electronic pdf or a printed hard copy of documents you specify, in the order you wish, so you can have individual cover letters for each job if you wish. We do include a cover sheet that includes a list of the documents included.

We do not include staples or dividers. While opinions may vary on this, the most consistent feedback we get from search committees is that they do not want staples or dividers. The reason they cite is that they usually need to make multiple copies of the dossier and distribute it to multiple individuals involved in the search.

I'd welcome feedback on how we can do better. We want to make Interfolio as convenient as possible for you to manage your confidential letters and other documents.