Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To Bail, or not to Bail...

An anonymous Smoker writes:

I am a 3-n year graduate student at a program in the top 15. I am by no means a star in my program. In fact, it's quite clear that I am one of the weakest among those in my incoming year. Although members of the faculty are confident that I can successfully navigate a dissertation in close consultation with my adviser, these same faculty members are also confident that doing so will be a struggle that is unlikely to yield future employment. Although a lot could change in the next several years, after reading many harrowing tales of the job market on this blog I'm beginning to think I should count my program's paternalism as a blessing. I like philosophy, a lot. Although it is admittedly much harder to like while constantly being reminded that I'm only mediocre at it. I am hoping those Phil Smokers that have found themselves in a similar situation might shed some light on whether to forge on. It's a dark place I find myself in.


It is, obviously, hard to find a tenure-track job in philosophy. Especially now. And it's particularly difficult if the people who are supposed to be your champions, writing letters on your behalf and stuff, aren't behind you 100%. On the other hand, the dissertation period is a pivotal time. It was for me, anyway. You might find that your skills develop a great deal as you work your way through your dissertation project; mine did. So I would advise you to give your dissertation a real try. As long as you believe in what you're doing and feel like you're making progress. And as long as your advisors do, too. (I assume you trust their advice.) If you start to not believe in what you're doing, or don't feel like you're making progress, or your advisors don't think you're making progress, then I would consider dropping out. But I'd give it at least a year.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

101 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that anyone who can drop out drop out.

If you have any other options in your life that you feel would be personally rewarding or satisfying and they are things you can pursue then it will probably be good for you to pursue those instead of philosophy.

On the other hand, if you enjoy *teaching* philosophy but not necessarily researching philosophy AND your department has made it clear that you are a decent (or above average) educator then I would stay on but have community colleges in mind.

You're a 3rd year so you have, on the absolute best case scenario, at least two more years before the PhD and, more realistically, 3-5 more years.

If you can think of something else you could do in 3-5 years that would set you up for a rewarding or satisfying life then I really think you should consider (strongly) pursuing those other things.

Anonymous said...

First, what are you taking as evidence that you're mediocre? Are you sure that you do not suffer from depression, or any other disorder that may warp your capacity to make reasonable judgments about yourself? You make it sound like you have been told point-blank, "You are mediocre at best" -- is that really so? Could there be bias at play, if you have been told that point-blank? In short, I'd be very skeptical of any judgment about your worth as a philosopher you may make at this stage in the game.

But, second, you seem to be very upset and unhappy because of this judgment you have made. It is worthwhile for you to think about how much a lack of affirmation will affect your quality of life. Because, here's the thing: it doesn't get better. (Well, maybe it does after tenure -- I can't exactly speak to that -- but I'm willing to bet it doesn't.) If you find that the quality of your life is lowered by having a profession where you constantly feel mediocre, like you're not doing enough, like others are better than you, like your work is valueless, GET OUT NOW. No, seriously. It only gets worse after grad school, in my experience. You're looking at a lifetime of rejections. That's what professional philosophy is: an incredible string of rejections, with rare successes in between. And even if you DO avoid rejection (your paper is accepted to a conference! It gets published! You even write a book!), guess what? The best you can hope for is for others to attempt to prove that you're wrong.

If you do not think that sounds like the makings of a good life, then you should recognize that, for you, the good life is not one involving professional philosophy. If it bothers you to feel as though you are mediocre (whether you actually are or not), then you just won't be satisfied with a life that revolves around professional philosophy.

Grad school can sometimes make it seem appropriate (perhaps even noble!) to suffer for the sake of philosophy. Well, screw that. If what I've described sounds miserable (and, if it doesn't sound miserable, that's a failing on my part. It is, without doubt, miserable), then get the strength to say, "Screw that!" and find find a better way to pursue the good life.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot depends on your funding package and your quality of life in the program. If you are well-funded (esp. if you are not taking on any debt), and your quality of life is as high as you would expect it to be in whatever kind of job you would get outside of grad school, then it's not crazy to stay and take your chances. You may be delaying the beginning of a new profession, but you aren't making big sacrifices that you'll regret later.

However, if your funding sucks, you are taking on debt, your qualify of life sucks, or staying in grad school requires making some other big sacrifices (e.g., delaying having kids) then get out ASAP.

Anonymous said...

3rd option: Transfer.

Clearly there are some people at your current school who don't believe in you. Whether they're right or not, that's gonna hurt you real bad on the job market. It's hard to erase early impressions.

Go to a new place even if (especially?) if you want to stick around in the profession.

Anonymous said...

As an incoming PhD student at a similarly ranked school this fall I am curious if this kind of candor by faculty is common. Did the correspondent ask for this kind of information point-blank or did they volunteer it? How might I go about gathering such information as I push past my coursework and into the dissertation stage?

Anonymous said...

This is what I tell all of my undergraduates who consider graduate study:

Let's assume you will not get a job. Chances are, you won't. Them's the breaks. So let me ask you this, even if you knew *for a fact* that you would never get a job, would you still want the education? If the answer is yes, then by all means, keep doing what you love. You'll be better for it, and time spent following your passion is never time wasted. But if the answer is no, then get out now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:05: In my experience (at a top 15 program), candor isn't too common. Although I've heard of honest tough criticism at other good departments, I've seen almost none of it here. And that's certainly not because nobody could use some!

If the original poster's description of the situation is really an accurate one, and not the product of bias or depression (which, I must agree, it might be), then the bad feedback (s)he's gotten should be regarded as a gift. A lot of untalented proto-philosophers spend a decade+ of their lives doing bad philosophy, only to discover this fact after three years of rejection and poverty on the job market. So if you really have been given a frank and reliable assessment of your abilities, OP, just be glad that someone had the guts to let you know instead of letting you find out for yourself the long and sunk costly way.

zombie said...

Mediocre meaning you can't pass your courses (on the assumption that nothing less than a B counts as passing in grad school)? Or mediocre but passing?

As others have said, if you're not going to be able to get good, enthusiastic letters of recommedation from the faculty, that will be a very serious handicap when looking for a job. And if you are going into debt for grad school, quit. A PhD in philosophy is not worth going into debt for, even if you're really good, because even the really good are struggling to find jobs in philosophy.

Does your dept grant a Master's degree? If so, you might have already satisfied the requirements for that, and can cut your losses.

Anonymous said...

If you are a top-15 school, that is itself validation of the fact that, ceterbis paribus, you are not mediocre intellectually. Why you self-assess as such in philosophy is probably a combination of personal and environmental factors, and I am out of place to pass judgment on that. So what you need now is a criterion of self-asseessment that is independent of those variables that transcend them. Since you are intelligent, and that you've ascended to a place that few attain--what is the level of your passion? That alone is something only you can assess, and in my experience and judgment is the necessary condition of continuing on your career path. If you think that doing philosophy is the only thing you love (either as research or teaching) and can see as consituting fulfillment of your life goals, then you should start rethinking your place at your insitution, or your strategy for getting through it as a placeable researcher/teacher. If doing philosophy is not indispensible to your life, then that's that, and something else follows.

