Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bad advice

Things are quiet around here. Too quiet. Inspired by this Twitter thread, and in the aftermath of the W incident, what bad advice about grad school or the job market have you been given? Or good advice?

I received no specific bad advice, just lots of conflicting advice. I was always told that getting a TT job was a longshot. I was told to NEVER go to APA Eastern unless I had a job interview. That is good advice I have followed. Last year, I didn't go even with job interviews (Hello Skype! "Can you see me?").

~zombie

92 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was told to go to graduate school.

I think that's about the worst advice we can give any undergraduate these days.

Anonymous said...

I don't have anything specific to mention as bad advice--though I was given a lot of it by senior philosophers--but one thing that has always perplexed me is why my department, which is toward the bottom of Leiter's list, has recent hires give grad students job market advice. I mean, people from Michigan, UNC, NYU, Stanford, advising grads in a department with much less prestige than these what worked for them is going to be about as helpful as guessing. For one thing, no one from my department would have a shot in hell at being hired by a department like ours. The strategies for getting a job at an R1 with a grad program is going to be very different from strategies to get a job at a teaching-oriented school or a community college. It's a bit like hearing my dissertation chair--a senior philosopher--talk about how he had his first TT job for a couple of years before he actually defended his dissertation. Different world altogether. Thanks for the advice, folks, but I have a feeling that what got you a job here won't work well for me and the places I am most likely--and yet highly unlikely--to get a job.

Anonymous said...

Develop a Plan B.

That's the best advice you will ever get.

Seriously, have an option for when you don't get an academic job, or for when you tire of slaving away as an adjunct. Because, honestly, that what most of us will end up doing.

Develop a Plan B.

Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Good advice:
I was told not to go to graduate school unless I got in a good program.

I was also told to be careful what you publish in graduate school since mediocre publications can hurt you.

Bad advice:
I was told to write a short cover letter for my job apps, which probably didn't help me with some schools.

Anonymous said...

I have two pieces of advice that were bad.
1) Cover letters should be form letters. I was told to say where I saw the add, what my AOS/AOCs were, a bit about my dissertation, and how to get in touch with me. For any smaller school that has worries about retaining faculty this is the kiss of death. For one thing, at small schools the people reading your dossier will often not all be philosophers, and so the research stuff will be lost on them. For another thing, they want to see some evidence that you put some effort into learning about the school. They want to know that you would like a job there, not just that you want a job (this is annoying because at many of these places, and I am at one, no one wants to work there in particular). I spent two years on the market with no responses. I had what I have been told were good letters of rec, from a top 20 Gourmet school, but not a good enough publication record to stand a chance at really good research schools. So I didn't apply to research oriented programs. My letters were nothing. I don't think I made the first cut anywhere. The first year I put serious effort into my cover letters I got multiple interviews and a job (in the meantime my CV didn't get much stronger). Cover letters are more important than your writing sample for lots of schools.
2. Don't try to publish while in grad school. In retrospect I blame myself for not disregarding this at the time. I hit the market with no publications because I had been told pursuing publications would distract from the dissertation. I finished a bit before some of the other people in my class, and now they have better jobs than I do (in fairness a couple of them are just clearly better philosophers than I am)

Anonymous said...

I was repeatedly told not to waste my time going on the market ABD and that cover letters should be brief and formulaic.

I disregarded both pieces of advice and got a great (at least to me) tenure-track job at a SLAC, where I've since learned that formulaic cover letters are deal-breakers for some members of the department.

I'm quite sure several members of my committee see me as a relative failure for "settling" for a heavy-teaching and light-research position, but I treasure my job, my students, and my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Seconding (thirding?) one point already mentioned: I came from a Leiterrific program with excellent placement, even within other Leiterrific programs. But myself, I knew I was no candidate for an R1-grad program department, and I think everyone else did too. Even still I was encouraged by several faculty members (though not my advisor, to whom I actually listened) that I should tailor my application to "aim for the best jobs" (i.e., R1-grad programs). The idea is that if you aim for the stars and miss, you'll still end up on the moon. What bullshit. I aimed for the jobs I wanted—some SLACs, some state schools, but all schools where teaching is at least as important as research. And I got one of those jobs.

Knowing now how my department hires, I know full well that I wouldn't have this job had I listened to the Important People and tailored my applications for the "best" jobs only.

Anonymous said...

