Thursday, March 12, 2015

No more half measures

On the previous thread, 8:51 asks:
I wonder if you could start a new thread where those of us who are planning to leave academic philosophy could say a bit about our backgrounds, our reasons for leaving, and our plans (where plans exist). 
For those of us on who are certainly our way out the door, I think it would be interesting and helpful to see who else is leaving, why they're leaving, and where they're headed. And for people who are in the midst of deciding whether to leave, I think it could be comforting.
I am not someone who is definitely planning on leaving, but I'm definitely on my way to being pushed out slowly, so I am developing plans to GTFO. Relevant background info:
  • My Ph.D. is from a school in the middle of the PGR pack.
  • I've applied to jobs for more or less the past 5 or 6 years (but only a handful this year and none last year). I had no business applying for about 2 or 3 of those years.
  • Actively and slowly research; only one publication.
  • 4 - 5 years of active teaching experience (in 3 years, I've taught what TT folks at my department teach in 5 years).
  • A few TT interviews, two on-campus interviews, but no offers. 
  • More than a few VAP and/or post-doc interviews. 1 offer (for my current VAP).
  • Current position was originally for one-year, but I've been lucky enough to have it renewed a few times (always at the last minute because of funding issues).
  • 6 months after moving across the country for my current position, I turned down a 2 year postdoc that would've required me to move back across the country.
It was after turning down the postdoc and spending more and more time with people who don't uproot their lives every few years chasing a job that might potentially land them in a place they never thought they'd live, that I began to seriously think about leaving philosophy. I also feel very strongly about staying in my current city.*

And recently, I was not considered for what was probably the last opportunity at turning my current VAP into something more permanent [details redacted; but I'm not the only person at my current department that's super-pissed about this]. For a while, I thought that I'd be happy adjuncting in my current city, which offers a lot of teaching opportunities. But I'm less convinced I want to do that now (I hope some of y'all participated in National Adjunct Walkout Day!).

I've been trying to lay the groundwork to GTFO in a few ways; though these are more like half-measures than anything else. Through friends, I've been volunteering at a local non-profit, through which I've met people and made connections outside philosophy. These connections have led to editorial work and at least one writing assignment for a local paper. I feel like these connections and also friends get me a toe (at least) in the door at places I might enjoy working. But I haven't followed through yet. I've also been on Twitter a lot lately, which isn't helping me develop GTFO plans.

That's it!

--Jaded, Ph.D.

*One thing that I've found especially helpful are non-academic friends who work and live in one part of the country longer than one or two years and aren't constantly applying to jobs. They are also cool and I don't want to move away from them in the same way that I didn't want to move away from my badass academic friends, but did because that's what academics do. I'm probably not alone in having almost exclusively academic friends during graduate school (or maybe I was?). I found it harder to shake the "I'm a failure" feelings surrounded by my lovely academic friends; but less hard now. (Though I also found it easier to talk philosophy with my academic friends than I do now; trade-offs.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By request: Should I stay or should I go?

Since we seem to be solidly into the post doc/VAP season, and pretty much done with TT jobs, I just ran the numbers at PhilJobs for the season. From Aug 1, 2014 to Mar 2, 2015 there were 186 jobs listed under the criteria "junior faculty" and "tenure track or similar" and "United States." For the same interval 2013-2014 the count was 217. If you include international jobs, it increases to 214 for 2014-15, which is still fewer than the US jobs last year. The Phylo Wiki lists 228 jobs this year, which includes international jobs (and the dates go back further). I make no claims about the accuracy or completeness of these figures. I see some jobs in the search results that are clearly not TT, and a few that are not really junior, so this is a rough estimate. Plus, there might be jobs that were listed elsewhere, but not listed on PhilJobs.

My suspicion earlier in the season was that this was turning out to be a particularly bad one, which I think is more or less confirmed. One would hope that, as 2008-2009 recedes into history, the job market would improve. One would hope, apparently, in vain.

You can see Carolyn Dicey Jennings' placement data report for 2011-2014 here. Her data shows, among other things, that the proportion of men and women being hired basically matches the porportion of men and women who earn doctorates in philosophy.