I'm a nobody (by current professional wisdom) who had that passion and hung on to a teaching TT position I love, despite coming from a distinctly non-Leiterific program. As a member of a top-15 program, you have some advantages I did not have, and you (and your advisors steeped in the research tradition) might underestimate your chances given that. I'd say your potential role in the profession isn't dead at all--but depends in part on your commitments. Do you want to become a great teacher from a big program? I have lots of dept colleagues like that. (And I am not from a commmunity college BTW, but a SLAC.) Do you want to be a researcher? Then your present placement, by reason of ability (yours) or restriction of opportunity (the judgments of others) is a problem of your freedom to be such.

It comes down in part to your sense of commitment to philosophy. I wish you very well. Please don't just rely on the opinions of others; again, what is your true passion (if any)?

Anonymous said...

I second the Master's degree idea. If you are in your third year then chances are that you can leave pretty easily with a terminal masters by either expanding on a seminar paper or just by filling out paper work.

The bonus here is that you can (if you are semi-lucky) get adjunct teaching gigs with a masters degree that should help tide you over while you make more permanent decisions.

Anonymous said...

Commenters who tell you to leave philosophy have a conflict of interest: you are their competition. Just keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

I have rarely heard of faculty being so candid with students, but it does happen. And if that truly is what has happened - if faculty have explicitly told you that you are mediocre, I would be grateful to them for their honesty, and put serious thought into other ways I could spend my life that might make me happy. The way this market is right now, even those who are brilliant I would encourage to do something else if there is something else that will please them. The market is too tight, the anxiety and the costs too high, to do this if you have alternative options.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, If you talk to the post-academic getting out people they'll point out (A) you've been developing a lot of skills that transfer and (B) outside of academia you get most of the benefit of a PhD already if you're ABD since they're more interested in your skills than your philosophical topic/interests/positions.

Anonymous said...

I would advise not leaving until you have some other sort of plan in place for what else you would do.

Use the resources of your institution to start exploring alternative career options. For instance, go to career services, or if there is a law school at your school, visit that, or talk to professors in other disciplines. Start getting a sense of what other options you might pursue.

Also, I would try to at least get a terminal MA before leaving since you want to be able to show something on your resume for this time.

Last, I would advise virtually all people to not pursue a career as a philosophy professor. The amount of work you will need to put in to get a PhD and then secure a job (if you even get a job) just do not match up with the financial and professional opportunities you will have open to you once you finish. Getting a PhD in philosophy nowadays is a very bad investment of time and resources because the financial and professional payoffs are not there.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what has been said about. I'd like to add, though, that there may indeed be a high degree of paternalism in philosophy, or at least exaggeration of abilities (e.g. on recommendation letters). Figuring out whether you have what it takes to do well in philosophy is a very difficult task. Of course, what counts as doing "well" or "good" philosophy itself is another matter.

philosophyfactory said...

A few things to think about... 1) in my experience hiring at a community college, a Ph.D. is expected, so if you can finish one sooner rather than later, that is a good thing. If you have to go into debt to do so, then think carefully about it.

2) If you like to teach, make sure you're doing that -- a community college probably won't take you seriously unless you have some CC teaching experience. period.

3) I was a mediocre student at a mediocre program and I've had tenure at a CC for 5 years. It's a decent job, but if you see yourself publishing a lot, think again.

4) There are other uses for your Ph.D. outside of philosophy.. .if you'd like to be an academic dean, then it's usually a requirement.

Anonymous said...

If you find that the quality of your life is lowered by having a profession where you constantly feel mediocre, like you're not doing enough, like others are better than you, like your work is valueless, GET OUT NOW. No, seriously. It only gets worse after grad school, in my experience. You're looking at a lifetime of rejections. That's what professional philosophy is: an incredible string of rejections, with rare successes in between. And even if you DO avoid rejection (your paper is accepted to a conference! It gets published! You even write a book!), guess what? The best you can hope for is for others to attempt to prove that you're wrong.

Truth.

Anonymous said...

Even if you are 'mediocre' (which I guess I have a hard time understanding what that is supposed to mean for someone so early in the field) there are spaces for such 'mediocrity.' Perhaps you might have to abandon the pie-in-the-sky research aspirations that probably dictate the most of the assessments of the profession you are given by your professors and most other people (even if they claim they are not doing so.) There are a whole bunch of 'mediocre' departments in this country. And I guess by 'mediocre' I mean opportunities for all of those who do not envision themselves as the next Saul Kripke or something.

Anonymous said...

Broad agreement with what's been said here. Depending on the exact character of the "mediocrity", I wouldn't rule out fulfilling employment in a SLAC. I've got a reasonably successful research program going in my SLAC TT position, but I'm definitely doing more than I'd really need to get tenure. There are a lot of mediocre (and worse) researchers here who nevertheless get to do philosophy by teaching it to undergrads. (Editing a book, doing some conferences, or getting *a* publication, even in an iffy journal would basically be enough to sneak through tenure here, so long as you were an excellent teacher.) If you want to play the odds (keep on doing philosophy for another few years and make your peace with possible/probable unemployment), focus on developing your teaching abilities, and make clear to your advisors that THAT's what you're after as far as jobs go, you might be able to score a better job than you imagine you could. Looking back, a lot of the advice I got from my top-10 advisors about what was needed to get a job in philosophy was really focused on what was needed to get a job at a research-focused school. Quite possibly, your advisors have no idea what some SLACs are like if they've spent all their time/training in high-profile R1s.

BTW: before you jump all over me, I know very well that many SLACs *do* prize research and it'd be difficult to get a job at those schools (particularly with the competition out there these days) without a strong research program. But it also seems clear that many are far and away more concerned with teaching and may even be suspicious of highly proficient researchers. That's how it seems to me, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I scan this blog pretty regularly to see what my grad students are reading. This post struck me in a very personal way. Given what you've written here, I think my own situation was similar to yours. I am currently a relatively well-placed and successful philosopher by most standards. But it took me a long time to get here.

I was a middle-of-the-pack student at a mid-Leiter grad program. It was clear to me from the start that my talents were not as strong as most of my colleagues. I was relatively quiet in the seminar room and felt that my colleagues were far better prepared by their undergrad programs than I.

I recognize that I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I've made a satisfying career through persistence and hard work. I know I'll never be as good as philosophers in my age cohort like Lori Paul, Jason Stanley, Ted SIder and others, but I'm quite content pursuing my less ambitious research agenda and being paid to do philosophy. Please take my personal anecdote for what it's worth. More objectively, it might provide some solace to note that most of us are below average:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2011.01239.x/full

Anonymous said...

This also strikes me on a personal note. I was at a top-10 Leiter school and I was the only one in my cohort that didn't already have an MA. I came from another country and straight from my undergraduate degree.I was the only woman in my incoming class. I didn't have a clue what was going on in my seminars and everything we studied was completely new to me. Everyone else seemed to know what was going on and did well. I was ranked at the bottom of my cohort the first two years of my program. Many professors decided immediately that I was nowhere near as good as the the others and I was told it would be difficult to secure employment and I should consider leaving after the MA. This advice was given by the way at the beginning, middle and end of my first semester.

But I never went to graduate school to seek employment. I went there to study philosophy for 5 fully-funded years and I remained strangely unaffected by these negative judgments about my ability. I mean it did hurt a lot, but at the same time, I figured that I did have a lot to learn. I focused just on studying philosophy and I was proactive with all the professors to give me advice to improve. And I did improve a lot. It took a while but I was ranked first in my class in my third year (when this happened professors who had previously sneered at me or ignored me were suddenly nice to me) and I was one of only two in my cohort to graduate wth a PhD. And I did get a job. Several offers in fact. Nowhere fancy, nothing ranked but things couldn't be finer. I am completely satisfied with my career -- making a living doing philosophy is sweet.