My advice to anyone, undergrads considering grad school or grad students applying for jobs, is to take all advice with a grain of salt. The advice you get from someone with a brand new PhD fresh off the job market will in most cases be radically different than the ho-hum department head that got his cushy TT job while still ABD while not even at a top school, or something like this.

Anonymous said...

Good Advice: if you aren't in a top ten or at least top twenty PhD program, Get Out Now. The system is rigged against you. Strongly. You have a lottery ticket that is unlikely to ever come in. You cannot change this system. All you can do is try to protect yourself. Bad Advice: advice that runs contrary to this.

Anonymous said...

Some programs that are out of the top twenty place better than some inside the top twenty, so don't take the Philosophical Gourmet as gospel (which isn't how it was intended in any case). For example, Wisconsin and Rochester both place pretty well. And, some in the 11-20 place better than some in the top ten.

I guess 12:23 has pre-emptively said my advice is Bad, but I think some of the not-so-highly-ranked programs are well worth going to.

Anonymous said...

"Good Advice: if you aren't in a top ten or at least top twenty PhD program, Get Out Now. The system is rigged against you. Strongly. You have a lottery ticket that is unlikely to ever come in. You cannot change this system. All you can do is try to protect yourself. Bad Advice: advice that runs contrary to this."

Yep--seconded.

Anonymous said...

"Teaching is not all that important. focus on research/writing/publication."

This is terrible advice. In a buyer's market even the least attractive department can afford to hold out for candidates from top 20 programs, with excellent evals, teaching awards, and publications in top tier journals.

I published in a top five-ish journal (going by Leiter's most recent poll). And last job market season I applied to over 100+ positions and did not get a single interview, anywhere.

William James said...

"Good Advice: if you aren't in a top ten or at least top twenty PhD program, Get Out Now. The system is rigged against you. Strongly. You have a lottery ticket that is unlikely to ever come in. You cannot change this system. All you can do is try to protect yourself. Bad Advice: advice that runs contrary to this."

Actually, what is "Good" advice here is bad and what is "Bad" advice here is good. Obviously, being in highly ranked (by Leiter) programs is a big help for a lot of positions, but not necessarily for SLAC's, where it can be the first cause for elimination from a large stack of applications. I've seen it as a member of a search committee; the notion that such a candidate is a flight risk is taken so seriously that their candidacy is immediately sunk because of their prestigious PhD-granting institution. Here, someone from a non-Leiter-ranked program has an advantage with relevant and broad teaching experience and a journal publication or two. A non-Leiter ranked program, or low-Leiter-ranked program is not at all a kiss of death. You may not be hired by an Ivy League program, but you absolutely can land a tenure-track position that makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

12:23's advice is stupid. In my barely top-40 program, 95% of PhDs in the last ten years have gotten T-T jobs. Do your research about placement at a program you're thinking about attending.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard from Central European University?

Anonymous said...

How many barely top 40 programs are placing 95% pf their PhDs on tenure tracks? Most top twent programs would be delighted by that. I don't deny it happens but I'd like to see very accurate figures,, especially since the recession.

Anonymous said...

Bad advice: don't use a dissertation committee member outside of your program, because that person will advocate more strongly for his/her students on the job market than s/he will for you.

Even if that's true (which obviously depends on circumstances), networking pays a variety of dividends across a long period of time, and it's good to start early.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that the person is referring to Georgetown. (I'm not a student there.)

Anonymous said...

"don't use a dissertation committee member outside of your program, because that person will advocate more strongly for his/her students on the job market than s/he will for you."

Don't assume that your dissertation committee is advocating strongly for you, either.

I've only been on a couple of searches, but every single time, I've spoken to letter writers who have noted that one of their students is stronger than others. Sometimes, they are not even kind in making their point.

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Anonymous said...

William James. Just look at placement figures in Leiter or other lists for the last few years. One's pedigree makes a huge difference in the chances one will get a tt-track job at any level. A few people from untangled schools will get jobs, but not many. Just look at the numbers.

Josiah Royce said...

William James didn't say pedigree makes no difference. He was just pointing out that the commenter he quoted was badly exaggerating the situation -- and WJ is correct. Since some 20+ Leiter-ranked programs place better than some 10-20 ranked programs, it's just bad advice to tell people to go to grad school only if they can get into a top 20.

