Monday, May 13, 2013

My Statistics, 2013 Edition

I apologize for neglecting you recently. I was busy with the usual stuff: teaching, writing, grading, child rearing, trying to keep myself in reasonable physical condition, getting rejected from journals, etc. Time got away from me, and before I knew it, it had been forever since I'd posted anything. Sorry about that.

Here are my stats for the '12/'13 job market season:

  • Applications: 43
  • APA interviews: 0
  • Skype interviews: 0
  • Phone interviews: 0
  • On-campus interviews: 0
  • Nibbles of any kind: 0
  • Servings of beer/cocktails: ≈∞

Obviously, this was incredibly shitty. There was the growing realization that I wasn't getting any APA interviews, which at least had the upside that my presence would not be required in Atlanta. Then there was the growing realization that I wasn't getting any post-APA delayed-schedule first-round interviews, either. Or any straight-to-campus-visit type interviews. And that none of my late-season applications were going to pan out, either. Pure shit.

And it's not as though I was an unprepared or inexperienced job-seeker. I based my application materials on the materials I used the previous year, when I had what I thought was a pretty good number of interviews. I went over everything carefully myself before I sent it all to my grad program's placement director--we had a new PD this year, and he wanted to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. He was amazingly, terrifically helpful--we talked on the phone for an hour while he went over everything in my dossier line by line. Then, in post-mortem, he and my dissertation director went back over everything again. Everything looked good. No suggestions.

I've talked about this with a lot of people, and thought about it a lot. I'm inclined to suspect that it was just bad luck, but I also worry that I'm getting stale. In any case, while it's sort of comforting to know that there isn't any royal fuckup in my application packet that kept me from getting interviews, it's pretty frustrating not to have any idea how to prevent this from happening again. Shit, fuck.

It's also pretty frustrating because I really do feel like my career is going pretty well, notwithstanding my many failures on the job market. My teaching and publishing are going well. I more than satisfy the requirements for tenure at my current institution, and I have done this in well under the time allotted for tenure-line faculty here, and I have done this while managing a course load that is approximately double that of my tenure-line colleagues. I feel like I should be getting interviews.

I mean, I'm not trying to say that I "deserve" a job. 'Deserve' is a strong word, and makes it sound like there is an injustice here, as though I have been wronged. I don't think I have been wronged. And I don't teach at Princeton, and my institution's requirements for tenure are not Princeton's, and I wouldn't qualify for tenure at Princeton. I'm not a hot shot. But I would qualify for tenure (or be very close to it) at most of the places I sent applications to this fall, and I think that there's something kind of wrong with a situation where tenurable candidates aren't getting any interviews. And I particularly hate that it's me.

Now, look. I'm not trying to be all complainy. I've said before that, except for the job market, my career is going pretty well. It is. Except for the job market, my whole life is going pretty well. I've got a good job where I work hard at work that I find meaningful and where my hard work is appreciated. I get along with my colleagues really well. I have a modicum of year-to-year job security--more than VAP positions ordinarily come with--and this makes an enormous, incalculable difference in my life. I'm really happy with the philosophy I'm producing, and with my publication record. I literally get paid to talk about philosophy. My marriage is good, and my kid is healthy and happy. When people ask me how I'm doing, I say, "good," because I am.

But I sure do fucking hate having to be on the fucking job market every god damn year.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

My job stats look dangerously like yours. Nothing in the main season, then a straight-campus, and two phone interviews. No further nibbles, and it's May. Is it time for another Plan B thread?

Anonymous said...

You're not just unlucky. There's not anything you're doing wrong either. This is the new normal. Having a research record that could get you tenure at a decent research university won't necessarily get you any interviews. Know multiple people like this.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry, Zero. And I wish there was something better than that to say. It's shitty out there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Zero,

I'm happy that many things go well in your life, hope it will get even better with a tenure-track job at a good university. I'm also really sorry for your and all my other colleagues' bad experiences in the job market. I was in the same shit for almost two years.

Let me just say one thing; I think you're wrong in thinking that you were not wronged, you WERE wronged! And all other fine but unemployed philosophers out there were and are still being wronged! To think otherwise is just burying your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the big fat elephant in the damn room! No simple-minded or sophisticated "analysis" of the job market or cute but brainless comparisons with sports is ever going to change the stinking state of the art in academic philosophy...

All highly qualified but unemployed philosophers were wronged! Because, yes, they do deserve a job! Of course, no one single group of people or institutions deserve all the blame for this injustice but discussions of assignment of blame will never change the fact that there is a big injustice in all this!.. Let's not kid ourselves... Without acknowledging this ugly mess for what it is, a big injustice, nothing can be done to even start trying to change it for the better...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I feel for you, Zero. In tight job markets, cronyism is much more common. If you want to feel the sting of injustice, try doing some research on search committee members and those who did secure the scarce TT positions. You will likely find signs of shady business. Look at the alma maters of the search committee members and the eventual hire. Look at overlapping AOSs between search committee members and the hire. If there is overlap, check to see if they've co-authored a publication or conference paper. I've found damning evidence of cronyism in hiring during the last few cycles. I even found a case where a department chair was a book series editor for a major publisher and hired two people for which he had already awarded them book contracts. While you might think this is fine because he knows their work, this is exactly the point: as an outsider you don't stand a chance! Being tenurable is no longer the expectation. Being someone they know, trust and already get along with is. You have to join their inner circle fitst and then you might get a job. Ask yourself: if you had a buddy from grad school chairing a search committee for a TT position in your AOS and s/he told you to apply because it was a sure thing, would you take the bait? Hell yes!! There's the problem.

