I was as ignorant as a newborn babe when I first went on the job market three years ago (with a supremely lousy and unhelpful placement advisor), and this blog was an invaluable source of information.
To which Anonymous responded:
Mind sharing what things in particular you were ignorant of 3 years ago, that you now know, that you wish you had known? I can guess, but I'm still curious of the specifics. And what sort of help didn't your placement advisor give that you wish they had? Again, I can guess, but I'm still curious.
My ignorance was pretty comprehensive (I'm not kidding when I say "newborn babe." I knew practically nothing. Lockean blank slate.), and I'm not sure that this list will be especially edifying for many readers of this blog.
Things about the job market that I was ignorant of three years ago:
- I did not know how much pedigree matters. (I did not go to a posh school)
- I did not know how much publications matter. (I had no peer-reviewed papers, but I had book reviews and an encyclopedia entry and a few invited talks)
- I did not know how to put together a proper job dossier
- I did not know that there is a whole class of schools that I should not bother applying to
- I did not know how little my years of teaching experience would count in the absence of pubs and pedigree
- I didn't know (no one knew) that the market that first year (and every year after) would be historically bad in the wake of a national financial catastrophe
Things my placement advisor should have (but did not) tell me:
- How to construct a cover letter, CV, teaching statement, research statement, evidence of teaching effectiveness (learning this a full year before I went on the market would have been helpful)
- Which jobs to not bother applying to and why
- That only applying to schools where I really, really wanted to work was foolish -- you have to apply for lots and lots and lots of jobs. (By my estimation, I got interviews for roughly ten percent of the jobs I applied for this year -- so 90% tossed me in the bin.)
- That looking for a philosophy job is really expensive
- Why my belief that I'd be able to find a job that first year was excessively optimistic
- How really, really hard it is to get a TT job
All of this can be summed up as: My department has pretty piss poor placement advisement. It does very, very little to prepare students for the job market. It is very much DIY.
I learned, and I managed to find out a lot of these things from other sources:
1) I discovered that other, better schools have useful placement info and advice online for their grads
2) I got help and advice from friends and other profs in my dept (including some I didn't know personally). One in particular, who was a brand new hire, gave me very substantive help.
3) I got lots of information from this blog
I also got lucky, and my first year out, I got two interviews. One was for a job I was clearly underqualified for. The other was for a post doc, which I got. That was a hugely lucky break, and I strongly encourage everyone on the market to apply for post docs, especially if you have deficits (pedigree, scant publication record) to make up for. (And not just US post docs -- any postdoc that gives you time to write papers and get published is valuable.) Post docs are getting competitive too, just like the rest of the market, but getting one is like manna from heaven: time to devote to research and getting published, money to go to conferences.
What I wish I knew then, that I know now:
- I wish someone at my grad school had sat me down, explained how important it is to get a paper published, and explained to me how to get a paper published. The most I ever got was "you should submit this paper somewhere." Maybe I should have been more inquisitive, and maybe I would have been if someone had said "your future career depends on it." (And maybe this is the difference between a really great grad program, and a merely good program.) Boys and girls, get published. Get published in the best journals you can, but get published. I've had five papers accepted in the last year, another five commentaries, and five conferences. It got me five interviews (Maybe my lucky number is five), two campus interviews, and one job.
- I wish I had known that APA would be a complete waste of time and money for me. I had interviews, but never got a second look after any of them. I did much better with phone interviews, and flyouts with no first interviews. But that's just me. Other people obviously get jobs after APA interviews.
- CV-building matters a lot. It took me 2 years after grad school to get enough publications, conferences, and other non-teaching experience to be taken seriously as a job candidate. I feel like it took me 3 job seasons to really refine my dossier -- to figure out what to put in there and what not, to write a good cover letter that sells my strengths, to write a really compelling research and teaching statement. (And having all that stuff in the can made it a lot easier for me to apply for jobs this year, and to apply for a lot more of them.) Some of that is because it just took me that long to have something to sell. Those people who can hit the ground running straight out of grad school, and land a TT job in their first season must be amazing philosophers.
One thing I hoped would help me, which did help me:
I have an interesting side career. It's not a lucrative side career (the employment prospects are even worse than philosophy), but it's one that has made me regionally famous, and I was able to build fun, interesting, and popular philosophy courses around it. It has been valuable for building my CV. My new department told me it was one of the things about me they were interested in. If you have interests (who doesn't?): literature, graphic novels, computer games, economics, sports, Fringe -- whatever -- exploit them! They add desirable interdiciplinarity to your CV, and a lot of philosophy departments, needing to justify their existence in these budget-slashing times, are looking for ways to appeal to a broader college audience by offering classes with interdisciplinary appeal.
That was long. Thanks for reading (or skimming) it to the end.
I'll turn it over to you, Smokers. What things do you wish you knew about looking for a job in philosophy? What things do you wish your placement advisor(s) had told you?