So your professors, fuck 'em. Don't let their confident judgements destroy your own confidence. If this is what you want to do then go for it and work hard.

One thing I found disheartening about grad school in the US is that I felt strongly as though I should know everything already, like I should have arrived there fully-formed and ready to engage in intense argumentation and endless objections and ready to write a publishable paper in a top journal. I could go on and on but I won't!

Anonymous said...

Not to be a downer (and I realize the previous commenter noted this) but getting hired at a SLAC these days is a higher and higher bar -- and many fancy themselves to be just like research places in terms of what they want in their dream candidates. If your letters aren't glowing about your scholarship, you won't make the cut. There are plenty of excellent researchers who are also excellent teachers. (Might also not be ideal to think of SLACs as places where the sucky research candidates go, but I realize I'm fighting a losing battle on that front.) There are plenty of top-10 people without jobs.

That said, when deciding whether you should leave, I'd look at the placement rate for people whose profiles (and advisors) are similar to you. If yours is the kind of program that is great at placing rockstars but leaves the others out to dry, you might be better off leaving. If they're good at placing most of their candidates even if they're not researchers, that's good information to have.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:13 says

FWIW, If you talk to the post-academic getting out people they'll point out (A) you've been developing a lot of skills that transfer and (B) outside of academia you get most of the benefit of a PhD already if you're ABD since they're more interested in your skills than your philosophical topic/interests/positions.

This is, unfortunately, total bullshit. Unless your undergrad degree is in a marketable field (i.e., not philosophy or the humanities) there's no one outside academia who will hire you based on the supposedly transferable skills you acquired from your philosophical training.

As to the person who noted that having a philosophy PhD would be useful for getting a job as an academic dean...they are fucking dreaming. Schools don't just hire unemployed humanities PhDs as deans.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add my two cents to the voices of those who found this description all too familiar. I went to a school well outside the Leiter top 20, and I was very far from the best grad student there (there were some who were identified as potential stars, and some of them went on to be faculty at top 10 schools. Then there was me). But with practice I got better. I now have an R1 job, and though it's still true that there are many people smarter than me, I'm making a contribution, publishing papers in good places. Whether you are a grad school star or not, though, you need to be lucky and persistent. There will be costs. My advice: finish the dissertation and then leave IFF you think there are things you could happy doing outside philosophy. If not, hang in there, keep working at it, and you might be lucky. Don't leave cause you're not good enough; far too early to make that call.

Anonymous said...

I also want to encourage you to not drop out. I was also in a top-15 program, and was considered among the weaker students in program throughout my entire time there. Yet, although I struggled for a good long time, I eventually developed a great deal and have become quite successful. A lot of development happens after grad school. Also, don't listen to these people who tell you to drop out. There were times I almost gave up, but I am incredibly glad I didn't. I wake up everyday loving what I do.

Anonymous said...

These accounts that claim that it's possible to come from a mid-Leiter department where one is not at the top of the class should be taken with a grain of salt. Since these people are describing a process that has taken years, they were obviously on the market before the meltdown. The market is much changed now and what was once possible is now no longer.

Anonymous said...

"The market is much changed now and what was once possible is now no longer."

Yeah, I forgot how awesome the market was before 2010. Or before 2005. Or before 2000.

The market was marginally better, sure, but this idea of "what was once possible" is pretty much bullshit. Unless you;re going back 25 years, in which case it isn't relevant.

Some of you all who are complaining about how bad the market is, you will get jobs. And then people in the next generation will point to you and say, "see, look at them, they were part of the generation when things were easier and you didn't have to work as hard."

Anonymous said...

The job market sucks. Obviously. But I think its horribleness has to be exaggerated. At my non-Leiter-ranked PhD program, three recent graduates got tenure track jobs this year. I go on the job market this coming year, and I hope the trend continues.

My point: ranking isn't everything. Being at a particular program by itself will not disqualify you. These were good students, but they didn't have mile long publishing records. They were just solid philosophers. Have hope and do good work.

Anonymous said...

11:35;

Actually, 25 years ago the job market sucked. Not as bad as today, but just as bad as 2007.

The relatively good period was the 1990s. And the 60s and 70, of course.


By the way, I am having a lot of trouble proving I'm not a robot. Anyone else having this problem? Shit, maybe I *am* a robot.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, I forgot how awesome the market was before 2010. Or before 2005. Or before 2000."

Really? Because the job market sucked then and it sucks now, the level of suckiness is equivalent? That's your claim?

Anyone who thinks the job market is only marginally worse now than in 2008 is not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I went through a bad patch during graduate school, where I felt that I wasn't making a lot of progress and wasn't doing particularly good work. I suspected my teachers felt the same way. I also sometimes suspected that I wasn't cut out for philosophy after all -- that I had reached my peak performance, and it wasn't good enough for professional philosophy. But with persistence, things eventually changed, I finished a decent dissertation, and most importantly, got a great TT job. At some point near the end of grad school, one of my professors explicitly told me that he thought my work had really taken off at some point. Significant improvement over time can happen, can get noticed, and can change your teachers' impressions of you.

People take different trajectories through graduate school and in their learning, but I'd say that usually a great deal of learning happens at the dissertation-writing stage. If you haven't yet started work on your dissertation project in earnest, it's too early to tell whether you're "mediocre" or not. If you really enjoy philosophy, wish you could get a job doing it, have the funding to stay in grad school, and really hate the idea of doing something else, I'd say stick with it for now. Show whoever thinks you're mediocre to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

I was told, though not in so many words, that I might be a good teacher but that I was, at best, a mediocre philosopher. Some of the faculty from my program (a mid to low Leiterrific program) to this day express surprise at my success.

Graduate students may need to start thinking of themselves as artists do. This is what we do because we love doing it and if there is some part of the possible future that appeals to you (whether research or teaching) and you are willing to take the time, see what happens. My view is that we need very good teachers much more than we need very good philosophers.

That said, mathematicians supposedly peak at a very young age (20-30?) but I'd guess that philosophers peak much later. I've been tenured for some time and only now am finding where I can make significant contributions to intellectual conversations.

The biggest problem you may face, at this point, is letters as you apply for jobs. Maybe someone here can provide counsel for finding the sort of support and advocate that you'll need when you go on the market.

Zarathustra said...

When I was admitted to CUNY, I was pretty far down the crypto-official rankings. Five years later, I was one of only two people in my cohort to graduate, and I've since ended up with a couple of post-docs and a TT job that I'm thrilled by. So, on the one hand, it is possible to overcome faculty expectations of mediocrity. On the other hand, it's been a rough two years on the market, and I think the only reason I had the equanimity to handle the second year was that I was fully prepared to bail and become a tutor to the children of oligarchs in NYC if it didn't work out. So, I'd recommend having a very solid plan B: if plan A works and you end up with a TT job, terrific, and if it doesn't, you've got something fun and interesting (and hopefully lucrative) to fall back on.

BunnyHugger said...

