Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Complaint box

Sorry about the untimeliness of this post. I've been on vacation. But I'm back, and I'm in summer school.

In comments to this post, anon 5:56 raises an objection, writing,
Oh good god.

We have had this same discussion re every piece of the application: cv, writing sample, teaching statement, etc., and we have had it ad nauseum...

I'm just so fucking sick of tinkering with the various parts of my application that just thinking about it makes me want to vomit, and then drink until I vomit again, and then gag myself until I vomit one more time, just for good measure.
Frankly, I completely agree. I know we've been over this stuff a million times (though I thought the particular issue of narrow v. broad in research interests was a new angle on an old problem). I'm sick of it, too, and this whole thing makes me want to throw up.

However, I know I'm not alone in preparing to go through this nauseating process again in the fall, and although I don't want to stifle expressions of frustration, I also want to figure out how to make myself appealing to search committees. Because as of right now, I seem to be unappealing to them.

In closing, I am also in wholehearted agreement with this, from the same comment:
I'm sure some dipshit will tell me that my attitude is the reason I haven't landed and probably won't land a job. Ever. In this field or any other. In this or any other possible world. So I think I'll just preemptively tell that dipshit to kiss my ass.

--Mr Zero


Asstro said...

Here is how to beat this game: publish. Lots and lots. In good journals.

More than anything else you can do to improve your profile with a search committee, this will do the trick.

It's not easy, but that's how to get a job.

the spice is life said...

The academic market is truly the crappiest of crap shoots, and I'm right there with you, Mr. Zero. I get to the point where I wonder what the turn-off must be from my application packages... and then I realize that this is not simply happening to me. There is this little (or not so little) array of fresh, homeless PhD's cranking out their little application packets and sending them into the void only to receive nothing, delayed rejection, or what in retrospect only seem like ceremonial interviews. So, we tweak tweak tweak... bitch bitch bitch... vomit vomit vomit... tweak tweak... and go through the whole process over again, wondering the entire time if we are unconsciously doing something horribly wrong, e.g. sending pictures of myself in a leather mask and ball gag instead of sending your cv. Most of us don't make those mistakes, though. Most of us don't make spelling errors in our cover letters or cv's, but there are no answers in regard to what we should do with our little application packets - every SC is different. This is evident when you actually get candid conversation concerning the hiring of candidates (I am honestly not knocking SC's here, but let's face it: they are simply a group of individuals, often times with vastly different agendas/motivations/etc. Their final decision can often come down to a minor detail). "This LAC thought all three final candidates were great, but they were really impressed with the fact that Candidate Jones was an Eagle Scout!" "This R1 had so many good candidates, but they couldn't pass up Candidate Bernstein because she had published on bioethics AND on the aesthetics of stem cell research!" "This CC had a kabillion great candidates, but when Candidate Kowalski did a handstand in the interview..."

There is no perfect algorithm for getting a job in this field, which totally sucks because we just keep wondering what the hell we are doing wrong until we happen to land a job (quickly forgetting how paranoid and crazy we were a moment ago), going completely mad, or giving up on the profession completely.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that there are also people on the market who already have a TT job, but they are unhappy with their current position or want to move up. Consider that they already have the pubs and a proven track record. Now the competition is heating up because you have them plus a backlog of recent Ph.D.s who have gone through successive job cycles without success. Time to look for a fall-back plan, boys (and girls): Starbucks barista, anyone?

Dr. Killjoy said...

The one bit of advice that I take to be rock solid is this:

You are the 1st page of your CV.

Current Position:
Degree-Granting Institution(s):
Dissertation Title & Committee:

If none of the particulars of the above strike anyone's fancy, then pages 2 through n likely won't do you any favors (and likely won't be read). No one is going to hunt through your file to find reasons to hire you. If you don't have 'em hooked by the first page, welcome to the recycling bin.

Of course, there are exceptions, but if a three person committee has to sift through 400 applications, then you had better believe that in most cases, at least half of those apps hit the bin based on the 1st page of the CV alone.

Platowe said...


just from your thoughtful/funny post I'd hire you in a freaking minute--if there were positions available. (We did hire that Kowalski BTW.)

As Dan Rather quirkily said--Courage!

Platowe said...

and Asstro--

as said ad nauseum on this blog--you are right for a certain class of jobs, and your advice is dead-on for that Leiterific class--

but there are LOTS of other jobs--good jobs in SLACs or the like--where that can be enough for the committee to say "Hell, great research philosopher, but wouldn't want to teach here." "Publish or perish" is a more subtle dance than it use to be--now it's more a "So You Think You Can Teach?" At least for many, many institutions.

Anonymous said...

Unless students at your SLAC pay a large fortune to attend said SLAC, then the SC does not really care that much about publications but great teaching and how you interview.

Asstro said...

Platowe, I think you're only half right about that. Sure, if you have three publications in Mind and Nous, you may be put aside by some less competitive schools. But if you have those publications, you'll probably find a job at a very good Leiterrific university anyway, so don't worry about it.

If your objective is to land a job with a teaching-oriented SLAC, you still need to have publications. The deans at those schools still care whether you'll be able to hack it, whether you'll be able to get tenure. And for all their gesticulations about teaching, they simply can't measure that just by looking at your dossier.

Point being: you need to find a way to contrast your dossier with the dossiers of others. That's your challenge right now. For the most part, all dossiers look the same. Certainly, all teaching portfolios look the same. The single best way to set yourself off from the rest of the crowd is to have publications. The next best way is to get your advisors to write killer notes for you... but then you're riding on their coattails, and you'd better kick ass during your interviews and your fly-outs.

Platowe said...

Point taken Asstro. Even in my own case (you'd have to radiocarbon date my acceptance letter it's so long ago) I have to admit it helped that I had refereed publications while in grad school. But I'd still say from my own multiple experiences on hiring committees--publish like hell, but be prepared to strategize for optimal positions and sometimes settle.

the spice is life said...

Platowe: Thanks. And I would probably take it too... if there were such a position. I have discovered that this year's market has been one of the "possible job." Recently I met with an university administrator who told me, "I don't know if there is a position or when a position would be open, but you would be perfect for it." When I heard this, I felt very subjunctive. Well... I'm glad that I'm good at hypotheticals, or at least being ideal for the hypothetical. Of course, hypothetical paychecks do not pay the bills or my student loans.

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry said...

I like the feedback and such I am reading on this particular blog entry. I am an aspiring Philosopher. I will be a junior at the University Wisconsin Stevens Point this fall. I can only hope that when I am at the point the spice is life is at via graduate school I can only hope there will positions out there for me and many other philosophers. Fingers crossed! (I accidently deleted this comment sorry guys! So I reposted it.