Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line (As Always)

I haven't ever been excited about the start of job market season. And I've been progressively less excited each year for the past few years. But I was still kind of surprised to discover how much I'm not looking forward to being on the job market again. I started getting my materials together and it just hit me. Like a black rock in my guts. Ugh.

When I finished my dissertation and started teaching on the VAP circuit, I sort of thought that if I was a hard worker and did what I was supposed to do--if I did a good job teaching my classes and published a lot--then I would eventually snag a TT position somewhere. I didn't think it was a guarantee, or anything. But based on what happened to people I went to grad school with, and to people whose degrees are from departments similar to mine, I thought I had a decent chance. I was trying to be realistic about it, but I was also at least a little optimistic, insofar as that's a possible combination. And so, although I wasn't in love with it or anything, I didn't have too much trouble getting myself motivated to go on the market in the fall.

But the past couple of years have been different. Although I believe in what I'm doing, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished, I'm not getting the results I want. It keeps happening, and the job market keeps not bouncing back. It gets harder to get myself moving on all the shit I need to do before the JFP drops. Blah.

Anyways, here's some Cake for your enjoyment. I hope everyone's prowess is potent this year. Especially mine.



--Mr. Zero

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stay strong Zero.

Anonymous said...

Some jobs (a not insignificant number) have already been posted to the Web Only Vol. 194 of the JFP. They continue to trickle in. Considering that this year the JFP will be entirely web-only, might this mean the October JFP will be thinner--schools that had their ads ready may already have run them? Or not? Or yes, some, but October will still carry the bulk? Anyone care to speculate?

Anonymous said...

I wish my department had a TT opening this year Mr. Zero. I think you'd make a helluva colleague. I'm pulling for you, and best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I had the impression that Oct. 1 would not bring a load of new jobs, since information on the new electronic format indicates that ads will be posted as soon as the APA approves them. It's possible that this only applies post-Oct 1, but I think not, given the recent significant uptick in postings on the 194W list. I suppose we'll find out in 10 days.

Re: Mr. Zero's original post, I am very sympathetic. This will be my third year on the market, and I'm in my second VAP position in as many years. I love my job, and I know that I'm good at it...but I'm tired of the yearly uncertainty, and tired of uprooting my family every 10 months. Ultimately, I can't continue to do this--so my partner and I collectively decided that this is my last year on the market. If I can't get a more permanent position this year, I'm calling it quits. No job, for me, is worth renewing this pain interminably.

In a way, this decision has made the process of getting ready for the market again a little bit easier. It's still horrible, but I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In a few months, one way or the other, I'll be done with this shit. That's much better, as far as I'm concerned, than the alternative.

So, good luck, Mr. Zero, and everyone who has been at this for a while. Perseverance in this work is really, really hard.

Anonymous said...

My department is hiring this year (a senior position, unfortunately for the people on this blog) and it's already been posted in the JFP. However, I also know that my department has been really on the ball with this one, since it's a position we've intended to fill for a few years, and they really want to have finalists picked by November. So I'm not sure how representative my department is. But from a department's perspective, if you're ready, I can't think of a reason to hold off advertising until October.

Anonymous said...

If this has come up before, my apologies. But here's a question I can't get a good answer to: when should one quit and move on to something else?

Look, we're not stupid. We know the realist is that not everyone will get a job, and with each passing year, fewer and fewer will get jobs. So when is it reasonable to hang up the gloves and acknowledge defeat? How many years out equals permanently stale? How many VAPs before you are seen as always a bridesmaid and never a bride? How much adjuncting before you become a permanent part of the academic underclass?

If the answer is "it depends," I think I might just quit now.

Carolyn said...

Anonymous, Mr. Zero: this sucks and makes me want to do something...if not now, then when/if I ever have a job. What would make this situation suck less? More multi-year VAP's? Clearer job requirements?

Anonymous said...

me too, dude. me too. in fact, i so loathe the idea of being on the market that i am semi-consciously self-sabotaging myself on job applications: not getting all the pieces all the way done, letting deadlines slide, and then just sort of shrugging, thinking, fuck it, i'll be pumping out 70 more of these things, which will come to basically the same end.


Mr. Zero said...

Thanks, folks.

Multi-year VAP contracts have a lot of power to substantially improve people's lives. If they were more common, it would be a lot better.

But as far as changes that would really turn things around, I think what's necessary is a substantial improvement in the economy, combined with an increased willingness on the part of state legislatures to fund higher education, combined with an increased willingness on the part of college and university administrations to keep the percentage of tenured/tenure-track faculty high and to keep class-sizes reasonably low.

And so, as far as I can tell, what it would take is the reversal of a number of economic trends, and then a number of administrative cultural trends.

In the long run, I am inclined to be somewhat optimistic. The economy probably won't suck like this forever. Administrators are stingy and tight-fisted, but they also want their schools to be good. Legislatures basically evil, so they represent a serious problem. But they've always been evil, even during various periods of educational expansion.