I don't know about Georgetown, but I know Wisconsin does well, and down near the bottom of the ranked programs take a look at Rochester. I mean, you're better off going to NYU, for sure, and whoever said 95% must be in cloud-cuckoo land, but don't go purely by ranking, is all. (Not to speak for William James, but it's what I've been thinking about this thread.)

William James said...

"William James. Just look at placement figures in Leiter or other lists for the last few years. One's pedigree makes a huge difference in the chances one will get a tt-track job at any level. A few people from untangled schools will get jobs, but not many. Just look at the numbers."

The problem is that you are drawing an inference from placement figures that are not comprehensive. There are many who do their PhD's in programs that are not high-Leiter-ranked who manage to land tenure-track positions due to their strengths as generalists (desired by a lot of SLAC's) or specialists in areas that are desired but which mean less to Leiter and his pollsters (e.g., feminism, phil of race, Asian philosophy, etc.). It is simply bad advice to claim that if you don't get into a top-ranked program, you stand a minimal chance of getting a tenure-track job. The better advice -- which is good for anyone at any program -- is to make the most of where they're at, diversifying teaching abilities and getting something in print while there.

mob said...

Worst advice I ever got, and I received this over and over again, was "good people always end up getting jobs, so just keep doing good work and something good will happen!" I hear this multiple times during my PhD as I told one of my supervisors I was thinking of cutting my loses and leaving to do something else. Now, three years later, I watch as multiple ABD's without publications get great TT jobs in the field while I work on my second book and continue to piece together adjunct work and/or visiting positions.

Anonymous said...

William James suggests something that needs to be made explicit: consider not just the rankings, but also the strengths of the particular programs. Look at placement, absolutely. But look at the fields represented by those being placed. If University X places 80% of their graduates, and most of those graduates are working in fields Y and Z, then that's a great place to study Y and Z (with respect to your chances on the market). But if you study Q, and University X doesn't have a good track record placing people in that field, then you should consider going elsewhere. What school has the best placement in Q, even if it's not the best placement overall?

The Leiter ranking consciously devalue certain fields, some of which are becoming quite marketable.

Bri said...

Your Plan B is now, people. WHILE you are in school.

The worst advice I ever got was to stop actually-working in my other job (now-failed IT start up), and take out loans and focus on my MA work. I had various jobs at the uni and outside throughout my undergrad, and had been actually-working since 16. I honestly think I just jumped on this, because it seemed like such a nice thing to have someone telling me that I *should stop* doing some crap job I don't care about (writing internet copy for travel websites about far flung destinations surrounded by people I mostly abhorred) and focus exclusively on something I actually cared about (philosophy).

Truthfully, this advice was stupid and I recognized it quickly, once I realized that I had entered a downward cycle of debt. I was already borrowing tuition; borrowing living expenses was increasing the burden tremendously. Even once I was awarded tuition waiver/assistantship money, it was not enough to live on.

So, I found myself another non-academic job (in the university admissions office) quickly and actually-worked half-time while doing my graduate work.

I've been gainfully employed ever since. I did eventually land a (perfect, golden, wouldn't-trade-for-the-world) TT community college job. But the skills I learned from doing all that shit I don't care about AKA actual-work (delivering pizza, retail clothing sales, university admissions, student assistant in a university program, bank teller) saved my ASS when I didn't get into a Ph.D. program initially: they put a roof on my head and food on the table, with health insurance!! and student loan payments made to boot.

I was able to get a good job making decent (better than adjunct) wages with excellent benefits in a cozy university office, learned a ton about how universities and colleges really worked along the way, picked up an excellent mentor, and learned some actual-life-saving social skills (something I seriously doubt anyone picks up in philosophy grad school). When I applied, on a total whim, to the job I have now, I was able to score the interview and chat up the committee in large part because of the skills I picked up doing less-than-pleasurable actual-work.

Get an actual job. It doesn't matter what it is -- pour coffee, wait tables, push paper, whatever. Those are the skills that will save you when you inevitably lose the job market lottery. Don't be a person nearing, like, 40 with nothing to show but a complete lack of social skills and a Good Will wardrobe. No one wants to hire someone who hasn't had an Actual Job in 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Man, if all I had to do to get a job in philosophy was work a bunch of shit jobs then why am I spending all of this time trying to become a better teacher and publish stuff? Forget Dennett, I'm heading to Denny's!

Anonymous said...

some top programs (nyu, berkeley, stanford, yale) did not do all that well with placement this year, even if they have in previous years.