Jennings estimates 376 521 new graduates each year (2011-2014), of whom about 17% will land TT jobs, on average. It's pretty obvious that if there are ~500 grads per year, and only ~200 TT jobs, more than half of those grads cannot possibly get TT jobs. That snowballs, of course, as many grads each year come up empty-handed. (Hence, we're seeing hundreds of applicants for every job. I recently talked to someone on a SC at an R2 in a fairly desirable area -- they got 360+ applicants for a 3/3 job.)

Helen DeCruz summarizes some prestige bias numbers here.  88% of philosophy TT hires are from Leiter-ranked departments. 31% are from Top 10 departments.

To sum up, it's bad.

Feel free to add more data points, or anecdata, or corrections to the estimates above, in the comments.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Which I Despair for the Underemployed Philosophers

Like many of you, I received the PFO from the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. Like many of you, I was shocked to read that the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy received over six hundred applications. 600. Six-zero-zero. I sent out just over 40 applications this year. How is a person supposed to find a job in this environment?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Game Plan?

Anonymous posted these queries to the permanent job search thread. I'm reposting here for discussion:
Could someone knowledgeable address, perhaps here or in a new thread, what the game plan should be here on out for those of us who did not land a TT job? 
I'm a research type and get little placement help. What should I be looking to do over the next couple of months in order to secure a TT job next year or the one following? 
Postdocs are an obvious choice, but what about VAPs? How do people feel about those? Would it be much better to do a VAP at a pedigreed institution, or just a place that will leave time for research? Etc. 
In general I think it might be helpful to have some thoughts about these matters put down, since it appears that many, many of us are in this boat. 
The answer may simply be that there are no answers, since the process is not a rational one.
A general answer is difficult without knowing specifics about your CV, and how you're doing on the market right now. Are you getting first-round interviews? Fly-outs?  

Have you published? If not, one obvious place to start is to get some papers published or at least in the pipeline. An accepted paper is as good as a published one, but given the time it takes to even get a paper accepted for publication, you need to basically get it to a journal now. Or sooner. Postdocs are a great way to secure time for research and publishing. Mine helped me tremendously on the job market.

Not every place is going to care that you are published in a top journal, although obviously, avoid the really crap pay-to-publish journals.  

Do you have teaching experience? A VAP is a good place to get significant teaching experience. You might be a "research type," but most of the jobs are not "research" jobs, so having some good teaching experience will help you. 

Finding time for both research and teaching is always a problem. Get used to working your ass off. 

And yeah, the market is lousy. So, it might not be you. 


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The annual killin' it on the campus visit prep post

If you're prepping for fly-outs, previous posts containing logistical advice can be found here and hereSpiros has some good advice about job talks over at PhilAnon.