But that's the long run, and you know what they say about the long run.

Anonymous said...

"Administrators are stingy and tight-fisted, but they also want their schools to be good."

In my experience, administrators want their schools not to suck, which is a very, very different thing. And more so now than ever, they want their schools to be profitable. It seems that most administrators spend their time looking to see just how low they can sink while still maintaining their accreditation. The only time they seem willing to spend money to improve something is when:
1) it's based in technology
2) it relates to athletics
3) it generates income or it prevents a major lawsuit.

I guess I'm just not optimistic anymore.

zombie said...

Sorry 11:29. It depends. What's your economic situation? Are you able to make a decent living? Are you putting off other life plans that are important to you (marriage, family, whatever...)? Is there anything else you can see yourself doing that will help you live a satisfying life? How long have you been on the market? Do you feel like you have become a better candidate in that time (more pubs, better at interviewing, etc.)?

There's no magic number of years after which you should give up. You should give up if being on the job market is no longer worth the candle for you, or if you believe you have no hope of finding the job you need or want.

zombie said...

As always, I'm pulling for you, gang. Good luck, hang in there, be bold, go for it, and all that. Apply for every frickin' job you can, and a few more.

Anonymous said...

I threw in the towel after I had been out five years. I wish I'd made the decision earlier. What kept me going was the sense that I'd be a failure if I quit. I'm sure this is a familiar feeling to many who read this blog. There were also various annoying family members who kept telling me, "Academia is your calling! You just have to persevere!". (Both my parents are academics. Of course.)So, I'd say, give it two years max after you finish your degree. If you don't have a TT job by then, do something else.

Anonymous said...

@6:35

I think the problem a lot of us have is that we don't quite know what that "something else" is that we are supposed to "do."

Anonymous said...

@9:10, here's a crazy idea - teach high school. Now, before everyone rolls their eyes, hear me out. First, everyone here obviously has experience teaching, so the job wouldn't be that different to what you do now. Second, you won't necessarily be "downgrading." The freshmen you teach intro philosophy courses to aren't THAT much smarter than seniors in high school. In fact, having a PhD and having actually been a university professor, you will likely be able to find employment at rather elite high schools with very intelligent students. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you could still teach philosophy. If a school offers IB courses (which many do), they have to also offer a number of specific courses, one of which is called "Theory of knowledge," which is basically epistemology 101. From what I've heard, there are no specific course guidelines, so you could teach pretty much whatever you wanted.

I'm sure that, initially, going back to high school doesn't sound particularly appealing. But given that you could probably teach better students, for better pay, with substantially less demands (like no more publications/conferences), all while still teaching philosophy, it doesn't sound that awful to me.

Full disclosure: I don't even have an MA, I'm just a run-of-the-mill college graduate who thinks he'd like to go to graduate school at some point, and this is something I'd very seriously consider doing if I went to grad school and became one of the many PhDs who couldn't find a TT job.

BunnyHugger said...

For what it's worth, though I continue to semi-contentedly hang around in a fixed term renewable position, I did have a flyback as recently as 2011, which was 7 years post defense. (I didn't go on the market since then.) In 2009, my first job market foray in a few years, I actually had three flybacks. These were not highly desirable jobs, but they were all tenure track. I'm not well published, nor am I especially brilliant (in my estimation). So I guess you might take from that, that even years "stale" one can be a plausible candidate. Of course, I was not offered any of those jobs.

That said, I think I've given up.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya zero. The particulars of my situation are eerily the same. This will be year 5 for me, and probably my last year, one way or another.

@11:29: Barring any special circumstances, it will inevitably be arbitrary to some degree if/when you decide to quit. And that's disturbing--esp. for us philosophy-types who prefer Reason to Rule. Existential angst, anyone?

Why is this year my last year? Well, my goal is to be settled in a career before age 40. Moreover, my plan B is to get a two-year degree in counseling, and I'm turning 37 at the end of this month. So,it looks like it's now or never.

Yes, 40 is an arbitrary number in one sense. But no matter how many times I repeat that to myself, there is a certain weight to turning "40" in our culture. And the psychological effect of that is not entirely in my control. Besides, there has to be a cut off point somewhere...and again, some arbitrariness is pretty much unavoidable. That's the reality.

Anonymous said...

Are there stats on how many folk who graduate get TT positions? In particular, stats that isolate the group of people like Zero: not just a PhD but also a reasonable publication record? Such stats might provide guidance as to what one realistically has to achieve to be optimistic. Or they may not.

Anonymous said...

10:01:

In order to teach high school, you need to be certified. The process differs starte by state. In my state, that means a BA and an MA, one of which must be in Education, one of which must be in the area that one will teach in. Because high schools in my state don't have certification in Philosophy, this would require two more degrees before I even qualify for student teaching, the part of the job training that involves teaching for free while paying tuition somewhere.

