Tuesday, November 3, 2009

T-Minus 3 Days

The November JFP comes out on Friday. There are, as I understand it, two main predictions about its quality: 1. it will be substantially better than the October issue (but not as good as a normal November issue), because a lot of deans have approved job ads but not in time for them to run in October; and 2. that it will be just as bad as or worse than the October issue, because the economy is still super fucked up. Spiros is pessimistic. I am cautiously optimistic, by which I mean that I am pessimistic but I wish I was optimistic.

In any case, I'll be sitting here on Thursday trying not to think about it while simultaneously refreshing the anticipated URL in an obsessive manner. I'll let you know what happens.

--Mr. Zero


Cinderella said...

I'm ready to start obsessively refreshing the coveted URL starting right this second, hoping that by some magic it will give me 50 (hey, if it is magic, why not 200?) jobs to apply for.

So many people in my circle of acquaintance are applying for "my" jobs...I can no longer stand hearing them brag about their "very realistic chances." Please, coveted URL, give us more jobs to apply for.

Anonymous said...

Also in the spirit of obsessing about the job market, and thinking way too much about stuff that's entirely out of one's own control...

I wonder if anyone has solid information--or is even in a good position to make an educated guess--about the number of job seekers out there this year. It won't affect anything I do application-wise, but I'm nevertheless exceedingly curious to know how the competition breaks down. How many people are actually applying for philosophy jobs? How many of these people would be considered "serious" candidates? How many VAPs are out there trying to get a TT position? (It occurs to me that someone more obsessive than me and/or with less on her plate could make an educated guess on this one by skimming the winter and spring issues of JFP. Anyone up for it?) And so on.

If anyone out there has answers to these questions, I suspect there are many folks besides myself who would be keen to hear them.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the folks with the VAPs out there looking for TT's--there's the folks with TT's looking for other TT's, like me. I'm a serious candidate.

(Think, on the assumption you land a TT job, but even if you don't--compare yourself now with you 5 years from now, full of quality teach exp, pubs, experience in a dept, etc.) That's serious.

But if I move, you can have my old job. (Or at least you can if the economy gets better and they chose to hire), (and you are from a Leiter top dept...).

But let's be honest, the market is crap for everyone. I'm pretty sure I'll be right where I am, with any job I apply for going to some person with even better pubs and a slightly fancier degree.

In fact, if I'm being honest, I won't get a look a in because of folks with no pubs and the fanciest of degrees, who are fresh out, taking all the jobs. For reasons I can't understand, depts love to hire fresh PhDs with no pubs out of top schools over that same person a few years later with some good pubs.

The lure of huge potential is worth more, it seems, than pretty darn good actuality.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic JFP question: If an ad gives an address for submissions, then follows with an email address, does that mean electronic submissions via email are accepted? (And wouldn't it be nice if they said so?) (ex: CalTech)

Anonymous said...

Even in a 'good' job year there will be a signifigant degree of luck in getting a TT job. TT job openings usually get anywhere between 200-600 applicants, so for any 'one' to get the job takes a great deal of luck. This year is worse, say the typically range goes up to 275-700 applicants per tt position. Sure, things are worse but your odds didn't go down that much. You'll still need a lot of luck to land a job, but there isn't too much reason to be so much more pessimistic than normal.

Of course not everything is luck and there are obviously things you can do to increase your chances but at the end of the day things like how well you 'click' with an outside member of a search committe matter. Or whether the class that you get to 'model teach' is receptive to you that day. Or the shuffle that occurs in many searches. For example, lots of people who have TT jobs probably wouldn't have them (at least not the particular position) if another candidate in the search process ahead of them did not get swooped up another school. This musical chairs is really common and obviously luck plays a major role in how the eventual sorting of jobs to candidates really occurs.

Anonymous said...

Then there are the applicants from SUPERLeiteriffic departments, who landed postdocs and/or VAPs after graduating, STILL have yet to produce any publications, and who are STILL going to take the jobs.

Anonymous said...

I love how many posts here would leave you with the impression that job market candidates are either Leiterific without Pubs or Non-Leiterific with Pubs. Good thing there aren't any people from good schools publishing good work!