Bri said...

I didn't mean to be public but whatever. I guess I can be without any real harm to me now. But anyway, yes, notice I didn't say working a shit job would get you a job in philosophy. I said:

"Get an actual job. It doesn't matter what it is -- pour coffee, wait tables, push paper, whatever. Those are the skills that will save you when you inevitably lose the job market lottery."

All this talk about "Plan B" acts like a professional Plan B is like contraceptive Plan B -- like you can just try and fix it after the unpleasant realization that a fuck-up happened. It's not. A professional "Plan B" is not just "I'll do this instead if Plan A doesn't work" but "I'll have some skills, knowledge, and ability that will allow me to pick up SOMETHING to do instead when Plan A doesn't work." It's parallel to Plan A, not secondary to it.

My philosophy job wasn't a matter of being especially skilled at teaching (which I am, like many people) or especially good at philosophy (I'd rate myself average, maybe even a little below). It was a matter of luck (excellent), good timing, charm, and the ability to relate to people who haven't spent 10 years in academic philosophy.

I guess that whatever you picked up in philosophy, reading comprehension wasn't one of those skills?

Anonymous said...

While it might be true that "some top programs (nyu, berkeley, stanford, yale) did not do all that well with placement this year", it's also likely true that having nyu or berkeley or stanford or yale on a resume is going to make it easier for these people to transition [i]out[/i] of academia.

Unless you've managed to convince (better: delude) yourself into thinking that philosophy is the only thing you can ever really truly see yourself doing on pain of dying a slow existential death otherwise, the advice to "Just look at placement figures in Leiter" is bad advice.

Anonymous said...

"it's also likely true that having nyu or berkeley or stanford or yale on a resume is going to make it easier for these people to transition [i]out[/i] of academia."

Evidence? Because in my experience, once you get out of academia, nobody really cares what letterhead your materials are submitted on.

Academics are often under the delusion that non-academics are familiar with and care about program prestige. Hell, even a lot of academics don't care about such things.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bri,

I meant the Denny's comment as joke. You are certainly correct that people should be working on a Plan B and you are absolutely correct that luck plays a significant factor in landing an academic job. I do find many of these personal anecdotes to be very unhelpful and perhaps woefully under-acknowledging the luck factor in favor of dishwashing skills and some odd sense of working class 'street knowledge"

Anonymous said...

Because in my experience, once you get out of academia, nobody really cares what letterhead your materials are submitted on.

Academics are often under the delusion that non-academics are familiar with and care about program prestige. Hell, even a lot of academics don't care about such things.


Uh.
You think someone with a degree from Harvard has no better chance of getting a job in, say, management consulting, than an otherwise similarly credentialed person with a degree from Michigan State?

Anonymous said...

"Evidence? Because in my experience, once you get out of academia, nobody really cares what letterhead your materials are submitted on."

6:34 pm here. My wife works in business in NYC and does hiring there. I can tell you that when they hire people from certain universities on your list those people get a premium and start at a higher salary. She is not an academic but is aware of the differences among universities. I don't think this applies across the board, but I think schools still count for something in certain places.

Anonymous said...

"I can tell you that when they hire people from certain universities on your list those people get a premium and start at a higher salary."

And those are Leiter's top universities? For instance, University of Michigan is ranked higher by Leiter than 7 Ivy League schools. Does your wife's organization pay people from UMich more money than they pay Ivy League graduates?



Anonymous said...

What difference does that make? (Viz., which universities 6:34's wife's company find impressive.) 6:34 was responding to this:

"Because in my experience, once you get out of academia, nobody really cares what letterhead your materials are submitted on."

That's wrong. Some places are impressed by Ivy League, some by NYU, some by Cal Tech. Obviously it depends on the hiring field.

Anonymous said...

If you "Just look at placement figures in Leiter" you might end up attending (say) Rutgers over (say) Harvard. But doing so would be a bad idea, if you're taking the possibility that you won't end up with a decent job in philosophy at all seriously. Some of you seem to be seriously underestimating just how much weight is attached to the names of these schools. Don't believe me? Tell a non-philosopher that you were invited, for example, to present a paper at Michigan. Then tell them that you were also invited to present at Princeton and watch as their eyes light up. Most people turn out to be impressed by the latter sort of school but not the former. They'll even probably make a joke about it, too. Something like "Whoooa Princeton, huh? Look at Ms. Ivy League over here. But seriously, that's fantastic!"

zombie said...

