Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 1

Hey true believers/fellow smokers. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at y'all, but I've been moving and shaking and ultimately staying put. Long story.

Some questions have been burning a hole in my inbox. I'm going to stagger them out today and get a couple of threads going. Apologies to those who sent in requests a long time ago that I didn't get too. I think they'll still be pertinent sometime.

In any case, Smoker HC writes in and asks:
I have recently landed a 3-year research fellowship, following a grant competition, which allows plenty of research time, a generous benchfee and very limited teaching. I already have a good dossier of papers in peer-reviewed philosophical and cognitive science journals, and have several more in the pipeline. One concern I have is that I heard some people talk about a so-called 'sell by date' for postdocs. At what point (i.e., after how many years of postdoc or teaching assistantships) does the fact that you don't have a TT or faculty job begin to signal to potential employers that you are a less than desirable candidate? I already have 3 years of postdoc experience, and so far my applications for TT and faculty positions have been unsuccessful. I am wondering whether I should immediately begin to apply for those positions, or whether I could afford to wait until 2 years into my present position to further beef up my publication list.
Help out, y'all. Stay tuned for Round 2.

-- Jaded Dissertator


Anonymous said...

HC needs to be applying for jobs this year. As has been documented (and rightly bitched about) at great length on this blog, the job market is highly irrational. There simply are no set answers to questions like "when do I reach the 'sell-by' date?," "How many publications do I need on my CV?," etc... I know from experience on the search committee side that there are people out there who will automatically look down on someone who is several years out from their PhD without a TT job. There are also people out there who will think that if you have a number of good publications but don't have a TT job already, that must mean there is something wrong with you--such that "beefing up" the CV isn't even a good choice. On the other hand, I know of plenty of people who would not make either of those judgements. What percentage of people on search committees this year will or will not have such views? Who knows...

What we do know, though, is that as irrational as the market is, it is reasonably certain that you won't get a job if you don't send out any applications. And in the current market (or any market since the early 70's, probably) you are not helping your chances by putting things off. I realize, given HC's situation, that that sucks, but it is what it is.

HC should also consider that he or she might get a job this year, but be allowed to push his or her starting date forward a year in order to continue the post-doc. I know that my institution would be likely to allow this, especially if the grant HC has is prestigious enough...

Xenophon said...

Currently, PhDs get stale after six years, but in three more years the magic number will be seven. But years in a postdoc don't count towards that total.

HC: don't waste your time applying for jobs. Use the time in a postdoc (which most philosophers would kill for) to publish you ass off. Job apps take a lot of time, and you've got better things to do with your time.

But remember that very few Associate/Full jobs are advertised, so you might be looking at entering an Assistant position after six years of postdocs, when you do go the faculty route. If that's unacceptable, then you might want to start applying earlier. Or assume you'll have to network your ass off in the interim, to try to snare one of those unadvertised, senior positions that get filled every year (Leiter has an annual thread for those), which are pretty much all at research institutions.

Asstro said...

Your post-doc will serve to keep you from going stale provided that you continue publishing. If you don't publish, you... I can't think of the word.

Publish like crazy. Build your dossier. Use this time to strengthen your case. Apply only for jobs that look fancy and wonderful to you. Don't bother applying to places that will put you in the uncomfortable position of having to decide to give up your cherry-covered post-doc. Make an end-run in three years when you have no money left.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else wondering whether the metaphor ("stale") is apt?

I have a TT job that I'm abandoning to stay home with a toddler and an infant for a bit (I already know that's "stupid," so don't bother telling me). But I'd like to have at least a chance of securing another TT gig--after 4-5 years when both are in school, say.

Perhaps one thing that would be especially helpful for us (including HC) is to hear suggestions from folks about how they (successfully) managed to re-effervesce (or, at least, to make it appear that they had in cover letters and other application materials).

Anonymous said...

What everyone else said, but I would add that the job market is very fucked up right now. Highly qualified candidates that would normally get jobs aren't, and thus hanging out in whatever position they can find.

As a result, years out of PhD are less evidence of "something wrong," and may even be an asset, provided you've maintained a research and teaching profile commensurate with whatever slave labor you've been doing.

It probably takes a lot longer to go "stale" in this market.