Anonymous said...

SUPER-Leiteriffic. Good term, and useful for this blog. There are lots of Leiter top 50 that are just in the top 50 and hardly differ from the next 10 schools. (Utah, BU, Seattle, etc.) Most of the Leiter-type gains of being from 'one of those depts' doesn't apply in that group. Even as we go up the food chain, the middle of the 50 only start to get good in the 20-30 range, and even then it tends to be specific to some AOS.

Talking of Leiteriffic vs SuperLeiteriffic helps clear up lots of things that get posted but are only true of one or the other. Being Leiteriffic doesn't help that much--being SuperLeiteriffic certainly does. For ex, those folks out of--as they say--Leiteriffic departments who speak of their hopes really aren't giving us a full enough picture.

Many a time I've read that "I'm from a Leiteriffic dept with good publications but I can only get VAP etc..." Luck aside, there's no comparing a Utah grad with 4 papers in Disputatio with an NYU grad with two papers in Ethics. (Hint, hire the second one.) SuperLeiteriffic (plus great vs good vs ok journal) will help to clarify, and diagnose.

Anonymous said...

Here's how I figure it: Set up an equation with the following. I would like to TradeMark (TM) this, the "official" ... (insert drum roll here)...


or, BCGCBMC, for short.

*Number in the tidal-wave of applicants left over from years past crappy JFPs (that number gets larger each year.)

*Number of naive, idealistic new and fresh young PhDs (that number gets larger each year.)

*Number of tt-ers looking to jump ship (is this increasing? No idea.)

*Number of years that makes up a Shelf Life to a PhD (kills all new applicants equally, Leiterific, ivy-league, state schools--3 years is the shelf life of a PhD?)

*Luck (a probability factor, 1 is involved [you] versus the other numbers stated above.)

EQUALS = Your chances of getting a tt job.

I figure I have a better chance of getting on broadway than I do have actually getting a tt job.

Anonymous said...

ANON 6:47 raises an interesting issue. If your department is hiring for some specific AOS, and if you are the sort of department interested in pedigree, do (or should) you be looking primarily at the overall ranking of the candidate's graduating department, or their ranking in that specialty? Let's say, for instance, that you are looking to hire in Philosophy of Art. At least according to the Leiter rankings, the top three schools in Philosophy of Art are CUNY Graduate Center, University of Auckland, and University of Maryland. On the International overall rankings, however, CUNY-GC has places 17th, University of Maryland is at a tie for 39th, and Auckland isn't even on the map. In a case like this, let's say you have an applicant from NYU or Oxford--how much weight should this pedigree carry? (Oxford is in Group 4 for Phil of Art; NYU isn't on the map). (Similar problems seem to arise for Kant studies, Continental, History of Analytic, Chinese Philosophy...) For those who have BEEN on hiring committees: do you consider pedigree? If so, are you looking at sub-discipline rankings?

Asstro said...

Anon 5:44 offers an interesting point for discussion. She's already on the TT and speculates that some departments like to hire Leiterrific Freshies with no pubs over secure-bet Rusties from Leiterrespectable departments already on the TT with some pubs. (Incidentally, I prefer the term 'Leiterrific' contrasted with 'Leiterrespectable', but that's another question.)

I've seen this happen a few times. I'm not sure that she's right to think that this is a blind preference for the untested Freshie, but I've certainly do agree that there's a lure about the unknown. Here's the story, at least as far as I can tell:

When a TT Rusty with some publications goes out on the market, she's giving more information about herself. Sometimes that information is very, very helpful. If she has five publications in Ethics and JPhil, such successes smile on her. But just as easily, the extra information can function to weigh down a candidate's application. It can show that she isn't getting the top publications, or that she's only quasi-productive, or that her research trajectory isn't a good fit for the department.

So the SC then faces a quandary: how to calibrate their assessment against candidates with different backgrounds. On the Freshie, all the SC has is pedigree, letters of rec, and a writing sample. On the Rusty, they have much more. Generally, they ask: will said Freshie be in a better spot or a worse spot (relative to our tenure requirements) than Rusty in five years? That can go either way. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. Ultimately, it's a guessing game, based on loose assessments of potential.