Anonymous said...

If they keep renewing your contract, then the place where you are now obviously likes you. Why not quietly campaign for a position there? You may not be able to stay in that department or even retain a teaching position, but having a full time job would be great.

Anonymous said...

"Let me just say one thing; I think you're wrong in thinking that you were not wronged, you WERE wronged! And all other fine but unemployed philosophers out there were and are still being wronged! To think otherwise is just burying your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the big fat elephant in the damn room! No simple-minded or sophisticated "analysis" of the job market or cute but brainless comparisons with sports is ever going to change the stinking state of the art in academic philosophy..."

Yeah, I get all the outrage, but where are the jobs? There are *far* more applicants than there are jobs. Until this changes, there will *always* be well-qualified people who don't get jobs. That's the way it is. And no amount of armchair outrage is going to change it.

Here's something else to consider. You don't need an academic post to continue to write and research. You want to teach? Well, lots of people can't do what they want. Ask anyone in the service industry if they are fulfilling their dreams of taking orders, dealing with customers, and cleaning up after messy children. You can't get the job you want? Join what many of us call "the majority of the American workforce." Get a job that pays the bills. Maybe it isn't glamorous. Maybe it isn't related to your years of schooling. maybe you find it beneath you and your education. And maybe you need to do what millions of people do every day: get up and work a job you don't like in order to spend your free time as you see fit. Use that time to research, to write, to contribute to the field.

And before you laugh that suggestion off, remember that many artists do just that: they gets jobs to pay the bills while they feed their souls on their work in their free time. And not just artists; there's a large number of people who carve out their 9-5 M-F time to pay the bills, and their "lives" - however they define their personal contributions to the world - come when their shift ends.

I'm terribly sorry you willingly entered a field that cannot support the number of PhDs it produces. But you did, and the reality is that not everyone will get a job. Not everyone qualified will get a job. Not everyone outstanding will get a job.

Zero, this is a thoughtful post, and I appreciate it. Apologies for using it to rant. You have every right to complain (more so, perhaps, than you do here), but your big picture thinking about your life is refreshing. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@8:30 PM

Plan B threads are a massive waste of time. They always boil down to two suggestions:

1. Have, or get, a degree in something other than philosophy (preferably a or STEM degree).

2. See suggestion 1.

If you don't have a STEM degree to fall back on, or the money to go and get a STEM degree, then you're fucked, and there is no Plan B for the fucked (which is most of us).

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero: Instead of a plan-B thread (let's face it, very few academics seriously consider it, why else would anyone want to work as an adjunct?)
How about a thread where people can post who *were* successful this season? I don't just mean grad students from Leiterrific departments with 0 pubs and unpublished brilliant writing samples and famous dissertation advisors. I think a thread, specifically with people from departments with little prestige, preferably who were multiple times on the market.
What went right this time? Did you do something different, or was did your pubs etc reach some critical mass? How long were you on the market? What did you do in the way of networking? What kind of temp positions (e.g., postdoc, VAP) are more likely to increase your desirability as a candidate?

BunnyHugger said...

I'm years-stale now. I haven't bothered going on the market for a couple of years and barring some catastrophe I don't think I will again. Like you, Mr. Zero, I have a certain amount of year-to-year security, I have a very happy (and coming on year-old!) marriage, I own a house I have put a lot of love into, and I feel "at home" in my city.

Because of all this I came to the conclusion that I would keep the job I have -- I'm lucky to have one this good, and my less-employed grad school friends do not put up with me complaining about it -- and use my energy to enjoy my life as it is rather than constantly squander it on the job market cycle.

This isn't to say that I never ruminate on a dark night about what might have been and whom I have disappointed besides myself. Such is life.

Anonymous said...

On a different note, I just received a PFO from AVILA University, and incredibly the rejection email was sent to all applicants at the same time, and their names and email accounts were not hidden. So now we all know who we were competing with. Is not this VERY wrong? Should not this list be confidential?

Anonymous said...

Of course the TT job market sucks, but what frustrates, worries, and angers me more is the highly competitive nature of the VAP market. At this point I am filled with envy for you, Zero, because you have a temporary, but continuing, job at a place you like. I am sitting here with pubs, tons of teaching, etc., and I am wondering how I am going to pay my bills next year, since every VAP job I apply to responds that 100-200 applications were received. I think the academic market is even worse than many people are realizing.

Anonymous said...

