Monday, August 31, 2009

Advice for first years

I generally have two bits of advice that I try to give to all the first years who come through the program. It's obvious stuff really, but I still think it's worth saying.

1. Make a good faith effort to complete assignments on time, but don't be scared to ask for extensions. Don't drag assignments out longer than they need to be. When the next semester starts, it's time to start on the next semester. That said, if a week or two will really make the difference as to whether your paper's worth reading, most professors would rather read something worthwhile later instead of crap by the deadline. Grad school's not undergrad. You shouldn't just try to get by. Note: in every department there are exceptions to the rule, ask your fellow grad students to find out who the exceptions are. Which leads me to..

2. During the first semester of graduate school, I really think it's important to take time to socialize, particularly with the people in your class and the class above you. You're going to be dealing with these people for 6ish years of your life, and we've got to live a little to in grad school.. right? Investing a little time up front to build relationships helps to make the whole experience better. Plus, if I'm right you've got the perfect excuse to hit up happy hour after seminars.

Any other sage words of wisdom for the newcomers?

-- Second Suitor


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Time-wasting bullshit is the price you pay

I am on one of the lower rungs of the seniority ladder in my department. It makes perfect sense--I'm not on the tenure track, after all. One negative consequence of this situation is that I have little to no control over the direction of the department and how it operates. (Not that my colleagues are dicks about it, or that there's anything I'm especially upset about; it's just that there are lots of decisions I'm not involved in.) The upside is that I don't have to go to any faculty meetings. But although I've complained about meetings before, the fact is that they're a necessary evil. If you want to influence the department you work in, you have to go to meetings.

I'm starting my second year here this year, and I guess they like me okay, because the honchos are letting me make some decisions about our speaker program. (I realize that this is probably just because they don't want to bother. Whatever.) In any case, I've been surprised at how gratifying it's been. Just being in on a couple of relatively minor decisions has made me much more like a member of the department, and less like some guy who just teaches a bunch of intro classes.

Although the extra workload has been pretty light, and although this is probably one of the more fun aspects of running a philosophy department, and although department politics and heavy-duty stuff is pretty much absent from this job, I can't help but suspect that the eventual glut of time-wasting bullshit will maybe possibly be worth it. Depending on the details, of course.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A comment worth a post

Yesterday Mickey Wolfmann made a comment that was so dead on it deserves it's own post.
One thing I have learned from last year is to ignore the wiki, discussion boards, and most profession-oriented blogs (even this one once November hits, and I really do enjoy this blog [SS note: we don't mind if you keep reading us!]). Why? They make the situation worse. I somehow go from thinking about market-oriented stuff every 7 seconds to thinking about it every 2 seconds. In addition, none of the news is good, and some of the information should be re-classified as misinformation. Finally, after obsessing over the market so long and having that obsession exaggerated by watching the wiki, blogs, and discussion boards, it becomes very tempting to think that there is some kind of formula for getting THE job. There is not a formula. Teaching experience? Matters at some places to some people who may or may not be on the search committee. Same goes for publishing. Same goes for journal ranking. Same goes for pedigree. The truth is that applicants simply have to put themselves out there into the void and keep plugging along. There is no magic formula that works for the desirable jobs or for just any job.
A wise person told me last year: you don't just need a good writing sample or good letters, you need everything to be good.. and for the hiring committee to like it.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second time 'round

For any young 'uns out there who are gearing up for their first market season we know things aren't going to be good. Hell good markets aren't that good. I just wanted to say staring at your second market it less scary. You really do have a better idea of how everything works and it's nice to start out with a decent material ready to go. This is a multi-year process. As someone mentioned in comments the other day, the stiff competition isn't other ABDs or fresh PhDs. The most serious candidates are those that have been out 2-3 years who have much more extensive teaching experience and publications. I mean, go look at the leiter list of hires. It's both comforting (oh, I didn't really have a chance at getting that job) and frustrating (oh, I didn't really have a chance at getting that job). What you're doing now isn't just for this market, or the next. It's for the next few years. That's not to say you shouldn't work hard now, but, at least for me right now, taking a longer view on the whole processes makes the day-to-day steps easier.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Word count

Suppose I'm submitting an article to a journal, and the journal has a word-count requirement. Suppose they want a word count on the title page, so I know they're serious. Does the word count include footnotes? Does it include the bibliography? I mean, it doesn't include the bibliography, right?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 24, 2009

Son of how bad will things be in the fall?