On the other hand they ask more complicated questions about Rusty. For instance, they ask: will we have to accelerate Rusty's tenure clock? At that point, then, many other factors come into play. If we do have to accelerate the clock, can we rightfully make an offer to Rusty knowing that she only has three years to demonstrate her potential? Are we leading her into the fire? Will the dean be willing to support a more expensive candidate?

More troublingly, if Rusty has legs and can move, what leads us to believe that Rusty will stay with us? Maybe Rusty is a ladder climber. Maybe Rusty is leaving for reasons that we don't know about. What if Rusty is _hated_ by her department? What if Rusty is a troublemaker? What if Rusty knows something about her tenure case in her home department that we don't know?

All of these are questions that, in practice, work against the hire of Rusty and work in the favor of Freshie.

That's not to say that people like Rusty never get hired. Certainly, my own department has hired several such Rusties; but sometimes they're on a level playing field against other Rusties or they have sufficiently laid to rest these extra considerations.

Not sure if this helps, Rusty, but I do think you face challenges that are a little more complicated than the average Freshie.

zombie said...

So search committees work on the reverse of the old axion "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
I can work with that.


4yrs and counting said...

At this point, it is probably a good idea to remind some of the newbies that a fair number of people doing searches have no fucking idea who Leiter is. They have never looked at the ratings and have no idea about speciality rankings. If you are applying to some place with a grad program, then they know (and probably care) about such things. Outside of those places and great SLACs, it is a toss up whether these things will matter at all.

I have been privy to the details of two searches in my years as a VAP. In both cases most of the people involved had no idea Rutgers is great program or where they train really good metaethicists. Ranking don't mean much to people who got their PhDs in the 80's and do not pay any attention to the current contents of top journals. My guess is that half of the people I have interviewed over 4 years (21 interviews) fell into this category. So do not spend to muc time worrying about this bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement, 4yrs. However, even if the SLAC SCs don't care much for the PGR, they probably still look at pedigree (Ivy League, and such). So those who are not from a Leiterrific program and don't have what might otherwise be considered pedigree, are fucked anyway.

Anonymous said...

I graduated from a bottom-10 Leiter dept, and always took the 'Leiterrific' term to not apply to my kind, precisely because of the 'terrific' bit: I thought it meant high up on the Leiter scale. Super-Leiterrific, then, would mean the very top of it, not just top 15-20. And indeed, while some of the 40-50 departments ares till very good,in terms of the hire-ability their brand name affords, they are sometimes almost as good as nothing (so I expect as I approach the market for the first time, trembling).

Anonymous said...

I am a VAP in a state whose legislature just recently approved the budget for the whole state. It turns out that instead of a serious budget deficit, the state schools will have a surplus due to stimulus money, but no one knows if this will actually result in new faculty hires or when such decisions might be made.

I guess my point is that I hold out hope that new job searches will get opened up as schools figure out how much money they have to work with and as the stimulus money enters the system.

Also, I don't think the permanent faculty members in my department care/know about the Leiter rankings. I don't think they are terribly concerned with publications either. They seem to just want people who can teach the basics without any problems, recruit majors and minors, shoulder their portion of the inane committee work and be socially well-adjusted enough to make nice with the Dean and members of other departments.

Anonymous said...

4yrs gave the best piece of advice on this topic. If you're talking about "pedigree", most places would look at the overall perceived quality of the institution, not the Leiter rankings. This is why, proportionally, graduates from places like Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Duke, and Vanderbilt regularly perform much better on the job market than other schools below Leiter 25.

But, in the end, why worry about this nonsense? If you're already on the way to getting the PhD, you can't change your pedigree. So quit worrying about it. Work on your dossier.

Anon 3:54 AM said...

So, no one is able to feed my hunger for estimates about specific numbers of applicants and/or VAPs? Come on...

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:23:

I've been on a couple of search committees, and my sense is that when the AOS is specific, the committee does look for the strength of the program in that area.