Sorry I'm a little late here:

I'm glad 5/31-7:57 has called BS on the "lots of transferable skills" received wisdom. I don't have enough relevant experience myself to assert confidently that it is false, but I have long suspected it is, so seeing a challenge to it is refreshing. I would be interested to hear other opinions on this, perhaps ones more educated than mine.

Anonymous said...

My experience, both from hiring out of my PhD program and from being involved in hiring as a TT faculty member, is that ability has very little to do with getting a job. Getting a TT job is only slightly less arbitrary than getting into grad school in the first place.

Now, if your PhD faculty won't write a good letter saying (just as they say about everyone) that you're the best student s/he's ever had, then *that's* a problem. But that can be addressed--just ask them if they can write you a good letter. If they say they can, you shouldn't let a lack of ability stop you. Especially coming out of a top school. 26

Anonymous said...

@Zarathustra...

are lots of NYC Oligarchs hiring philosophers to teach their children ethics these days? Or were you going to be tutoring them on the works of Ayn Rand? (Not my idea of fun, though possibly lucrative).

For what it's worth, this talk of having a "fun" and "lucrative" plan B to fall back on, is mostly complete bullshit. Unless your undergrad degree is marketable by itself (i.e., not in philosophy or the humanities, and/or from an Ivy League school), there is simply not going to be a "lucrative" plan B for you (and that describes the majority of philosophy grad students/new PhDs).

Zarathustra said...

@Anon 6:20

They mostly hire smart people to teach their kids math, physics, writing skills, etc. Not much call for philosophy or Ayn Rand.

Not sure what leads you to say that having a plan B is "mostly complete bullshit."

Anonymous said...

@Zarathustra

This is Anon 6:20

I didn't say having a plan B was complete bullshit per se. Everyone should have one. I said this talk about a plan B that was "fun and lucrative" was bullshit. In the present marketplace it's simply the case that no one is going to hire people with philosophy MAs, ABDs, or PhDs outside of academia. Especially those of us who have undergraduate degrees in the humanities and who studied at State schools.

Maybe if your philosophy degree connected to a marketable degree, JD, math, physics, chemistry, biology, education, etc... then you might have a chance, but not so if you started off in philosophy, english, classics, or other humanities.

People deserve to know that in many many cases there is nothing "fun and lucrative" to fall back on. Unless minimum wage/retail is your idea of fun and lucrative. So it is either swim or sink.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in selling your soul, you might think about management consulting. Firms like McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group routinely hire Ph.D.'s in all fields. Stanford's philosophy department actually produced one or two Ph.D.'s who went on to jobs at McKinsey.

Anonymous said...

Because the APA has done such an abysmal job collecting hiring data on philosophy PhDs all we have are anecdotes and biased department listings of where their grads get jobs.

Having said that, here's an anecdote:

I have known seven graduate students in the humanities (only 2 philosophers) who have sought non-academic employment. Most of them were exceptionally qualified and unusual in that they were *not* socially awkward. NONE of them were able to find non-academic employment. Some ended up going to law school, some are still in grad school, some found post-docs, and some are struggling with adjunct teaching work while they try to find a plan B.

If you can leave graduate school to do something else that you think would make you happy, if you can find a job that does not involve constant rejection, a macho aggressive subculture, job insecurity for almost everyone employed within it, or an income that offers something more than 30-50k then by all means LEAVE, LEAVE NOW.

Anonymous said...

At Anon 12:10

A cursory look at the websites for McKinsey, and for the Boston Consulting Group shows a tendency to recruit from the Ivies and Elite universities, with a separate online form for the rest of State school schlubs.

I get the impression the online applications print straight into a shredder.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in hearing thoughts on bailing on grad school in philosophy to go to law school instead. This recommendation came up a bit in this thread, and I have thought a lot about doing this myself. The only thing stopping me is that, from what I understand, the legal job market is pretty bad right now too.

This may even be worth starting a seperate thread to discuss.

Anonymous said...

I thought about law school when I was struggling with my PhD in philosophy and my *goodness* I'm glad I didn't bail. Surveys consistently show that lawyers are among the unhappiest people around us. Now that I'm a professor I am incredibly happy. I wouldn't trade being a lawyer for this in 1000 years...

Anonymous said...

317

My understanding (and real, but limited, anecdotal experience) is that law students, in general, are having trouble finding work BUT this is mostly because there are so many law schools.

If you can get into a good law school then you should not have any trouble graduating with a job already lined up.

If you go to a 2nd or 3rd rate law school then you will likely have at least as much trouble finding work as you would in philosophy.

In that sense the situation is actually better for law students. Someone with a Ph.D. from a top 10 Phil program still stands a good chance of fairing poorly on the market (i.e. no interviews at all) but someone finishing at a top 10 law school (i.e. I'm assuming they got an internship the summer of their 2nd year as most successful students do) will almost assuredly have a job offer in hand before they graduate.

zombie said...

My experience with applying for Plan C jobs is limited, but FWIW, a couple years ago, I applied for a bunch of fed govt jobs that were -- without stretching -- related to my AOS, and of interest to me. I got nowhere. The PFOs I received all either said I was over-qualified or under-qualified for the position. Clearly, I don't know what would have made me exactly qualified, but having a PhD in philosophy wasn't it.

(Truth in advertising, philosophy WAS my Plan B. My Plan A was even worse as jobs go, although I managed to eke out a modest partial living at it for many years)

Anonymous said...

5/30 @6:45: my sentiments exactly!

Anonymous said...

"Somewhere there is a campus with a dept that wants you. What is needed is the patience and willingness to wait until you find each other."

Wow, this is incredibly naive. And probably very easy to let yourself believe when you are actually employed. But anyone with basic math skills knows that this isn't true.

I hope you never, ever advise undergraduates.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I know some Phd's who got into Mckinsey. One was a philosophy PhD, and not from a school you have heard of. As far as I could tell, the key to getting in is to spend a LOT of time studying for the standardized test at the beginning. And even more time studying for the interviews. I am talking months, not weeks.

I assume the same goes for some of the other consultancies.

Anonymous said...

Aristizzle:

How does one talk one's way into a visiting professorship? Was this a job you applied for?

Also - I hate to tell you this, but having a visiting gig at a liberal arts college probably won't help you that much going on the market in the fall. Take a look around. Everyone is has a visiting or temp gig somewhere.

Also, if I could take a wild guess: You're at Duquesne?

Anonymous said...

Look - you can't say that "landing a job is much like the lottery" and then in the same breath say "what is needed is the patience and willingness to wait until you find each other."

Anonymous said...

What is needed is the patience and willingness to wait until you find each other. That is all. I'm not interested in all the doom and gloom. It just isn't helpful.

Say this to someone who has loan bills to pay off, a family to help pay for and raise, and who drives thousands of miles a semester between adjunct jobs.

The doom and gloom might not make you feel better but it's incredibly arrogant to think it isn't helpful or necessary.

It's Always Sunny in Baton Rouge said...

Speaking on the law school idea, I have considered this as well. I am not a Philosophy MA or PHD or even BA, I'm a recent Mass Communication BA grad in Public Relations *Chuckles and Snorts ensue*. I simply took a few philosophy courses and heavily enjoyed what I learned.

I considered law school as a grad option because the MA/PHD programs in Mass Comm have about the same type of job market right now, probably even tighter.