Back in April, we speculated wildly about how bad things would be in the fall. Now that it's late August, I thought we could speculate again, but hopefully a little less wildly. It is my understanding that the recent economic news has been better, if not good. The economy shrank by just 1% during the second quarter; the Dow is up over 9,000, which is better than it's been anytime since Lehman Brothers. Of course, it's not as good as it was before Lehman Brothers. Thanks a lot, Lehman Brothers.

So, what does this mean? In the earlier thread, somebody said something about how endowments work and how even great economic news wouldn't lead to a recovery in the job market until next year. I'd like that to not be true. Also, I'm unsure of how this endowment stuff relates to public schools. Don't public schools derive most of their funding from taxes, and relatively little from endowments? And could it happen that even if the October JFP is a disaster, things could pick up in time for the November issue to go to press?

So, does anyone have a sense for what kind of job market we're going to see?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Disoriented

I went to an orientation for new instructors recently. The purpose of the orientation was to acquaint us new instructors with the various policies, regulations, technological innovations, FAQs, BS, etc. The weird thing about this new instructor orientation is that I have had this job for a full year.

Among the things I learned was that "clickers" are so awesome that our bookstore sold a huge, ungodly number of them last spring alone. I did not learn what clickers are, what they do, or why I should consider adding them to my classroom repertoire. Luckily, my chair is a big fan of technology, and so I already knew quite a lot about clickers.

I also learned that my school is very proud of its association with Blackboard. I did not learn what Blackboard does, why it is better than a regular class webpage, or why I should use it. Luckily I am an online teaching veteran, and so I know a lot about Blackboard, how it is used, and how it is incredibly unreliable and super shitty.

I also learned that I should call one of two people named "Jennifer" in the event of any discrimination or harassment. Who would be harassing whom? What constitutes harassment? Should I be worried? I don't know.

I also learned that I should be engaged in student-centered teaching. What is student-centered teaching? I don't know. However, I was asked to free write about my feelings concerning student-centered teaching before any attempt was made to explain what student-centered teaching is supposed to be. Wonderful.

Now, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. I know that if I ever get a tenure-track job, I will be in so many bullshit meetings that time will cease to exist and I will long for death. I know that in 5 billion years the sun will explode and vaporize all life before swallowing the earth in a ball of fire. I know this. But come on, orientation people. If you're going to get me out of bed for some stupid meeting, the least you can do is do it less than a year after I was hired and manage to convey any information whatsoever.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 17, 2009

Small is beautiful

Prof. Andrew Mills at Otterbin College draws our attention to his new site detailing the life of philosophers in small departments. In his own words:
The bulk of the material up there now is from a survey I conducted of faculty working in small departments, but I hope to use the blog as a space for ongoing discussion about life in a small department. Among these issues are those raised by the job market: are graduate students well-prepared to compete for jobs at small departments? Are there things their graduate programs could be doing to help them? What do small philosophy departments want in new faculty, etc.
Of course, being prone to frequent bouts of sadsackness, I've been getting a particular kick out of reading the concerns of those in small philosophy departments and picturing everything that could go wrong were I to end up in one. But, per the site and survey results, there also seem to be advantages to such a gig, which might excite me on those days when I'm in higher spirits.

Regardless, I think Prof. Mills has done quite the service for all of us coming out on the market in the fall by bringing attention to something I, and probably many others, hadn't even thought about until now. I'm guessing some of the questions raised and answers given will provide some nice perspective and be mad useful for those who may end up in, or want to be in such situations.

- Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Poster boy II

A while ago, I mentioned I was doing a poster presentation. Sometime between then and now, I did it. Although there was controversy in comments over whether they are worthwhile, my poster session seemed to me to be wildly successful. I stood by myself awkwardly for about 4 minutes before I hooked my first nerd, and from then on I always had a huge crowd around me. Lots of people seemed interested, and I received a huge number of interesting and helpful questions. It was much more informal than a paper presentation would have been, but it was a much more personal interaction. And I don't know about you, but I find that verbally explaining my work to people is extremely helpful in itself. So I would say that the experience was extremely valuable. Posters are not bullshit.