Things can be a bit more difficult if this is an open job, you wrote your thesis on X, and your department is strong in X (but not generally). The problem is simply that the search committee may not know that your department is strong in X, and won't have the time to research the case of each specific area. (But if you're lucky and they do know this fact, coming from a department that's strong in X will count in your favor).

Applicantus said...

I have been telling myself that there are around 1000 people out now, which is why I'm planning an alternative career in macramé.

Here's how I figured that:

1. My department, somewhere on the Leiter scale, has approx. 10 people on the market this year. This includes some for whom it's the first time on the market (a few who defended in the past year, and a few ABDs -- let's call these two types together 'Freshies'), and a few for whom this will be the second, third or fourth market season (let's call this type 'Shelvies').
Another department I am familiar with has 7 candidates; a third had 9 last year and I don't know how many this year.

There are at least 124 English speaking departments granting philosophy PhDs (http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/depts.htm#PhD).

So there.

But also:
2. Last year there were jobs that got upwards of 600 applications. I am assuming these 600 were not all the candidates on the market. Let's say there were 750 candidates total. I think that's a modest estimate.

Last year was a bad market year; there was - what, only 1/3 of the normal number of jobs? that means that if 750 is roughly the normal annual number, and 2/3 of these people did not get jobs, then this year there'll be 350-500 ppl who would have otherwise gotten jobs last year going on the market again, in addition to the normal output of Freshies. Now, I'm assuming there's a rate of natural attrition among Shelvies, so let's say it's only 300; and ignore Rustys and such looking for lateral moves. So there, again - 1000-ish.
Anyway, when it gets to be so many I can't count anyway.

Glaucon said...

@Anon8:23 --

I've been on several searches at my pretty good, regional public university with a heavy teaching load (4/4; 3 preps each semester).

Maybe just because we can't afford to be snobs, pedigree isn't much of a factor in our searches -- other than just as part of the overall picture: it's good to know whom candidates studied with/under. (I don't think a committee member has ever favored (or, at least, gotten away with favoring) candidate A over candidate B because of A's pedigree -- either of their program generally or their AOS specifically.)

To the extent that it's more than that, pedigree functions in a (shall we say) counter-Marinoffian way: too tony a pedigree can actually work against a candidate. It's not that we wouldn't love to hire the Leiterati, but since no one wants to re-do the search next year, unless the NYU grad (e.g.) gives us a reason to think that she'd really be happy here and that we're not just a back-up, it's unlikely that s/he'd be successful with us.

We--well, I--look at the sub-discipline rankings. (I might get crucified for saying this, but I find this part of the Gourmet helpful.) When it comes to narrower and less central sub-disciplines -- I mean this descriptively, not evaluatively: there just aren't as many folks doing philosophy of art as there are doing ethical theory -- we've been able to hire people whose AOS has a better pedigree (higher Leiter ranking) than their program does generally (like your example of Maryland). It's interesting that it works out this way, but it's not something we consciously aim at.

Long John Silver said...

Anon @ 8:23 writes:

If your department is hiring for some specific AOS, and if you are the sort of department interested in pedigree, do (or should) you be looking primarily at the overall ranking of the candidate's graduating department, or their ranking in that specialty?

This is an interesting issue, and there are several points worth mentioning.

1) I think it matters greatly what the AOS in question is. Certain sub-fields of the discipline overlap (e.g. LEMM). Others however are quite unique in the knowledge base and research skills required for doing scholarly work in that area. I think this is especially true of at least two groups: phil of the special sciences and the various periods in the history of philosophy (prior to the 20th century). My impression is that aesthetics is not as unique in the skill set required by, say, a medievalist or a philosopher of biology. So, I'd recommend using one of the latter as an exemplar for thinking about the issue.

It seems plausible that someone who a) comes from a department which is strong in mind but weak in aesthetics and b) is writing a dissertation at the intersection of those issues could still be a competitive candidate for an aesthetics job. But if someone's writing a dissertation on Plato in a department which doesn't have an ancient scholar, then, if I'm serious about hiring a scholar of ancient philosophy, I would be wary of that candidate in the absence of evidence that he's acquired the relevant training elsewhere (e.g. an MA from Cambridge in classics).