I suspect that once a philosophy PhD leaves academia, nobody gives a shit where s/he went to school w/r/t Leiter rankings. You're just another humanities PhD, along with the english lit majors and historians...

But obviously, having a degree from an Ivy or other generally recognized elite school matters in many non-academic jobs. It also matters in academia -- if a SLAC wants to impress the prospective parents and the kids, having a bunch of profs from Harvard and Princeton looks better than having a prof from UMich, even if Leiter says UMich is better. I went to such a SLAC -- they pretty much hire no one for a TT position who is not an Ivy Leaguer. When you're trying to justify hiring a candidate for your BA-granting philosophy dept, the dean doesn't care about Leiter's rankings. But the dean cares about the Ivies because everybody knows about the Ivies.

Anonymous said...

So what I've learned from this thread is that if you want a job in Philosophy, go to a Leiter-ranked program. But if you have to go with a Plan B, it's better to have a degree from an Ivy.

The good news is, either way I'm fucked. I'm just glad I know now.

Anonymous said...

9:06:

"But if you have to go with a Plan B, it's better to have a degree from an Ivy."

Surely everyone knew this already? That all else being equal, for general nonspecific nonphilosophy jobs (so, abstracting away from the peculiarities of different industries), it's better have a degree from an Ivy? (Or Oxbridge, or Stanford, etc.)

As much as we wish it weren't true, this should be no surprise.

zombie said...

9:06: "Go to an Ivy" is the go-to plan. Because the vast majority of those jobs in philosophy are NOT in PhD-granting departments (the only ones who care about Leiter rankings). The other 99% will be impressed by that Ivy degree, and c'mon, it's not going to hurt you in the PhD-granting schools either.

Alas, I did not go to an Ivy. My own undergrad alma mater would not give me so much as a first-round interview.

Anonymous said...

6:34 pm here. I would simply echo what 7:38 says.

Bri said...

Anon 1:19: I apologize for my response then. I'm so used to getting on here and people being like "But obviously, despite having never worked outside academia, I have lots of knowledge about how outside academia works!"

Wrt the issue of whether or not degree-origin matters in non-academic jobs, the answer, IMHO, is "It depends" -- not just on the job but on who is doing the hiring. Someone with a chip on her shoulder about Ivy League privilege might toss such a CV in the bin, some might think it worthy of an extra couple minutes of review. Job hunting can't really be understood systematically. That's why any advice which reduces one skill set, rather than expands it, is silly. You can't control what someone will think of your university or your field or your hair cut or your face or job experience or your gender. You might be able to make more or less reliable predictions, but no control. You can control your skills/knowledge base. Cultivate that, and when you are hungry for work, you'll have something to use to your advantage.

That's why "Don't have a job" is shitty advice to give to any graduate student, in this employment climate. It would be lovely if we lived in a world where being nothing but a philosopher were a practical thing to do, but for most of us, it ain't. And for most philosophers, in my observation, reducing/limited one's skill set to "doing philosophy" and socializing just with philosophers is pretty much the nail in the Plan-B coffin.

Anonymous said...

In the grand scheme of things, whether an Ivy League PhD program is better than a higher ranking Leiterifc program is fairly trivial. If you're ever in a position to decide between a good Ivy school or a super-duper Leiter school, you're doing alright.

zombie said...

7:08 -- you'd be doing all right if your plan is to only ever look for a job in philosophy. But some (much) of this discussion is about Plan B options, where it seems the dominant strategy would be to go to an Ivy. Outside of philosophy, going to Rutgers NB just doesn't have the same cachet as going to Harvard.

Anonymous said...

"Plan B options, where it seems the dominant strategy would be to go to an Ivy."

I think it depends on what your Plan B options are. For instance, my brother works in software design, and most of his team never finished their BA; they started working for that company as interns, and quit school when offered (rather lucrative) full-time work. Not one of them attended an Ivy.

The advice "go to an Ivy" works best when you have no idea what your Plan B is, and so you plan on resting on the university's prestige to open doors for you. Honestly, that's pretty shitty advice for Plan B. "Have an Ivy degree" is only one step more useful than "make money," or "get a job."

Have an *actual* Plan B. Identify a career path. Learn what is necessary to enter into that career path (be it skills, a degree, etc.), and acquire what is necessary.