Some tips:
  • The campus visit is a gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some potentially harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (sometimes wined, but many university policies don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. If you're not a morning person, or not at your peak before you've had some caffeine, use your hotel room coffee maker to fortify yourself before the breakfast meeting. 
  • Take portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry results in brain fails. 
  •  The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get just any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. You'll sometimes get a tour of the area (especially in small towns where they might think you need to be sold on the location). It's reasonable to ask about things like the housing market. 
  • Ask in advance for a detailed schedule of what you'll be doing, when, and with whom. You might give a job talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both. Get as much info as you can about the teaching demo (will it be an actual class [with how many students], or an audience, will it be in a classroom, will there be tech available), and about the job talk (how much time will you have, who might be there), etc. 
  • Before you go, look up the people you'll be meeting in the department (all of them), but also the deans and administrators. You never know when some little bit of trivial knowledge (hey, we both went to Peoria U! I also love the poetry of Robert Service! How about those Packers?) might be fodder for a good convo, or at least make you memorable (in a good way)
  • Be very, very nice to the department secretary/admin assistants. They don't work for you, so don't act like they do. S/he is also often the person who is going to handle your travel reimbursements.
  • Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. Take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. 
  • If you require accommodation for particular needs (a lactating mom might need time to pump, or you might have dietary restrictions, or need time for religious observance, or whatever), you're better off saying something in advance than trying to sneak off to TCB. You don't really want to do anything during your visit that will give someone a reason to think you're up to something suspicious (drugs! booze! Satanic rituals!). Better to have the awkward conversation ahead of time than to find yourself trying to compensate for unexplained behavior. Obviously, some departments will be more friendly/understanding about special needs than others, but it's worth remembering that if you're hired, you'll be working with these people for a while, so maybe it's better to know in advance if they don't play well with others.
  • You'll sometimes meet with someone from HR to talk about benefits, so you might think about questions for them. (This might be where you want to inquire about maternity/paternity leave, childcare subsidies, etc.)
  • I went to a meeting with a job candidate a while back and observed that he sometimes deflected questions about "how would you teach X?" by asking questions about whether doing Y would be of interest to the department or the students. He also asked specific questions of faculty, like "How do you integrate Z into courses?" or "Is there support for doing A?" It made him sound thoughtful and interested, rather than like someone just answering standard questions with memorized answers and trying to please. (He was offered the job, too.) On the other hand, if you're interviewing at a place where they really need you to teach specific service courses, offering them a list of exciting new courses you'd like to develop instead of teaching Intro may not go over well. So, you wanna have a good feel for what will be expected of you.
  • Take copies of your dossier, including course syllabi, just in case. They might tell you in advance what courses you'd be expected to teach if hired, and you can think about those and work up spec syllabi if you have time. 
  • Anything critical like your job talk or teaching demo slides should be copied onto a flash drive, copied to the Cloud, copied to Google Drive, tattooed on your hand, emailed to yourself, etc. If you're using a Mac, convert stuff to a PC friendly format. I'm  super paranoid about that kind of thing, but I've had TSA drop my laptop on the floor. Print your lecture notes, etc. I had a teaching demo once where all the tech failed except the document camera, but I had printed out all my Powerpoint slides. Success!
  • Be ready to improvise should technology fail during a talk or teaching demo. (Hence, have printed notes.)
  • If you want to have a handout or some such, ask in advance if that's OK, and ask in advance if you can email it to them to print (or print them yourself and bring with).
Potentional pitfalls:
  • When talking to deans and administrators, keep in mind that many of them are really academics, or ex-academics, and they would like you to know that. I found they often wanted to "talk shop" with me about philosophy, in addition to talking about the nuts and bolts of the school. So speak to them as you would speak to potential colleagues. This is also where you might get questions that are attempts to covertly feel you out about your commitment to the place, to teaching, whether you're a flight risk, etc. So too many questions from you about research support, travel support, etc. might not fly in a teaching-oriented place. Keep in mind that no department makes a hire without approval from higher-ups like deans, so these are interviews you really do need to prep for.
  • Since I'm already in a TT position, I asked last year about policies regarding credit towards tenure for work done (if you've been in a postdoc, some places will let you use that work in your tenure file too), and whether they'd require me to start the tenure clock all over again (which I don't want to do at this point). I got the distinct sense that these questions were not at all favorably received, although I don't really know why they were not favorably received (someone enlighten me, if you know). So, if you're in a similar position, that's probably a discussion to save for when you have an offer.
  • I think the general consensus about spousal accommodation is that talking about it should wait until you have an offer. I suppose that might include not inquiring about policies until then as well, although some schools will volunteer that kind of info as part of their "sales pitch." In my experience, if you want a spousal accommodation, you need to negotiate that with the initial contract. Once you're hired, they don't have much (any) incentive to help you out with that, regardless of how many times they tell you during interviews that they totally support spousal accommodations. (This is something to think about for non-academic spouses too, especially if you're moving to rural or isolated college towns where there are few jobs off-campus. Many, many faculty spouses get hired into administrative positions on my campus -- this is not only a substantial income benefit, but also means you're potentially not paying for health insurance for a spouse.)
  • I guess the conventional wisdom about marriage and/or children is that it is viewed as a liability for women, and a positive for men. Departments are going to vary a lot on this kind of thing, and some will be more family-friendly than others. The people interviewing you are discouraged by HR from asking about marital status or children, but if you want to ask about things like schools or childcare, or maternity/paternity leave, you might want to proceed with caution.
  • Some departments ask their candidates to pay for their flights and accommodations and seek reimbursement after the campus visit. It's a really shitty practice, but it happens. I had two fly-outs last year where I had to buy my own tickets. One reimbursed me within a week of my campus visit. One took three months, and numerous, increasingly irate emails from me to the department chair (they didn't offer me the job, so at that point I had nothing to lose, except my thousand bucks). Some places require that you submit paper tickets for reimbursement, so you might want to get those instead of using your smartphone.
You're one of a very select few, so try to enjoy your moment, without being a pompous jerk. Really, nobody likes a pompous jerk. You'll have many people who are intensely paying attention to you, which is a rare thing. The job talks can be fun and lively, and a chance to have your work taken seriously and discussed at length. Savor it. 