The most telling thing I found while researching law school was that right now there are major class action law suits claiming recent law graduates as claimants against major law schools for doctoring their advertised job placement rates.

http://abovethelaw.com/2012/02/twelve-more-law-schools-slapped-with-class-action-lawsuits-over-employment-data/

Another fun anecdote is that I have a few drinking buddies from my *SIGH* state school that are in the law school currently. When speaking with them about law school, they said that if you don't land in the top 10% of any program you join, job opportunities are few and far between.

Basically, law school is another dead end. If you truly enjoy Philosophy, then push that rock up the hill Sisyphus. Best of luck

Anonymous said...

"Landing a job is much like the lottery."

"What it takes to get a job is tireless, hard, quality work and a good attitude. Somewhere there is a campus with a dept that wants you. What is needed is the patience and willingness to wait until you find each other."


Which is it? You do understand, Aristizzle, that these two sets of claims don't sit well together? Comparing getting a job to the lottery suggests that (1) the odds are against one's getting a job, and (2) that hard work, quality work, and a good attitude don't count for shit.

And I agree with 11:41: It's really easy to attribute having a job to having the right qualities when you have a job. It's harder to recognize, even when one has very much landed on one's feet, that it was mostly dumb luck. But it would be very refreshing were more working academic to cultivate this type of humility.

Anonymous said...

That is all. I'm not interested in all the doom and gloom. It just isn't helpful.

My sentiments exact! I think the best advice I got is from my undergraduate adviser who told me "we market ourselves not our degrees!" Given how most people in our country still do not even have a basic 4 year degree, I cannot believe that we with graduate training and certification in philosophy are somehow so helpless in the big, bad world. I sometimes wonder if sites like these just serve the purpose of satisfying cravings for self-pity.

Anonymous said...

438

Are you seriously implying that everyone having a hard time on the job market is to blame for their hard time? That they simply haven't marketed themselves hard enough?

Seriously?

You really believe that there aren't institutional and economic realities that have affected the applicant pool and the number of jobs? That somehow we (as in: everyone in the humanities) are somehow making this up because we are lazy or simply do not have the stick-to-it-iveness that others have?

FUCK THAT.

Anonymous said...

Dear 3-N Grad,

My deepest sympathies. But don’t give up. If you love philosophy, and can afford for one more year, it’s worth a shot – the potential payoff FAR outweighs the drawback of cementing a bad impression you already made anyway.

So the question is: HOW do you improve that impression?

I shouldn’t admit this, but there’s a trick. It works on many analytic philosophers, even at the best departments (and shame on them, but that’s another story). Do something that showcases technical prowess. If possible, take your dissertation on a techy detour. Or take a high-level seminar in advanced set theory or modal logic or some such. Even an upper-div college course could do the trick.

Too many philosophers are easily fooled by this supposed proxy for philosophical talent. That’s not to say they know it: many love to hear themselves pronounce that there’s no such connection, that strength in, say, logic has nothing to do with philosophical skill. And maybe they sincerely believe they believe it. But a LOT of anecdotal evidence suggests that on a gut level, they don’t. At the very least, they see techy skill as a necessary condition for philosophical skill and a significant subset of the sufficient ones. More importantly for your case, they often see its absence as the primary (and fatal) diagnosis for lackluster performance.

It’s worth a try, if you can do it (and if you can’t, then obviously you suck at philosophy anyway, right? ).

Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

"When speaking with them about law school, they said that if you don't land in the top 10% of any program you join, job opportunities are few and far between."

Wait, so you think that someone at the 80th percentile in her Yale Law School class is going to have a terrible time finding a job?

No, that's not true. Really.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:19...join an elite East Coast consulting firm (like McKinsey or Boston Consulting), they'll hire anyone routine.

Look at their website(s). They actively recruit from the Ivies and elite East and West Coast schools. The rest of us hoi polloi apply via their online app (which presumably routes our unsolicited applications right into the corporate shredder).

Even if they do hire the very very very occasional philosophy PhD from a non elite school, do you really think your odds are any better there than they would be if one was applying for TT philosophy job? A TT phil job might be 300-500 applicants per opening, but a lucrative (non-degree specific) consulting job on the East Coast, that's got to be at least 1500-2000 applicants per position.

@Aristizzle

How did you "talk yourself into" a VAP with such a dim grasp of logic, math, and the world around you?

Seriously, your admonishment to just "work hard and hang in there buddy" would be risible if it weren't such strong evidence of your self-deluded state. You did not "find your match," you got lucky. period. Most people on philosophy job market will not get lucky. For most there is no job out there waiting (there certainly is not one for me).

My advice to the OP is to stay in as long as you have funding. Because it's a sausage grinder out here. There's no pie-in-the-sky and nothing to look forward to, and no one is looking to hire you for your humanities PhD.

Anonymous said...

Let's call this, a Lesson in Truth:

"join an elite East Coast consulting firm (like McKinsey or Boston Consulting), they'll hire anyone"

There seems to be this idea among academics (generally, not just in philosophy) that the private sector is somehow both more lucrative and easier to find work in. This, of course, is bullshit. Academics like to believe that they are somehow overqualified martyrs who sacrifice money and security for the love of their intellectual pursuits. It's idiotic. Just look, for instance, at all the various businesses dealing with massive layoffs. The private sector is filled with overqualified people who have the necessary experience. An advanced degree in philosophy is not the golden ticket many philosophers assume it is.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm late to this conversation. I'd recommend a 2 year commitment without debt, and swing for the fences on your dissertation. If it culminates in a top publication and stellar letters, you'll do fine. If not, you'll have given your best, have no regrets, gotten smarter, and have a PhD in hand. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You've been given a gift. All the people around you are letting you know you're not all star material. And only all stars have a chance in this profession. This is a winner take all career.
You should recognize the gift and act on it. What do you expect them to say? "I prohibit you continuing your pursuit to be a paid philosopher." It's unrealistic to expect someone in an academic career to make such a statement to you. Instead, they are urgently indicating "Don't go on!" And they wonder to themselves "Does this guy have any human radar skills? Is he completely deaf to strong indicators of our opinion? Is he that sheltered that he doesn't realize the risk we career academics risk in being blunt and direct?"
Please heed the message they are sending, and find a less frustrating path in life. You won't regret it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5/31, 7:57 wrote:

"This is, unfortunately, total bullshit. Unless your undergrad degree is in a marketable field (i.e., not philosophy or the humanities) there's no one outside academia who will hire you based on the supposedly transferable skills you acquired from your philosophical training."

Perhaps the man who hired me after I earned my MA (before I returned to earn my PhD) lied to me. Or maybe I was mistaken, and he didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6/5 7:20

you said...
Perhaps the man who hired me after I earned my MA (before I returned to earn my PhD) lied to me. Or maybe I was mistaken, and he didn't exist.

1) Your sample size is too small to be informative. Despite your outlying sucess, the general claim still holds that unless your BA or BS is in a marketable field, or from an elite university with great name recognition (e.g. an Ivy), no one in the current job market is going to give a shit about your supposedly "transferable"philosophical skills.

2) Even your anecdotal evidence sucks. You don't tell us what field you found non-academic work in, you don't tell us whether you went to an elite school, you don't tell us anything about your employer. Nor do you tell us how long it ago, in what country, or in what sort of economic climate you were hired for your transferable skills.

Anonymous said...

Here is my own story, for whatever it's worth.