One of the problems with Plan B discussions on this blog is that most people don't consider them until the end of their graduate career, and are scrambling to find some way to make what they have already acquired into a workable Plan B. The best way to have a successful Plan B option is to start building it *before* you need to put it into action.

zombie said...

"The best way to have a successful Plan B option is to start building it *before* you need to put it into action."

Agreed. But since we are talking about people who are already in/planning to go to grad school, it's kind of irrelevant that software designers can be successful college dropouts. We can't all be software designers, and people who already have degrees can't be dropouts. If you're looking at grad school, and want to have a fallback -- let's just assume that's not software design -- Ivy would seem the way to go for many professions.

Anonymous said...

"But since we are talking about people who are already in/planning to go to grad school [...] let's just assume [...] Ivy would seem the way to go for many professions."

Um, how is "go to an Ivy" helpful advice for someone already in grad school? I mean, it's great advice for anyone in an Ivy already. But for those not in an Ivy already, "have an Ivy degree" is still shitty advice.

And for those not yet in grad school, I still say my advice is better than "go Ivy."

Free Advice: if you have not started developing a Plan B yet - regardless of where you are in your graduate training - start now. Every year you are not working on a Plan B is a year you will want back later, if you don't get a job.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is a good idea to "double dip" your plan A and plan B work, by finding projects that are helpful to both. Develop web design skills by building and re-building a really professional philosophy webpage for yourself, while plan B is to become a web designer. Or develop an AOC in philosophy of law, while plan B is to go to law school. Or study up on the math end of logic, while plan B is to go get an undergrad degree in math. Etc.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea for a plan B from a faculty member. If you don't get an academic job one possibility might to go into nonacademic positions at universities. There are administrators and library and IT staff (e.g.) that do some interesting work. Universities always need people to teach classes too, and so you can incorporate that if you're interested. An Associate Dean at my school teaches a class in Western Civ now and then, and there was a librarian on my Tenure Review committee actually. These aren't quite the same as faculty jobs, but you get to work at a university and can teach some.

Anonymous said...

"Here's an idea for a plan B from a faculty member."

-OK...

"If you don't get an academic job one possibility might to go into nonacademic positions at universities. There are administrators and library and IT staff (e.g.) that do some interesting work."

-Where are the job ads for administrators who don't have any administrative experience? Also, libraries often prefer to hire people with Library Science degrees (which, of course, one could earn as a Plan B). Sure, it's possible to get such a job, but without a degree, one would likely need experience (which, I suppose, one could get while pursuing a degree in Philosophy). Same with IT staff.

"Universities always need people to teach classes too,"

-Yes, we call them adjuncts, and they are often exploited.

"and so you can incorporate that if you're interested. An Associate Dean at my school teaches a class in Western Civ now and then,"

-Cool! I could be an Associate Dean who teaches a class! I'll apply for those positions now!

"and there was a librarian on my Tenure Review committee actually."

-What degrees did this librarian possess?

Anonymous said...

6:15,

Don't be a jerk. 2:33 was trying to be helful--in the same way many here are trying to be helpful. His/Her comments aren't going to sink anyone. So keep your snide comments to yourself, please.

Anonymous said...

This is what I like about philosophers. They ask for positive advice, but if anyone actually offers any, philosophers will pile on to explain why the advice will never work and how the person who offered it is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

You're right. As a faculty member I have no idea what I'm talking about. Your plan B should just be to shoot down other people's ideas as stupid. By the way, nowhere did I suggest anybody should adjunct. What I said was that there are oftentimes nonacademic jobs where people get to teach classes along the way. Some people actually like teaching a class now and then and you can do that in some nonfaculty roles as well. And the associate dean I mentioned makes six figures and gets to teach some, which isn't too bad.

Anonymous said...

"An Associate Dean at my school teaches a class in Western Civ now and then"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Here's a Plan B option for you: get a job that requires you to start as a tenure-track faculty member.

Why aim so low? Associate Dean? Why not Provost? Or College President?

Thanks. I needed a good laugh this morning.

Anonymous said...

@6:15

Well, the thread does call for bad advice.

Anonymous said...

"You're right. As a faculty member I have no idea what I'm talking about. Your plan B should just be to shoot down other people's ideas as stupid. What I said was that there are oftentimes nonacademic jobs where people get to teach classes along the way. And the associate dean I mentioned makes six figures and gets to teach some, which isn't too bad."

