Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Since I get to post up top

Fuck back-up plans.

When the fuck did 'how to find a job' sessions all turn into 'and hey, that thing you've been working towards for 6 years, you shouldn't plan on that actually working out' sessions?

The fact that even successful grad students really need a back-up plan when going on the market is just completely and totally fucked.

-- Second Suitor

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes it is, but it's still probably true.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that most TT faculty members feel threatened by the highly qualified, highly published, highly motivated applicants on the market now. It sucks when you're on a search committee and almost every applicant is more qualified than you were when you originally applied for the position as well as when you went up for tenure. Interesting how that works. It makes sense that they would recommend a back-up plan. They don't want the young Turks to upstage them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 10:19, there is that possibility...or maybe it is just the case that A) jobs are hard to come by so B) job seekers should prepare for the possibility of not getting a job. I think we can probably see the basic truth of that possibility without resorting to obnoxious conspiracy theories.

Anonymous said...

We live in a different world post-the 2008 recession. Before this recession, it was reasonable for many of us in highly ranked PhD programs to think we could get a good job coming out of our program. For instance, I am in a highly ranked program and we placed very well before the recession. But the recession changed our world and the academic landscape, and even for those of us in good programs, it is just not reasonable to assume you can get a good job coming out. This is just facing the stark realities of our post-2008-recession world. The wise have back-up plans, and mine is nursing school at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I'm on a search committee and it is true that the top 10 percent of the pool has more publications in better journals than every single member of the committee. Some have multiple masters and doctoral degrees, which no committee member has. No one likes to admit this, but let's be realistic: the poor job market has created a virtual academic arms race. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 10:19. Two years ago we hired and I was on the search committee. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but of the roughly 180 applicants, I would say that fewer than 20% had a publication. And those who did, weren't ABD, they were people who had been finished for a while are were on temp gigs. And those who had good publications were even smaller.

So, simmer down. It's just an effing beast out there to get a job. But of course you have 4 articles in _Analysis_, _Mind_, _Journal of Philosophy_, and _Nous_ so you are set.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Let's put this applicants-posing-threats-to-TT-faculty bullshit into perspective: Exactly for whom would the top 10% of this year's applicant pool pose a threat?

Most certainly it won't be the faculty at places making up the top 10% of jobs. More likely, to find any substantial gap between applicant and hiring faculty, you'd have to move wayyyyy down the job list--specifically, to the sorts of jobs that the top 10% of applicants likely wouldn't take to begin with.

Furthermore, I'm not at all sure what applicant pool you folks have been perusing, but out of the 400 or so last year that we looked at, no more than half a dozen (1-2%) were ridiculously impressive. To be sure, those few remarkable folks were better than many of us on the hiring committee were at that same early stage in our careers (none of us were superstars), but none of these applicants were in any way shape or form even remotely comparable to us now. Could they blow us out of the water in five-ten years? Holy shit, I sure hope so, after all, isn't that kinda the point of trying to hire these shiny buggers in the first place!?

The lesson here then is that if the search committee for job X is such that the top 10% of applicants could reasonably come across as seriously threatening, then job X is quite likely one that few if any in the top 10% would want (and one for which most in the top 10% would reasonably be disappointed to wind up settling). Of course, shit happens. I can easily think of a handful of phenomenal young philosophers who have yet to find employment in a department remotely commensurate with their ability. However, I assure you, such cases are on the rare side (and usually work themselves out in due course).

So, anyone bitching and moaning about there being a substantial applicant-faculty talent gap likely does so in virtue of staring at the bottom of the job barrel from a vantage point well outside the top of the applicant pool.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Also note that this goes both ways, i.e., most of the applicant pool ought to be intimidated by faculty from departments atop the job list **[For many you'd think sufficiently so to preclude applying in the first place but alas, a significant number of applicants continue to think that Degree + Postage Stamp = Worth Considering.]**

ABD said...

I think we care too much about pedigree and publishing. We should care more about teaching and collegiality.

hank said...

ABD, that is too either/or. With this market, a search committee should be able to find someone with all of those qualities.

I must say, though, that I am a little surprised to hear that fewer than 20% of the applicants for one job search had publications. I guess I was under the impression that most applicants have pubs now (granted that they are not all tier 1 journals). Thus, if I am wrong, then that is GREAT news for people getting into the job market. If one wants to distinguish oneself from the bulk of the applicants (which one has to do), get your ass published.