Thursday, December 25, 2014

APA attendees, report to HQ.

I'm not going, but those of you who are, report back. I'm curious to know what it's like now that it's no longer THE place for job interviews. Is it a ghost town? Is it the same as it ever was? Are there tumbleweeds rolling through the Smoker?


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A permanent thread for info or questions about specific jobs

A lot of people in the comments seem interested in having space to discuss or request information about specific jobs. If providing information and if possible, please provide the source of your information.

Here's a permanent thread for this. Perhaps we can use the other open threads for people to trade horror or success or weird stories, any hints that they might think are helpful, strategies for dealing with stress of the job market, etc.

In the future, after this isn't at the top of the page, you can find this thread in the sidebar. Here's a picture, with the place to find this thread in the future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We turned 6 last week [+ New Job Market Thread]

This was our first post. Our stats are below.**

I cringe a little looking back at some past posts. I probably wasn't as funny/clever as I thought I was (Seriously, referencing The Shining in our first post? Real fresh, bro.) or as thoughtful as I should've been (I'll leave it to the reader to find those). And I probably got, like, too raw sometimes (again, for the reader to find). Such are the risks we run archiving our growth as bloggers, scholars, and people (?) on the internet.

Thanks to everyone who reads. I remain pleasantly surprised by our audience, our commenters (we've published over 22,000 comments and counting), and more generally by the little community that's popped up here.

Big-ups especially to our co-moderators, Mr. Zero and Zombie (once commenters, themselves) who kept the blog running through some of the lean years and still keep the blog running more than I do (I've been seduced by microblogging). So happy to have them!

Okay. Okay. Who cares about this, right? Use this as a new job market thread. My stats, excluding the 20 PFOs I got from Wooster, a job I didn't even apply to (not really; though someone in the comments below said they got 4 identical PFOs from Wooster and counting; oof):
Current Position: Yearly; sorta secure(?); they'll keep me around if they can/the budget permits/the need persists (so it seems; they just want to keep it casual still, you know?).
Publications: Not enough to make me competitive for most jobs; folks coming out the last few years are really crushing it; keep it up (or knock it off? I'm torn).
Teaching experience: Plenty.
Applications this year: A handful.
PFOs this year: None official; one silent.
Interviews this year: None (but see applications).
Plan B: None. But I could see doing other things, finally. Especially if those other things don't require me uprooting my life every few years chasing the dragon.
-- Jaded, Ph.D. 

**6 years in, here are our stats (first one from Google (only from 2010 forward); second from Statcounter; click to embiggen):

Thursday, December 11, 2014

By popular demand: new job market thread.

Today's stats, thanks to's new date search feature (thanks again, guys!):

196 TT jobs listed between Aug 1 and Dec 11, 2014.

I count 101 fixed term positions (postdocs, VAPs, fellowships), same dates. Of those, more than half -- 53 -- are postdocs.

For good measure, 46 tenured/senior positions advertised.

Seems to me there are more postdocs than there used to be, which is positive, if they actually serve to transition philosophers into TT jobs (as in the sciences). If philosophy can avoid the perennial-postdoc problem they have in the sciences.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The 2014 PGR: Confidence Intervals and Graphics

As you have probably heard, the 2014 edition of the PGR went live earlier this week. The results had been extensively previewed, so there wasn't anything terribly surprising that I could see. One thing that was a little surprising was that the confidence intervals we were promised are not going to fly after all, and that three types of graphical representations of the data appear instead. (Of course, this was announced a little ahead of time, too, so it wasn't exactly a surprise, either.)

Why no confidence intervals? A couple of reasons, according to Leiter. A) Given the design of the survey, in which not all evaluators evaluate all departments, there are several ways to calculate them, and they "did not want the precise method chosen to become a matter of pointless controversy." And B) properly informative confidence intervals should be rounded off to two decimal places, and this generates an accuracy-related mismatch with the PGR's long-standing practice of rounding to the tenths place, which is done in order to discourage "invidious comparisons."