You're right. I was rude. If I haven't offended you, could you please explain how "become an Associate Dean" is a viable Plan B option for someone who doesn't have a tenure-track job?

I admit that I am largely ignorant about such matters, so I will defer to you. How does someone become an Associate Dean without starting in a tenure track position?

-6:15

Anonymous said...

I had a friend in grad school, not in philosophy but in a closely related field. He did go straight into an associate dean job, in the DoC office of a fairly prestigious university.

He spent quite a while there without getting any serious promotion, and eventually moved to a Very High Level administrative job in a good SLAC. And now he has an even better job than that.

Not sure why I'm being secretive about him -- I doubt he'd mind if I named him. But I think in general we try not to name names at the Smoker, right?

So, there's one. Maybe this is very rare, I don't know. But it certainly isn't ridiculous. Associate deans definitely do not have to have been tenure track faculty before they move into the administration, anyway, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

This blog is very different than it used to be a few years ago. Constructive comments, advice from people further alone to those less far along, genuine decency, are rare occasions here. It is mostly just mean-spirited anonymous griping and pathetic posturing and bragging. I, of course, do not run the blog and so there are limits to my criticism. But it didn't always suck and the people who come to this blog for advice and conversation used to not suck so bad either. So that makes it worse because it used to be so good. I guess I just won't read it anymore.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm 2:33 (and 9:18) and since some people have a way of interpreting what I said very uncharitably I'll say a little more here. The general point I'm trying to make is that there are people who work at universities who aren't faculty, and that people with academic training are often good fits for these roles. I am not talking about adjuncting or anything. And my example of an associate dean was not to suggest this itself would be your Plan B; but to support the point that people who are not faculty teach at universities sometimes and this includes various people. Universities are huge institutions these days and it's simply wrong in my view to think "I've got a PhD but no faculty job, therefore I'll leave academia." If you like academia you might consider whether you can still work at a university in some other capacity. I don't think that there are lots of options here, but there are a few.

Here is another example. At my university we hired someone with an MBA who had served as a Kaplan tutor for several years. He got a job running the entire Academic Resource Center which serves undergraduate advising/tutoring/graduate school advising/etc and nothing to do with business. As part of his job, he got to work at a university, work with faculty, and teach courses now and then. I'm sure someone with an MA or PhD could serve in this role quite well since they just want decent people. If this doesn't appeal to you, fine, but this isn't the worst idea to consider. (By the way, did I mention that as an employee this guy gets FREE tuition and could tack on a FREE MA in any discipline the university offers on the side? Still think this is stupid idea?)

Anonymous said...

Wow, a lot of unnecessary nastiness.

I know someone from graduate school (in philosophy) who struggled to find a tenure-track position and ended up with a salaried administrative position at a very nice SLAC. I confess, I was surprised when I first heard about the move from adjunction to admin. But apparently it happens sometimes. (And a good thing too. The particular person was a very gifted philosopher. The distribution of TT positions does not reliably reward merit.)

Anonymous said...

12:34 - one might argue that the fact that your friend was able to do that is something that is wrong with academia rather than something that is right with it.

Anonymous said...

how about a discussion about whether there is evidence that the philosophy job market has been improving over the last two or three years, and whether it can be expected to improve in the next two or three years, and if so, how much?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is some confusion about titles. I don't know if this holds for all schools, but at my university deans are former TT faculty members promoted from within, but assistant deans are administrative positions usually hired from a pool of outside candidates. You definitely do not need to be a TT faculty member in order to get an assistant dean position. Some of them don't even have PhDs. Again, this may not be the case at all universities, but it is at mine (and probably others).

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what's wrong with some people on this blog?

I also know someone who got a PhD but couldn't find a TT job locally (she didn't want to move for family reasons). She applied for a number of admin jobs and got a really good admin job (by 'really good' I mean it paid more than a starting TT job, and had significant room for advancement) in the city she wanted to live in. She told me that the experience and connections she developed while getting the PhD is what got her the job.

Furthermore, if she wanted to, she could still teach as an adjunct. She chooses not to.

Maybe the reason some of you need a Plan B is because you're snarky, uncharitable assholes and no one would ever consider hiring you. Just saying...

12:34 said...

11:34,
I didn't say it was something 'right' about academia. I just said it happens, and is worth knowing about.

(For the record, it doesn't seem like it's something wrong with academia to me at all.)