Shame on the Smoker Admins for not screening out ridiculous advertisements like Anon 4:33am's comment. The last thing I, or any other job marketeer, should be doing is wasting time and cash on pie-in-the-sky strategies like trusting an internet dossier editor on the grounds that an anonymous poster on the Smoker said they got great results. For one thing, we don't know who the fuck you are, so we have no means of verifying your unlikely success; and for another, even if we knew who you were, we'd still have no idea whether your success was the result of a third party intervention or just dumb fucking luck. Moreover, have you ever heard of the Post Hoc fallacy? Just because you (supposedly) enjoyed success after consulting the Witch of Endor, or Magic 8 Ball lady, or whoever the fuck, it doesn't follow that her advice was the cause of your success. Lastly, what the fuck are you doing posting about your success on a blog for commiserating losers? Your very presence here suggests you are not one of us, but rather a shill for an internet scam. Shame, shame, shame on you Anon 4:33, and on the Smoker admins.

wv: each erroars

Mr. Zero said...

Shame on the Smoker Admins for not screening out ridiculous advertisements like Anon 4:33am's comment.

Yeah, I gotta say, I don't disagree. Sorry. My bad.

Anonymous said...

I think a thread, specifically with people from departments with little prestige, preferably who were multiple times on the market. What went right this time? Did you do something different, or was did your pubs etc reach some critical mass? How long were you on the market? What did you do in the way of networking?

I appreciate why this would seem to be a good idea and frankly I'd be interested to hear what folks end up saying. But I do not think that candidates who were successful are capable of giving an accurate assessment of what in fact went right. In part, I think this because I doubt there are discernible general principles governing the job market process. It's just too random, messy, and moved by invisible forces. I also doubt that candidates' take on their experiences are trustworthy.

It would be more interesting to me to find out whether others think that there is some value in believing (mistakenly in my view) that there's some secret formula out there waiting to be discovered.

Anonymous said...

this sucks, mr. z. i'm sorry.

my experience is so much the same: i feel like i am working circles around some of my t-t colleagues, both in publishing and teaching, while carrying a much heavier load than many of them; i honestly wish i could be involved in advising and service, because it would make me a better teacher and there are real contributions i could make to the institution (though i'm not about to do it for free); and in many respects, the job is totally rewarding. the part that sucks is the insecurity and the inequality: the knowledge that my labor makes it possible for my colleagues to teach all upper-level courses and take research leaves and have great health insurance; not knowing whether i will have library privileges so i can do my research and prep for next semester; not knowing for sure whether or when my contract will arrive, or if i could be cut between semesters.

re: anon 7:31: one more time: there are plenty of college students to teach, and they certainly pay enough money to provide relatively comfortable jobs for the large majority of those who teach them. the job market is artificially contracted from the top, inflating administrative salaries and financial capital. let's at least not naturalize this bullshit "market." that's some insane (yet insanely effective!) troll logic.

Anonymous said...


Of course there are plenty of college students to teach. But if you think they are flocking to Philosophy courses, you are sorely mistaken.

Yes, we could fund more faculty if we unburdened administration of its unnecessary bloat. But do you really think all that money would go to funding TT faculty in Philosophy? Do you really think students are cursing and tearing out their hair because there just aren't enough Philosophy courses to go around?

The truth is, Philosophy departments are amazingly cheap to fund, compared to business and the sciences. So why aren't more schools competing to build bigger programs? Because outside of the research universities that draw graduate students and research money, universities simply don't need large Philosophy programs. For many smaller schools, Philosophy programs live and die by their offerings to general education programs, because they don't have enough majors/minors to fill all of the sections they run.

One of the worst things about being a PhD student is that you develop a skewed sense of the field. Most universities are nothing like where we earned our PhDs: they don't have an army of graduate students to groom, a large pool of undergraduate students to teach, or the time/resources to produce research (to name a few). Most schools have mall departments, where faculty must be responsible for covering multiple areas, and are holding onto their programs for dear life, as administrators point out the dwindling numbers of majors/minors.

Yeah, there are plenty of college students to teach. And an increasing number of them want a STEM education. Don't kid yourself thinking that massive administrative salaries are the reason why nobody i hiring in Philosophy. Those same salaries are not prohibiting increasing the size of STEM departments, which are much more expensive to staff.

Anonymous said...

humanities departments like philosophy and english subsidize stem departments, precisely because they are so cheap, and despite the permanent crisis rhetorics, there are butts in those seats (for now). the zero-sum game set up between them is a function of ideology.

but thanks for the patronizing 'out here in the real word' insight.

Anonymous said...

Quite late getting into this, but FWIW, a while ago I was in touch with a senior member of a department who did a TT search in my area, and mentioned to him in passing that I had considered applying. He said that it would have been an uphill fight for the department to hire me even if they wanted to, precisely because I would have been too close to tenure due to my publications. The administration wanted someone who would take a long time to get tenure, I guess. So it can be a bit of a tightrope with having just the right amount of publications...

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 7:22,

Sweet lord in heaven, what in the fuck?

Mr. Zero