2) In earlier editions of the PGR, Leiter advised students to factor-in faculty quality/reputation in the area of their prospective AOS. And he suggested prospectives consider attending a school with a lower overall ranking if it would allow them to work with a leading expert in their likely AOS. I think this is sound advice, and I wish it was still included in the PGR. It's omission suggests to me an over-emphasis on overall rankings at the expense of the specialty rankings. And, yet, if you're hiring for a specialist in an area, the latter should be given at least as much, if not more, attention.

3) The problem arises when hiring committees are either incompetent in their ability to assess expertise in the AOS for which they're hiring or are willing to assign too much weight to pedigree. Of course, sometimes the latter is indicative of the former.

FWIW, I don't dismiss pedigree as a relevant factor. I do however think pedigree should not be accorded such weight that it trumps expertise in one's AOS. For example, if a candidate lacks research skills which are a necessary condition for scholarship in his AOS, then pedigree shouldn't be able to offset that. Most of the debates about pedigree on Leiter's blog and elsewhere don't address this issue.

zombie said...

Speaking of which, according to PayScale.com, we're number 16! In best paying degrees, that is. Philosophy undergrads are, anyway. I imagine the pay goes down considerably as philosophy majors progress through MAs and PhDs. By the time I'm done with my postdoc, I ought to be homeless and living under a bridge. But a classy bridge, right?

zombie said...

Shoulda posted the url:


Polacrilex said...

Glaucon raises a good point that is not discussed enough regarding the market: "since no one wants to re-do the search next year, unless the NYU grad (e.g.) gives us a reason to think that she'd really be happy here and that we're not just a back-up, it's unlikely that s/he'd be successful with us."

When one looks through the JFP, one should probably note that the majority of the jobs are not located in what many would consider "final destinations." I think search committees are fairly cognizant of where their university or college is located and the types of applicants who would actually want to settle there. From my own experience on both coasts, most applicants from the Eastern and Western sides of the U.S. are not dreaming about landing (and permanently staying in) a position at a college in Missouri or Indiana (okay, I admit that one could probably find a California Thomist fantasizing about Notre Dame, but that's the exception, not the rule) or Mississippi. This is not some secret knowledge of which only the applicant is aware. I would guess most SC's are pretty aware of it as well, so many times they just can't take those applications all that seriously.

Paches said...

I suspect that pedigree generally plays a much more important role among the deans and administration than it does among the departmental faculty. This is especially true at private schools, who can then direct the parental eyes to the shiny baubles of HYP degrees inhabiting their expensive halls.

People not in the know don't realize that Rutgers and Pitt, for example, have some rocking Phil programs. Among the paying customers for private undergrad education, however, Rutgers and Pitt have the whiff of "safety school" about them, or even the stain of "Gads, I'd never encourage my child to apply to THOSE places..."

It is much easier to talk about faculty credentials whose impressiveness is predicated upon a general awareness of the institutions. So, for a whole swathe of hiring institutions, the worry is less about the excellence of the department, than about the perceived excellence of the degree-granting school among those paying 50K a year for a societal stamp of approval.

That's my cynical take, at least.

Anonymous said...

Following up on Anon 6:19, I suppose that's what makes Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Columbia the best schools to do grad work at. Top of the heap, and recognized by folks who have no clue that Rutgers and NYU are great places to study philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the question about working with recognized scholars in your field at a lesser-ranked place rather than with less recognized scholars at better ranked places (Junior scholars, etc.), there is a strong reason in favor for the former. More important than University recognition (your Princetons, Harvards, etc.) is name recognition. Why? Because there is a person connection there.

I graduated from a very poorly ranked program but I worked with a senior scholar in my field that knows so many people in academic philosophy its ridiculous. This was probably the most important reason why I landed some tenure track job offers (with some other reason besides). Hiring is a personal process, and if someone on a hiring committee says, "Oh, he's a student of so and so...", it goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

"I graduated from a very poorly ranked program but I worked with a senior scholar in my field that knows so many people in academic philosophy its ridiculous. This was probably the most important reason why I landed some tenure track job offers (with some other reason besides). Hiring is a personal process, and if someone on a hiring committee says, "Oh, he's a student of so and so...", it goes a long way."