Though perhaps you live someplace where teachers need not be certified, or have appropriate degrees? If that's the case, what state is that?

Anonymous said...

In many states you don't need any certification to teach at a private or parochial school.

imprecise said...

I have a friend who dropped out of grad school (with an M.A.) and got a job teaching at an elite private school in a fabulous city. His students are really smart, and he can teach more or less whatever he wants. There are certain hassles specific to HS teaching, but he's pretty happy.

And he has no certification. Apparently, elite HSs just look for high quality teaching.

Anonymous said...

Here's one way I use to gauge whether to give up: get a google webpage; put your shit on it; install google analytics; watch where the hits come from. If you're getting a lot of hits from U's you applied to, then you know you are getting on the radar. Is it predictive? Well, every call I got last year was preceded by a hit on my site. So, I am waiting to get lucky :)

YFNA

Anonymous said...

The idea that you should give up after 2 years is bullshit, in my opinion. If you get no nibbles then by all means give up. But to give a hard deadline like 2 years? I am not giving up. I would rather move all over hell's creation and do something I love than quit and do something I hate. Of course, I don't have to worry about uprooting loved ones, unlike many others.

Anonymous said...

Teach for America is also an option, which gets you up to speed without any additional degrees. You can also teach at charter schools without teaching credentials.

A friend of mine earned a PhD in philosophy the same year I did. After two years of VAPs he took a job at a private high school in DC teaching philosophy and classics. He makes twice what I do (TT at a state university) and seems to love his job. Another friend with a PhD in philosophy got a job at a bank doing public relations. He does well and seems happy with what he is doing. So, there are realistic options.

zombie said...

If I had given up after two years, I would not have a great TT job that I love. (It took 3 years.)

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3qzuat/

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the career "Philosopher" is ranked the 16th best job out of 200 job categories?
The primary variable is "Hiring Outlook", along with three others.

http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/2011-ranking-200-jobs-best-worst

So why do i always feel that these grand sweeping Hegelian narratives paint a different picture than the self-centered, egotistical life that i lead? A strong hiring outlook? Please let it be so.

Anonymous said...

I got my TT job my fifth year on the market (fourth post-PhD). I worked as an instructor at two schools before getting it.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to everyone crouched at the starting line.

Anonymous said...

I think I beat you all: 7 years on the market. It was worth it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Cake, Mr. Zero. It brought a smile to my face during this dismal time.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that makes the philosophy job market so frustrating (the lack of rationality/fairness in who gets interviews/jobs, the role of luck, the importance of "fit," whatever that is) is also one of the things that makes having a TT job in philosophy so awesome. (I mean, many people end up at places that they love working with people who love them -- *because* they were selected for at best semi-rational and at least partially impenetrable reasons.) I say this as someone who was very lucky last year--got a job when some of my more talented grad school peers didn't even get interviews--and to encourage job seekers this year. The process is distressing in many respects but there is room for enjoyment and even some opportunities for personal benefit. To wit: thinking about all of the schools where you would love to work *is fun*, imagining how your research could influence philosophical discourse while writing your research statement *is empowering*, recalling your positive moments as a teacher while writing your teaching statement *is gratifying*, etc. Go for it and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Not totally OT, but what can other Smokers say about job ads like this:
http://philjobs.org/job/show/1293

(there are several of the same sort at philjobs).

In other words, what is one supposed to do with these ads that effectively say, we don't have a job for you and if we did, we don't really know what it would look like, but apply anyway?

zombie said...

If you would consider relocating to Ellensburg WA on short notice for a temp adjunct position (and I would not recommend you do so), then there's little harm in applying (they are not asking you to spring for letters of rec or an official transcript, so it won't cost you anything to apply).

Universities with undergrad only programs don't have a pool of grad student teachers to resort to, so they often have an ongoing need for adjuncts. There are no other nearby universities CWU could draw from.

But personally, I've been to Ellensburg, and I wouldn't do it. If it was in a location you'd like to live in, and it doesn't mean uprooting your family or some such, why not?

Anonymous said...

what's wrong with ellensburg? seemed nice enough to me.

Anonymous said...

"what's wrong with ellensburg?"

The giant flesh-eating cockroaches.

Anonymous said...

Ellensburg is a very small town in the middle of nowhere. It's probably best known as the place you stop as you're driving to or from Seattle from Eastern WA. I can't imagine there are too many jobs available to those searching and there are definitely no other schools in the area. The nearest town - Yakima - is about 45 minutes away and is a bit of a cultural cesspool. Seattle is about an hour and a half away, but you have to go over mountains in order to get there. In the summer this is fine. In the winter the drive is very often miserable and fairly regularly not possible at all as they close the pass. (And if they do close the pass, then you'll be dealing with a lot of traffic from very grumpy drivers who did not want to spend the night in Ellensburg.)


(Also - for the moderators - can you please turn off the captcha? It is ridiculous. I had to scroll through about 10 options before I came across a picture that was even legible.)