I have a non-PhD philosophy degree with a very good academic background. I managed to get a job in the startup world through connections. My background impressed exactly no one when I began--pure luck getting my foot in the door. So I was disadvantaged at first. In time, however, I see that the kind of person who is good at philosophy indeed should have at least a few of the traits that would enable them to succeed in business.

I would advise looking for work at a startup if it's an option. Job roles in this community are much more flexible than elsewhere. As such, being a generalist is (somewhat) more valuable than elsewhere. One problem, however, is that these sorts of jobs tend to be geographically restricted to the coasts.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

@7:12, who writes: "only all stars have a chance in this profession. This is a winner take all career."

This seems to be demonstrably false, but I'm guessing it is more likely that I am grossly misinterpreting your meaning here. Could you explain, more precisely, what it means to "have a chance"? More specifically, what do you think counts as success -- as "taking it all" -- in this profession?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, a sample size of 1 is pathetically small. Except when compared to no evidence whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

And only all stars have a chance in this profession. This is a winner take all career.

This just isn't true. Success is dependent on a many things out of your control aligning in just the right way.

Many department are looking for good teachers who are solid philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:12: "You've been given a gift. All the people around you are letting you know you're not all star material. And only all stars have a chance in this profession. This is a winner take all career...Please heed the message they are sending, and find a less frustrating path in life. You won't regret it."

This, frankly, is horseshit. There have been several comments in this thread already attesting to how poor graduate faculty are at predicting who has or does not have "star quality." Several people in my (Leiter top-15) cohort who were poorly regarded by our faculty have gone on to have great careers.

Don't give shitty, mean-spirited advice that is disconnected to actual reality.

Anonymous said...

I was in a similar position as this person, only worse. I was at a school not even ranked by Leiter, seeing that the people who were doing far better than me (winning awards, getting paid) themselves had almost no chance of making a career out of philosophy. I did the math. I finished up my M.A. almost a year ago and having been looking for a job ever since. And yes, a philosophy education is completely worthless on the job market. Don't even lump it in with the other humanities. I've actually seen job ads which specify an English or History degree. I've never, ever, seen anyone actually ask for a Philosophy degree.So, just realize that your plan B is going to mean completely starting over at something socially useful. (LOL @ June 4, 2012 4:38 PM)

So, to the person who is asking, yeah, sure, stay and get your PhD if you're getting some money to do it, and spending all that time and effort researching and writing about something no one else cares about is fun for you.

Anonymous said...

Lots of people are telling you to quit. Some people here are flat out telling you. Some of the faculty you work with might be suggesting it. Honestly, nobody's going to give you objective advice. So there's only one ting to consider: is this something you want? If it is, then finish the degree. But keep this in mind: if you finish and then fail to get a job, look back to this thread. Because you have lost the right to complain that nobody warned you, that nobody gave you an out. There are may grad student who, at the end of their grad careers, complain that nobody told them how bad the market was, how hard it would be to get a job, or gave them the hard sell about leaving now before getting too invested. But not you. You're being told that you are mediocre and you should quit. If at this point you continue and fail, you can't put this on anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:11 said:

Yeah, a sample size of 1 is pathetically small. Except when compared to no evidence whatsoever.

Haha. Actually the sample size for my claim that no one outside of academia gives a shit about your Philosophy MA, ABD, or PhD, is quite enormous.

If the converse were true, and holding an advance philosophy degree brooked some currency on the non-academic job market, there would not be 200-500 applicants for every TT job opening. There would not be an ever-increasingly unrealistic push for graduate students to publish in top journals before going on the market, and there would not be as much of a need to rely on institutional pedigree in hiring process.

In other the words, the quite evident pressures on philosophy graduate students are, in themselves, testament to the fact that there is no pressure valve outside academia--beyond the tower, there is little or no real hope of lucrative or even livable employment. Which is what keeps people trying year after year as their degrees go stale to find the work for which they were trained.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon Grad Student,
I hope you are taking some of these negative comments with a grain of salt. The fact that you might have to spend years cooped up in a department with self-inflated assholes like 8:09 should count against pursuing this vocation as much as being labeled as 'mediocre' by professors only a few years into grad school. Not everybody comes into grad school as a 'superstar' (whatever the fuck that means.) There is time to develop; there is time to become a competent good thinker. That doesn't mean you will get a job. You might not. The odds are against you. Maybe its not worth pursuing. But that choice doesn't become any easier to make when you have to deal with advice from a bunch of 'mediocre' advice-givers.

Anonymous said...

@9:46

Your inference is bad. You should feel bad.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people who have left the academy for various reasons. The majority of them are making more money than I am as a new T-T prof. (Admittedly, my salary is shite, so it's not that hard.)

From their experiences, it seems that the transition is hard -- you're perceived as overqualified, you've become acculturated to the academic lifestyle -- but once you combine the PhD with work experience, the second and third jobs come easier.

Original Questioner, you're at a top-tier institution, which gives you pretty good odds of being a grad student at an elite undergrad institution. If you have funding and you're not going into debt, you might as well use the time you have at the school to figure out how to transition out.

Go to networking events for grad students considering work outside the academy. If you're going to change your career successfully, you need to know how they talk, present themselves, and so forth. If your research overlaps neatly with other areas (logic & computing, ethics & medicine, and so forth), try to get involved in projects and organizations that allow you to develop that. Take and audit classes, if you can.

This isn't a guarantee for success, but you need to lay the groundwork now rather than try to scramble in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

As many have pointed out, the math is not good: too many philosophers, not enough jobs. But this is too general of a story to tell. What really matters is the math in your area of specialty and competency. I have a friend on faculty at an unranked program that emphasizes the history of philosophy ("continental") who recently told me that every specialist in ancient save two from the past few years has found a TT job, and those two are VAPs in SLACs. Crazy. What do you do and what are the numbers for that? Break the numbers down further into the R1, Ivy/big state schools, the lower tier state schools, the top tier SLACs and the podunk SLACs no one has ever heard of and who may not even bother to advertise in the APA! Are you willing to work for a school no one has ever heard of in the middle of nowhere starting out at 40 to 45K or do you have a higher prestige and salary requirement? Finally, you never know. If you are in your early 20s and don't have a family to feed and won't be in great debt, perhaps you love it enough to go for it. You never know, even if the math is not good. Starting over in your early 30s, even 40s is hardly impossible, though it is scary.

There is a lot of understandable disappointment and anger in some of these comments but I suggest that the more churlish and bitter among you might consider yoga or Stoicism to calm your irascible nature. Having a mean spirited attitude and generally acting butthurt is not evidence of superior prudence or wisdom.

Anonymous said...

"In other the words, the quite evident pressures on philosophy graduate students are, in themselves, testament to the fact that there is no pressure valve outside academia--beyond the tower, there is little or no real hope of lucrative or even livable employment."

No, it's testament to the fact that people who have studied philosophy really want jobs in philosophy. They won't take other jobs until they're sure they can't get a philosophy job.
------------
(Different comment)

"I know a lot of people who have left the academy for various reasons. The majority of them are making more money than I am as a new T-T prof. (Admittedly, my salary is shite, so it's not that hard.)"

Yes, same here (including the parenthetical).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Columbia sent me a PFO today. I was really anxious about whether or not I was going to be interviewed. Now I can sleep more easily.

Anonymous said...