I know that is easier said than done, but getting published is not all that hard if you had put decent effort into your dissertation and some of the papers you had to write for grad school. Just recently I polished up a paper from a class a while back and got it accepted in a peer-reviewed online journal. And no matter your thoughts on online journals, it is a publication, and that says something good to a search committee. Of course, if you are aiming for the moon in terms of schools, an online journal publication might not be a positive, but you get the point ( I hope).

Sidepoint: I actually think that the biggest barrier to grad students not getting published is that many do not know how to write well yet. For whatever reason, grad departments don't focus enough on that, and it hurts their students. If you have a great idea, but you cannot convey it eloquently, concisely, and in a well organized manner, your philosophy will suck. So be honest in your assessment of your writing, and if you need to brush it up, get a good writing book like Brohaugh's Write Tight. Even if you think your writing is already good, get a good book on writing. It was the game changer for me for publishing.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to be the nay-sayer around here, but seriously, Second Suitor? You are upset because your original plan might not work out, and you might need to try something else to make a living?

I thought most people left the "You can do what you want if you really want to try" mentality at the door no later than the end of college. There is no meritocracy in anything, our discipline included. Wake up and grow up. What you take for granted -- your education -- is something that so few people even have the opportunity to think about obtaining. For most people, the ability to spend a decade doing nothing but studying and teaching and writing about a subject of their choosing is an unimaginable privilege and opportunity. Allow me to remind how intrinsically valuable your education and training are, and how practically valuable they will be throughout the course of your life.

And, yeah, it would be nice for us/you/whoever to be able to do what we love for a living. But failing that, at least you will (or should) be able to do something both sustainable and commensurate to your level of education, that permits you not only to meet your basic needs, but probably live with some level of comfort, while pursuing your passion in your spare time. Even in taking a back-up route, you will probably be pretty fucking privileged compared to most people. For example, even supposing your back up plan involves going back to school for something -- like law school or higher ed administration -- we both know that because of your background as a philosopher you will be able to get through that additional education with much more ease than the average person.

As someone who works constantly with people who have to struggle to even get their foot in the door of any trade or profession which would offer them a barely reasonable living, I think you are being kind of a whiny little child.

I agree grad school is hard, and philosophy is hard, and that it's important and worthwhile, and that we are all probably more or less good at it. And I would almost certainly that you probably deserve the kind of life you desire. But so does almsot everyone else. And you should of course try for it. But there comes a time when you have to put on your big kid underwear, take off the training wheels off the bike, whatever, and grow up and realize it might not happen and have an idea of what you want to do.

My whole life has been a series of falling on my back up plans. And you know what? My life is pretty fucking awesome. I went to my back-up college, my back-up Master's program, my first out-of-school job was a back-up job, my re-entry into academia was via a back-up plan, I live in the back-up city, and ended up in what was originally the back-up Ph.D. program. And I am so thankful for it, because in all honesty, I think my life via Plan B is probably better than my Plan A, and, furthermore, I am glad that for some miraculous reason my younger self had both the practicality and the vision to have some alternate things in the works so that I didn't end up working at Starbucks while living at my parents for the last 5 years.

Grown-ups -- no matter what they do for a living -- have back-up plans because as grown-ups they realize that they don't want to fuck over their future selves, and things don't always work the way they want to, or that they should. So, even if you are unwilling to grow up for your present self, be kind to your future self, stop whining, and get it together. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and you'll probably have a decent life.

Anonymous said...

Jeebus, 12:21. I think SS was just venting.

Anonymous said...

I'm less anxious and more research-focused now that I came up with a back-up plan. It is a rational sort of thing...

Anonymous said...

For sure SS was just venting, but it was serious venting all the same. 12:21 makes a number of good, obvious points folks.

Anonymous said...

2:17, 12:21 here.

Yeah, so was I. I am so tired of hearing philosophy grad students whine and complain about the possibility of having to work outside the field. It's tiresome and childish, and I get a constant and steady stream of it. In the real world, it's impolitic for me to say the things I've just said, even when I think people really need to hear them. Ranting, venting -- isn't that the partial purpose of the anonymity of this blog?

I really don't understand how it is people can reach their late 20s/30s/sometimes 40s and have no idea how to deal with life's disappointments like an adult, and I think I reach a certain point where I'm allowed to bitch about it.