I'm not saying this isn't true, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. I went to a bad department, but one that received mention in the areas I wanted to work in on the Leiter report area rankings. We had a big name guy in the department who had all sorts of connections. So far as I could tell, he will never use any of them to help us out. Part of being uber-connected is being stretched too thin to do favors for every student he thinks well of. He was on my committee, but I can't get more than maybe 15 seconds of his time a year. It's usually at the APA when he awkwardly finds himself without someone to talk to and I'm helping myself to free drinks. 'Hey, X', I say. 'Oh, hello, Y', he says. 'Very interesting work on whatsits, very interesting...', and then he spots someone and is off like a rocket.

(He gets some points for riding up, down, up, and down again with a former colleague of mine extolling my virtues, but he doesn't drink enough for this to be a regular occurrence.)

Lesson. Go for overall Leiterrificness. It goes further on search committees and you get more well connected folks to connect with.

Philosophy Prof said...

Paches could not be more right, at least when it comes to private schools, prestigious small liberal arts colleges, etc. When the schools put out a brochure with a blurb on who is new to the faculty, or when this appears via a link on the school website, parents of prospective students want to see that the PhDs are from Harvard, Princeton, etc., not state u. $50K per year is a lot of money, so this is a relevant factor.

Anonymous said...

Different subject but part of JFP anxiety.

For those who are 3-4 years out and applying again. How is your CV different compared to the one you sent out your first year on the market right out of grad school?

1. Do you ditch your dissertation summary?
2. Do you add a research section (beyond listing your publications)?
3. Any other changes?

Comments from members on search committees appreciated as well.

Ben said...

I would like to see Anon 1:13's question given its own thread. I'm in the second year of a 2 year lectureship (in the UK, but I guess you'd call it a VAP) and wondering about similar things myself...

Anonymous said...

There's no "right" answer to how your CV should look a few years out. How do want to package yourself? The question is kind of similar to how you'd hit on a college chick at age 25. If you can pass for a peer, then making yourself look younger might be the way to go. But if you can't, that's just creepy and you should dress your age and play the older/experienced angle.

If you have the pubs and letters from outside your grad department, ditch the diss summary and write a research statement. Otherwise, put yourself in the noob pool and hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked that just *one* person (or two, I admit, I skimmed), mentioned how important teaching expereince is to a SC.

I am chairing a SC and we have 150 applicants and counting. We are looking at AOS/AOC, *teaching experience*, research potential, pubs, and then maybe pedigree. We are also looking for someone interested in us--what we do, who our students are, where we are.

Anonymous said...

5:44: How much teaching experience would a school look for? And how does a semester as a TA compare to one as an instructor? And to what degree is it just about having experience versus more about student evaluations or a teaching rec letter or teaching statement?

Anonymous said...


(5:44 here)It would be highly unlikely that we would hire someone who has not taught his/her own courses (pl) as instructor of record. We are willing to look at ABDs with teaching experience if they are a good fit, but someone who has carried a full teaching load and taught more than intro and logic is preferrable. Of course, ours is a teaching institution (while still having research requirements). It may be that departments at research schools care less about teaching experience and are only concerned with pubs and pedigree.

Student evaluations matter, but if a candidate didnt have very much experience teaching, they would be irrelevant.

Many grad schools have teaching programs and mentoring in teaching for grad students. If someone has taken his or her teaching seriousy enough to participate in those programs, that would bode well for him or her.

It is important for candidates to think about where they are applying. Coming out of grad school, I think many new PhDs have their eye on research programs; however, unless your are from a top tiered program, it is unlikely you will get that sort of job. If you are really committed to research, try to boost your reputation with pubs as a VAP or with a post-doc.

On the other hand, consider the possiblity of finding your niche at an undergrad institution where not only can you continue with some research but you can have a positive effect on students and have a life outside of philosophy. If you dont have the teaching experince to settle into this sort of position, go for a VAP to acquire some.

Just be wary of getting stuck in the life of contingent faculty. Not good. Low pay and few benefits.