I guess I kind of accept point (B), except that I don't see what the big deal would be to post the more-precisely rounded means along with the accompanying confidence intervals off to the side, or on a separate chart, while retaining the customary averages rounded to the tenths place for the main rankings. I don't see how this would encourage invidious comparisons. You'd have numbers rounded to the hundredths, but you'd also have the confidence intervals right there.

Point (A) seems to me to be a non-issue. If there's more than one reliable way to do the calculation, pick one of the reliable ways—whichever one you want, as long as it really is reliable enough—and tell whoever doesn't like it to go fuck themselves. If it's reliable then it's reliable, and it's not like we're measuring the critical mass for weapons-grade plutonium. One method is probably as good as the next, and I can imagine only that the bootstrapping procedure Healy used on the 2006 data would be totally fine. (Of course, maybe I'm wrong about all of this, and if I am I hope one of y'all Smokers who knows more than me about this will set me straight.)

Furthermore, I think the survey-design issue that Leiter says gives rise to point (A) serves to underscore the need for confidence intervals. It's just not possible to understand or properly interpret the Report without them. Not all evaluators evaluate all departments. Some evaluators evaluate all or almost all of them, but some evaluate only a few. And, as Healy points out, "higher-ranking departments do not just have higher scores on average, they are also rated more often. This is because respondents may choose to only vote for a few departments, and when they do this they usually choose to evaluate the higher-ranking departments." (His 2006 analysis found approximately the same thing.) That means that, generally speaking, more evaluators evaluated the top departments than the rest of the field, and explains why the confidence intervals for those top-rated departments tended to be narrower than the rest. That is, the size of the confidence intervals is not constant throughout the report, and so a difference of 0.1 might be meaningful when it involves a top-ten department like Yale and then non-meaningful when it involves a top-30 department like Virginia.

Now, I realize that I'm on record as being basically okay with looking to the confidence intervals for the 2006 Report and extrapolating/guessing about what they suggest about this year's edition. But i) I don't think doing that is close to ideal, and I was really looking forward to Healy's analysis of the 2014 data; ii) I think that it's okay to do that only if there's no more recent data available; iii) I realize that the 2006 intervals are only indirectly relevant to the 2014 edition, and don't have any direct implications in any specific case in 2014—just general trends, and then only suggestion, and definitely not anything close to proof; and iv) I'd really, really much rather just have confidence intervals calculated on this year's data—so then, you know, we'd know. (In retrospect, I think I could have been more clear about some of this in my post from last week, and I apologize for any confusion that might have caused.)

I do like that Brogaard, Healy, and Leiter have included these new graphical figures. I think that the histograms and kernel density plots are interesting. I do feel like they help me understand the ratings better. I do. But I don't agree with Leiter's claim that "these visualizations convey the necessary information in a detailed and accessible way." On the contrary. If you are trying to figure out what to make of the fact that (e.g.) UConn's score increased by a margin of 0.4 while MIT fell by 0.3 (which is a slightly smaller margin but takes place much higher up in the rankings), these visualizations are insufficient, and do not convey the necessary information. In order to understand what's going on there, you need confidence intervals calculated on 2014 survey data for each department, because sample sizes differ from department to department and tend to get smaller as you go down the rankings.

And so, while I appreciate why they don't want to invite "invidious comparisons" by posting rounded mean scores that are too fine-grained, I think that ultimately this is a misguided reason against calculating confidence intervals or including them in the Report. It seems to me that you need the confidence intervals in order to know which comparisons are invidious. And if past analysis is any guide, there's reason to suspect that differences of one tenth of a point are sometimes at least potentially invidious, and that this margin is more likely to be invidious the further down in the rankings one goes.

In closing, I continue to think that confidence intervals are a vital tool whose absence greatly impairs the PGR's usefulness, and I don't see any good reason not to include them.

Ok. I'm sorry about this. People have been asking in comments for a new thread, and I realize that this was not what you wanted. Last post about the PGR for a while. Promise. Soon I'll put together one of the "interview questions" posts we do every year.

--Mr. Zero