Monday, October 1, 2012

First Impressions

A long time ago, in my first teaching assistant training session, I made the mistake of criticizing a teaching demonstration on some minor points. I did this without first noting the positive aspects of what was, by all standards, a pretty good demonstration. I was remonstrated by the group leader and also by the universe: I gave a terrible demonstration the next day on Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. My full-blown incompetence in the teaching arena - since turned into full-blown competence - was on display for all to see. The group leader asked, telling me to be honest, whether I had spent anytime thinking about the demonstration or had just slapped it together. I had, I told him, I just seized in the spotlight. Because it was a three-day training session I didn't have the opportunity to redeem myself. I adopted a conciliatory approach after these missteps and tried to be nice and encouraging to the other new teaching assistants, but my words rightfully fell on deaf ears.

A few points:
  • Constructive criticism should involve "construction:" building up before tearing down or pointing out strong structural features already there. 
  • If you have more than three days after making a terrible first impression to make a better one, then take that chance. 
In that spirit, I like the APA's response to the discontent that has grown over the past few years especially with regards to the job market. I like that the the APA now has a dedicated JFP website. I like that the APA is paying for me to use Interfolio this year and has encouraged search committees to do likewise. I find Interfolio's interface much easier to use and better put together than AcademicJobsOnline and the various generic HR websites universities are using these days; it's sleek, well-functioning, and the problems it encounters are few and far between. And, for some inexplicable reason (especially inexplicable given the success of Chalmers and Bourget at PhilJobs and PhilPapers), I like that the JFP is run by a professional organization with what appear to be dedicated moderators. I like that you can star jobs on the JFP for easier access and so on.

But, as many of you have pointed out in the comments, the APA's new JFP is wanting in certain important respects. First, AOS and AOC should be listed prominently in the title for the job ad rather than in the tags that accompany each post. Tags are notoriously unreliable since the poster may forget to include them after posting the other information; I certainly forget to tag my posts here all the time (or in the heydays of my posting). Second, the search function for AOS and AOC should not simply be the tag cloud on the right of the website, but should resemble something like the interface at PhilJobs. Third, on any given page, you'll only find ten jobs. Fourth, are we able to sort the jobs according to application deadline? I haven't looked closely enough to check, but that'd be useful too.

Admittedly, these might sound like small quibbles. But, these small quibbles with the APA's JFP pile up on top of all the other frustrations that come with being on the market. Sure, I can do what I did today to find the jobs I want to apply to at the new JFP: open up every job, quickly scan the ad for my AOS, then star it. Not too big a deal, but frustrating. And, I can also check Phylo and PhilJobs and the JFP and the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd for other jobs that might not be advertised in one or another venue. Not too big a deal, but frustrating. I can also submit my teaching and research materials to your HR website and then send, under separate cover, my letters of reference via Interfolio. Not too big a deal, but frustrating.

But, if I learned anything my three years on the market it is that success - "success" construed broadly to mean: keeping one's mental health, not yelling at the computer, not being a dick to one's friends, being able to submit more than one job application a day without wanting to tear your hair out while also teaching and doing research - requires a well-oiled machine. These tiny frustrations tend to pile up during job market season and by the end of it, I'm shook. If my file size is too large for an HR department's website, I want to start smoking again. If I missed a job because searching through the tag cloud on the JFP's website is unreliable or because it's hard to navigate their website, I want to immediately stop what I'm doing and get drunk. Etc. Etc.

Of course, I can manage all these frustrations with applying for jobs, because I've been doing this for three, going on four, years now and I also love doing philosophy. It's an amazing gig. Besides, I think I am a well-oiled machine now. But, I sometimes wish these gears didn't require so much lubrication; I'm bound to run out at some point.

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said.

And they aren't small quibbles, they're serious. The point is, they aren't grounds for demanding the resignation of Amy Ferrer, etc.

Anonymous said...

It is unclear whether the APA is paying for members to use interfolio. They didn't say so. Interfolio made the same agreement with the MLA earlier in the year. It looks more like a marketing strategy for Interfolio than a member service for the APA.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and am glad the APA is trying to improve things.

I am kind of baffled about how they decided to display the jobs, though -- wouldn't even the most cursory focus group-type thing reveal that AOS/AOC up front is a necessity? I just can't understand how they missed that. Many of the other desiderata require a bit more reflection to get that they're pretty important, but the main page ad layout hugely weakens my faith that they have any idea what job seekers and advertisers need, which is a bit unsettling.

Anonymous said...

no one is posting a resume, right? format is too foreign to make it useful.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone gotten the 'Job Alerts' function to work? I tried in both Firefox and IE to subscribe to it, but every time I his 'save,' it reverts right back to 'Unsubscribed' and I receive no alerts -- WTF?!?!

Anonymous said...

I figured it out -- they tell you to leave all the fields blank to get all updates, but you have to check something in order to subscribe. Sorry -- so you can either delete my last comment or leave both of these up to inform any other clueless job seekers.

Anonymous said...

It looks like they've added AOS/AOC to the front highlighted information. Good on them for making at least some of the changes quickly!

Anonymous said...

(I was the one who noted the addition of AOS/AOC on the front blurb.)

While it's great that they're putting the AOS/AOCs on the front now, they're not entirely accurate. For one, they only list one area while the ad may list several. A particularly striking example is DeKalb University, which in its ad is looking for AOS: Metaethics or Ethical Theory and AOC: Aesthetics, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Bioethics, or Kant. In the blurb, though, it lists only ancient philosophy.

Strange. Hopefully they'll soon start allowing more than one AOS and/or AOC to be listed and start distinguishing (in the front highlighted bit) which are the AOS's and which are the AOC's. Still think it's great that they added the new feature so quickly, though. I guess I'm just optimistic?

Anonymous said...

I applaud the APA for both introducing this new site and for being responsive to the various criticisms and suggestions that have been registered in the last day.

Having said that, is it just me, or does the idea of the APA featuring jobs (i.e., the ones listed at the top) run counter to the organization's mission? Also, it's a pain to have to scroll down past those just to see what's been added recently -- particularly when insufficient space is given to the list anyway (linking to successive pages is annoying -- Phil Jobs is better in this respect, among others). At the very least, can the "featured jobs" be located elsehwere on the page?

PS. Yes, I'm fond of run-on-and-on sentences.

Anonymous said...

What does starring a job do? As far as I can tell, nothing.

zombie said...

I'm having a hard time coming up with a rationale for "featuring" jobs. Do the advertisers pay extra for this? Are they afraid they won't get enough applications? Are the jobs located in Sewagetown USA?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I figured out the starring function. Not nothing, I guess.

Anonymous said...

There may be several reasons for a job to be featured. I know that U Chicago's jobs are currently featured because the APA f'd up and didn't put them on the sight at all the first day. It's their way of saying 'sorry'. But there must be other ways to get on there.

Anonymous said...

To zombie's 11:12 question:

Yes, the departments are paying significantly more (nearly double, if I correctly recall the numbers my department chair quoted) for the privilege of having their ad featured at the top of the listings.

I have absolutely no idea what would lead a department to think they need to pay the APA the extra couple hundred dollars for that service. I suppose these ads won't be lost in the ether that is the new JFP...