@8:09 "So there's only one ting to consider: is this something you want? If it is, then finish the degree."

Really? There is only ONE thing to consider? That's how you analyzed this question? WOW, you are weak at analytics. S o, for all your advanced studies of philosophy, you've learned to boil down the quest for human contentment to a single factor, felt at one moment in time. So, you can guarantee that in 6 months, 3 years, 10 years, the advice seeker will say "I STILL have strong feelings about the 'one' thing i wanted 'X' years ago." WTF dude. are you insane?

Do you read any of this blog, where people are filled with regret over accumulating mounds of debt and years of lost opportunities, only to find themselves unable to get a tenured job and are working help desk at Wells Fargo?
Do you think the advice seeker will be thanking you for narrowing down an extremely complicated life question to ONE, SINGLE variable.

Please stick to your narrow profession of studying the language of scientific statements. Because you're clueless in working with complicated human emotions.

Anonymous said...

@7:10
"This, frankly, is horseshit. There have been several comments in this thread already attesting to how poor graduate faculty are at predicting who has or does not have "star quality." Several people in my (Leiter top-15) cohort who were poorly regarded by our faculty have gone on to have great careers."

Well, my mean, shitty advice certainly pales to your caring, well thought out, compassionate, speak from the heart delusion. Why don't you recommend that he read "The Secret",and just wish really, really hard, and then everything will come out good. Because hey, if you can dream it, you can do it!
Why, look at Spud Webb, a 5'10" guard in the NBA. He made it in pro basketball. So therefore, i should encourage my 5'11" nephew to be an NBA player too.

You've been cooped up in a tenured world too long there Jacques. Stop confusing people with your rhetoric unhinged from the world most people live in.

"Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation - but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparaging purpose has been stamped?" FN

Anonymous said...

8:09 said, "Because you have lost the right to complain that nobody warned you, that nobody gave you an out."

Um, no one here has given the original poster an "out." That would be the case only if someone had pointed her or him to a viable, determinate option other than continuing in grad. school. Vague, conflicting advice about law school and virtually ungettable consulting gigs doesn't count as providing an out, at least not under any plausible interpretation of that term.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you know what the judgments of "mediocrity" are based on. I find that it's easy to think that you're not as smart as everyone around you, and to appear to others not to be so, when you aren't "quick" in seminar discussions. I felt pretty stupid in comparison to everyone else in my grad program, but it turns out it just takes me much more time to work through an idea. I have a really good TT SLAC job and a few publications in excellent journals now, although I'm still not that kind of shoot-em-down philosopher. And I can think fast enough on my feet to stay ahead of the undergrads, so teaching isn't a problem, and when I hit a difficult problem in the classroom I think it's actually good for them to think through it carefully with me.

I don't think I'd take the suggestion from one commentator to techy-up your dissertation. Super techy people, even very sophisticated ones, don't have an easy time on the market. And your average philosophy department wants someone who can explain their problem so that everyone can understand it and realise why it's important, so you never want to try to pull the wool over their eyes.

Anonymous said...

Spud Webb is 5' 6".

Zero, this thread may not have been such a good idea. It's bringing out the worst in a lot of your readers.

Anonymous said...

Original poster (or those in similar situations),

Has any of this been helpful or have you been driven to even more despair?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6/6 1:21 pm here.
@ 6:28
"WOW, you are weak at analytics…So, you can guarantee that in 6 months, 3 years, 10 years, the advice seeker will say, 'I STILL have strong feelings about the 'one' thing i wanted 'X' years ago.'"

No one can answer this. One could just as easily find themselves miserable 5 years into academia: if desire changes, then so will what pleases us. I don't see your middle term anywhere by the way. Does that mean you are weak at analytics? No? Then try being a bit more charitable then. The poster's response was aimed at the OP, our 3rd year grad student. I think the one thing to consider in this instance means the main thing, the primary thing. Our friend is presumably a young grad without family and possibly too much debt. How much does the degree matter to the grad student? If it is an end in itself, then it is the only thing to consider. If it is a means, then perhaps there are other substitutes that could fulfill equally well. We end up studying philosophy at the grad level because we fall so much in love with it. Let's not pretend it is at all easy to walk away from it as a possible career. If there is nothing else we love, we are not likely to be happy doing anything else. It is hard for humans to not pursue happiness, no? Better a Socrates dissatisfied after all? If you have not given your all and done everything you can to get a job, maybe YOU would look back with equally great regret?

@ 6:44 pm All grad students should be prepared to see the philosophy PhD as an end in itself. If you are not, drop out and get on with your life's work now. LOL, at the Nietzsche quote 6/6 6:44. I'm not patterning my life off anything that dude said. And your analogy between Mr. Webb and your hypothetical nephew is not necessarily a strong one. Mr. Webb obviously proved himself a capable basketball player throughout his youth and into college and so got drafted. 7:10 didn't say you could get a job if you're terrible at philosophy. He said supposed superstar grad students don't always translate into superstar faculty. Meaning it is possible, not guaranteed, to appear a mediocre grad student to faculty at your program and get a job and it is possible to go on to have a great career. Not guaranteed. No one is saying talentless, shitty grad students have a chance at getting a job, so don't straw man people and pretend you've laid down the hammer of prudence.

Anonymous said...

You guys know Godwin's law? Here's another: as a comment thread on a philosophy blog gets longer, the probability of irrelevant acrimony derailing the thread approaches one.

Anonymous said...

@4:24: "Original poster (or those in similar situations),

Has any of this been helpful or have you been driven to even more despair?"


Having read this entire thread as someone in a similar situation, I can say that it's been difficult to come away with a moral amid such a wide range of conflicting advice.

One would think the OP's question should be easier to make traction on than, say, some of the philosophical problems we're paid to try and solve for a living.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:11,

"One would think the OP's question should be easier to make traction on than, say, some of the philosophical problems we're paid to try and solve for a living."

This may be why employers perceive philosophers' skills as non-transferable--or transferable but non-beneficial

Anonymous said...

"I can say that it's been difficult to come away with a moral amid such a wide range of conflicting advice."

That's not really a surprise when you think about many of the other threads on this blog. I often read comments on here where somebody is claiming that "whatever one does while on the job market, one must absolutely p" and someone else is claiming that "whatever one does while on the job market, one must never ever p." Then someone else will come along and say, "You should only p if you are in situation s" and someone else will say "Only assholes get themselves into situation s. The trick is to p while in circumstances c."

At the end, every piece of advice that has been asserted has also been denied.

Anonymous said...

"This may be why employers perceive philosophers' skills as non-transferable--or transferable but non-beneficial"

Let's not forget the tendency for many philosophers to spend their time arguing for the sake of arguing (or in an effort to prove they are the smartest person in the room). My brother tells a story of someone with a background in philosophy applying for a job at his firm (computer industry). The interviewer used the phrase "begging the question" in the colloquial way most people use it, and the applicant corrected the interviewer, and began to give a little lesson about petitio principii. The interviewer cut him off with, "you don't really want this job, do you?"

Anonymous said...

1:34, I hope to god that situation s is a restroom.

3:20, good, it's nice to know that interviewers in the computer industry are as petty and irrational as interviewers in the philosophy business.

Anonymous said...