I don't want to say too much about how my poster was constructed, but I will say that I followed much of the advice I received in the Poster Boy thread. There is a winning formula in there. Thanks to all who advised; my interlocutors and I are in your debt.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Journal Wiki 2.0

Here. I know I don't speak for just myself when I say how grateful I am to Andrew Cullison for getting this going. Awesome.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 10, 2009

Burning questions

Lately, I've been derelict in my duties as middle man of getting questions from the readers out to more readers. Oops. So, what better time than following a complaint about the lack of posting/commenting, to pose two separate questions to you. I can't answer them myself and am in no mood to speculate wildly, so answer both and you'll win a prize. The last clause of the previous statement is false.

The first question is about international jobs. Fellow Smoker JM asks the following:
[I]s [there] an international equivalent to HigherEdJobs.com. I see ads for very competitive positions in the UK, Ireland, Australia and just a few on the Continent. And that same job in Ankara every year.

I would like someplace to go and hear about jobs in Polytechnics, Volkshochshule, and other spots abroad. I want this simply because that would improve chances of being hired at all.

Also, is there anywhere I can read up on the British system so that I don't accidentally sound like a dolt?
The second question, from Difficile, hopes for an increase in adjunct positions since there sure as shit won't be any tenure-track jobs out there. But, in their own words:
I have a question that burns more and more each day. With the elimination of so many tenure-track jobs we've seen lately, will there be a concordant increase in adjunct positions? My question put another way, I know I should be very worried about getting a tenure-track job offer, even though I'm coming from the low end of the top twenty (according to Leiter), but should I also be worried about not even getting some kind of adjunct work? Will I really have to pump gas as my parents warned me eight years ago when I told them I wanted a PhD in philosophy?
First thought, consult a doctor to make sure that burning question isn't something more serious. Second thought, you might be too qualified to pump gas, but don't despair. There are plenty more jobs we can do that would be more rewarding if the TT or adjunct thing doesn't work out. Second Ph.D anyone?

-- Jaded Dissertator

Monday, August 3, 2009

The One Body Problem

The infamous two body problem is well known and.. you know.. sucks. Not to take anything away from that, but discussion of the two body problem overshaddows the oft overlooked one body problem. Especially in this year's market, you better be happy taking a job whereever you can get it. Flying solo makes getting the job easier, but sometimes makes enjoying the job harder. There are lots of places without many potential suitors. Sure, some of it's that a lot of tiny college towns don't have that many people around. But if a lot of us are pushed into fixed terms, it's not unreasonable for potential partners to be less interested in a philosopher who's moving out of town in a year.

Let's just say that if you took a year or two off before grad school, the Ph.D. took 6-7 years, and at some point you want kids, scraping by a few more years in a place that doesn't have many prospects isn't a recipe for happiness.

-- Second Suitor

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Past and present don't matter now that the future is sorted out

I'm back. And with the materials due to the placement committee soon, a long holiday over, personal bullshit sorted out, and another chapter waiting to be finished, 'soon-to-be jaded' became 'jaded' a lot quicker than I thought, or hoped, it would.

Self-reflection reenters the scene, and it's threatening to become this all over again. In fact, holy fuck, even if they don't have anything to do with philosophy in particular, the parallels to what prompted similar thoughts some six months ago to what's prompted this post are uncanny. So much so, I've begun to wonder if I squandered lessons learned and unrealized a most important realization:
[P]hilosophy isn’t always going to be there for you.
We've been here before. Not again. Even if it's well-established that honest self-reflection has a way of deteriorating quickly into renewed self-deception, it feels too soon.

Panic. It returns. And, it's directed directly at personal/philosophical progress. Shit.

But, the morning yips, I've found, dissipate more quickly. I'm not caught in the grasp of the earlier false picture. Motivation isn't the problem. It's that progress during the past few years of graduate school hasn't been quantifiable in the same way that the pack a day habit it has caused is.

Sure, in the past six months, chapters have been written, talks given, and, most importantly, confidence regained. But, it's a continual struggle to see any of that as getting me closer to where I want to be. Having to constantly remind myself that, yes, there's some chance, however slight, it'll all add up to allowing me to keep doing what I love, is a much less satisfying habit than the one that makes the first and last pull off a cigarette so enjoyable.

I will say, though, it's gotten easier. And, I'll keep doing it because despite feeling like I haven't made progress even in the face of the obvious progress I have made, I also know that I'm good at philosophy. It's different now because, to paraphrase a recent favorite band, I'm armed with the past, a will, and the belief that I can do this.

I just need to do what needs to be done to get a chance to prove it.

-- Jaded Dissertator