@ANON 6/21
"If there is nothing else we love, we are not likely to be happy doing anything else. It is hard for humans to not pursue happiness, no? Better a Socrates dissatisfied after all? "

It depends on what you truly love. Do you love being a philosopher? Or an academic? Do you feel a person can learn philosophy and find deep value in it each day, while they ply a trade as a humble watchmaker, like Spinoza? Or can you only experience the joy of philosophy if you teach it.
The discussion is about trying to be obtain a position at a university, so the discussion is primarily about striving to become an Academic. And the form the academic activity takes is one of a philosophy professor.
Now, those in academia know that we spend more time as bureaucratic functionaries than we do working on our beloved disciplines, such as philosophy.

You said "We end up studying philosophy at the grad level because we fall so much in love with it."
And your misleading phrasing is exactly the problem. You imply philosophy professors perform the activity we loved in grad school as a paid academic. But we don't. We just engage in an endless repetition of the same material to new classes.
What I've learned is that most of us really enjoyed grad school not because of 'philosophy'. Rather, it was because we were learning something new.
To state that the joy experienced as a grad student is renewed each year as a paid academic, going over the same concepts to new students is misleading and dishonest.

The OP should look on Amazon for books about being what it's like to be an ACADEMIC, and not focus so much on what it's like on being a PHILOSOPHER. Because a true philosopher can find the joy of philosophy while engaged in a career outside the academy.

Anonymous said...

@ 6/7 7:29 PM
I can only say that my experience teaching at a SLAC is very different from what you describe: "We just engage in an endless repetition of the same material to new classes." That sounds horrible. I change my intro material regularly and have different upper division seminars to continue learning and pushing myself.
You have a good point though: being an academic does not equal being a philosopher. But the OP should consider how much liesure and energy she or he will have to read these books after working hard all day. My experience is that most who turn away from the academy soon turn away from serious study. They lose the time and energy. This is understandable. And of course many of us get paid during the summer break to pursue research.

Anonymous said...

"My experience is that most who turn away from the academy soon turn away from serious study. They lose the time and energy."

Many who stay in the academy turn away from serious study soon after tenure. Or lose the time and energy to do serious study because of the demands of the job.

Anonymous said...

June 5, 2012 9:12 PM

I wrote: Perhaps the man who hired me after I earned my MA (before I returned to earn my PhD) lied to me. Or maybe I was mistaken, and he didn't exist.

You wrote: Your sample size is too small to be informative. Despite your outlying sucess, the general claim still holds that unless your BA or BS is in a marketable field.

I write: The claim to which I was replying was that "no one" would care. All I need is a sample size of one.

Anonymous said...

I wrote: Perhaps the man who hired me after I earned my MA (before I returned to earn my PhD) lied to me. Or maybe I was mistaken, and he didn't exist.
You wrote: Your sample size is too small to be informative. Despite your outlying sucess, the general claim still holds that unless your BA or BS is in a marketable field.
I write: The claim to which I was replying was that "no one" would care. All I need is a sample size of one. June 9, 2012 10:56 AM


This is a perfect example of the futility of arguing/debate with a person determined not to 'lose'.
Here's another example. My sister is BornAgain. I'm not. I love her, and steer away from discussions that cause arguments. But,one time we engaged in loving communication. And during the discussion, i sensed she wasn't listening to my answers, just trying to 'win me to Christ'. So i said "What could i say to change your mind?" She said "Nothing."
I said "Then there is no point in this discussion."

Many discussions take this form.
-
Quine revolutionized with 'Word & Object'. My claim to fame will be 'Reason and Intention'.
I'm reworking how discussion/debate is structured. The first question is "Are you willing to change your mind?"

Anonymous said...

@ June 9, 2012 3:57 PM

June 9, 2012 10:56 AM here. Are you asking me if I'm willing to change my mind? As a rule, I try to argue in good faith. And I'm doing that in this case. A poster (you?) wrote "there's no one outside academia who will hire you based on the supposedly transferable skills you acquired from your philosophical training."

In a response to someone else, the same poster later wrote, "Haha. Actually the sample size for my claim that no one outside of academia gives a shit about your Philosophy MA, ABD, or PhD, is quite enormous."

I was told during an interview that my MA in Philosophy was a major factor in landing the interview. Save for my "transferable skills," the job was unrelated to either my major or minor. My BA is in Philosophy, and my minor is also in the humanities.

I care very little about "losing" a debate in the comment section of a blog. But, as should be clear to all who have followed this exchange (for their sakes, I hope there aren't many who have), I haven't lost the debate here.

Perhaps it is uncommon for people outside of academe to care about another's Philosophy MA, ABD, or PhD, but it isn't true that "no one outside of academia gives a shit" about one's Philosophy MA, ABD, or PhD.

In this forum, there isn't much I can do if one fails to recognize the difference between no one caring and some, perhaps a large majority, not caring. And I don't believe that much good is accomplished by posting false universal statements.

Anonymous said...

Most of us are mediocre, and those who think they aren't are delusional. Pull up your socks, stop reading this blog, and get back to reading and writing philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I asked my advisor point blank what he thought of me once. It was an awkward situation but at least I found out. If I got the impression that my department was not 100% behind me, I would drop out now and run as fast as you can before you waste precious earning time. These days, unless you're the cream of the crop, you're not going anywhere. That might be a good thing after all anyhow. I am sure the bleeding hearts out there are going to skewer me for this, but it's the damned truth. Half the people that are doing PhDs in philosophy likely shouldn't be anyway. Now's a good time to cull the herd. I know it must feel terrible not to have the talent it takes to survive, but I am sure you have other talents.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

@6/6 1.21:
"If there is nothing else we love, we are not likely to be happy doing anything else. It is hard for humans to not pursue happiness, no? Better a Socrates dissatisfied after all?"

That is a very narrow method of approaching life, being able to find happiness in only one thing. which in this discussion is being an academic philosopher. A bit obsessive compulsive. And i don't agree that it's better to be a dissatisfied Socrates, or a dissatisfied anything. The whole goal of life is to be happy, content and satisfied. In the US, you get to choose your life. No matter what form you choose, it's the choice that makes you happy, even if you convince yourself you're doing it for other reasons.

Anon 7/2@3.47am confirmed my earlier post that (a) the market for academic philosopher's is overcrowded with talented labor which then (b) leads to a need for everyone to evaluate whether they are Cream of the Crop.
Have you written anything as brilliant as Kripke did? If not, then you're just another trained monkey who quacks the opinions of those who came before him, adding nuance that few will undertstand or care about, and telling yourself your original.
You yourself don't read 98% of the philosophy articles published each year. Yet you lie to yourself that others will read yours.

Your hero Wittgenstein, even Nietzsche, had nothing but scorn for the entire academic philosophic profession. But you emotionally choose to ignore those opinions they hold, yet quote other opinions they hold. You're a disorganized, random collection of self-centered opinions, rationalized under arcane language that fools only your aunt.
"Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. " -W

Anonymous said...

"The whole goal of life is to be happy, content and satisfied."

Fuck!
Nobody told me.

Seriously, everybody else knows this, right? I feel like such a schmuck.

Brad304 said...

Do not go to law school. I graduated from law school in the mid nineties and it took over ten years to get a job that comes close to paying back the student loans. I have a bachelor's degree in Philosophy. Here is the kicker though I got a Master's degree in Organizational Development. It was that degree that allowed me to get a starting job in the Federal government through the federal career internship program which has since been completely revised.