5:55,
At my (expensive private) university the associate deans are mostly *not* drawn from the ranks of the tenured or tenure track professoriate. So the titles are not reliable.

When I just looked at the list of associate, assistant, and deputy deans, I was once again astounded at how many administrators we have. I think we now have a dozen vice presidents. (And they have huge salaries.)

Anonymous said...

12:34,

I suspect that many people would be interested in reading a comment/post written by your friend, particularly if he would share how he turned his academic training into administrative strengths, and how one might make the transition into such positions.

Anonymous said...

Totally off-topic: but is anyone else amused that Bowling Green State lost their prize couple after she was there for only a year? Here's to hoping that we're about to see what everyone has been warning about for a couple of years: yes, it's a buyer's market, but unlike housing, where you get to keep your spiffy house at low cost, you can actually lose your spiffy pedigreed hires pretty quickly when new posts become available.

12:34 said...

Yeah, unfortunately he's now kind of a big shot and doesn't do blogs.
But I'm a little surprised that nobody reading this has in fact moved to a career in academic administration -- couldn't someone who knows more about details than I write something?

Anonymous said...

>"Here's to hoping that we're about to see what everyone has been warning about for a couple of years: yes, it's a buyer's market, but unlike housing, where you get to keep your spiffy house at low cost, you can actually lose your spiffy pedigreed hires pretty quickly when new posts become available."

Why hope for this? Is there any reason to believe it will increase the jobs/candidates ratio?

Anonymous said...

>"how about a discussion about whether there is evidence that the philosophy job market has been improving over the last two or three years, and whether it can be expected to improve in the next two or three years, and if so, how much?"

+1

Anonymous said...

how about a discussion about whether there is evidence that the philosophy job market has been improving over the last two or three years, and whether it can be expected to improve in the next two or three years, and if so, how much?

+2

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, unfortunately he's now kind of a big shot and doesn't do blogs."

God, someday I hope to be important enough not to care about blogs, too.

BuddingPhilosopher said...

Hello all--Question for you; I'm a young philosopher trying to find my way. Is it bad form/a mistake/etc. to submit a paper to a conference at the same time that one is preparing to get it published? If it's already under consideration could you still submit it for a conference? Is that okay? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bad advice, does anyone have any thoughts on writing VAP cover letters? I had quite a few first round (and a couple second round) interviews this year for TT jobs- pretty much one interview for every four TT jobs I applied to, which was much better than my average last year- but I have yet to get a single interview for a VAP (obviously those interviews didn't end in a job). Many of my interviews were at SLACs, where I personalized the cover letters quite a bit. I don't spend the same time and effort personalizing VAP letters, one, because they only want someone for a year, and so presumably don't care that I love their university and want to stay there forever, and, two, because I've frankly run out of steam for that kind of thing by this point in the year. I still personalize the letter to the ad, of course, but I haven't been spending the extra hour or two researching the university and department to personalize the letter further. So, my question is, is the lack of much personalization a factor in not getting interviews for VAPs? Should I be spending the extra time to personalize the letters? Maybe there would even be enough interest for a thread on the subject.

Anonymous said...

"Why hope for this? Is there any reason to believe it will increase the jobs/candidates ratio?"

No, it won't necessarily result in a higher ratio, but it MIGHT serve to check the urge of many SLAC/teaching oriented departments to snap up pedigreed candidates and leave the rest of us schlubs to talk about Plan B ideas. In the past small departments never had rising stars even apply. Now that they are applying, these departments seem to find themselves with no good reason not to go with them. I am hoping that the worry about flight can now serve as a good reason. But I am also (probably incorrectly) assuming that search committees exercise good instrumental reasoning.

Anonymous said...

"But I'm a little surprised that nobody reading this has in fact moved to a career in academic administration -- couldn't someone who knows more about details than I write something?"

2:33 here. I don't know all the details about how to move into administration specifically. My thought was that there are a fair number of administrative/support jobs at universities these days that people might find worthwhile. Go to insidehighered.com. On the right side of the page where it lists featured jobs hit "browse all" and you'll get a list of various positions. There are some like "professional academic advisor" and "education specialist" etc. in the range I was thinking of that have more general qualifications. Some pay better than others, but they could be a way into more interesting administrative positions I would think.

Anonymous said...

BGSU isn't really a SLAC, though.

On the up-side, I guess they'll be hiring again soon, and they might be less inclined towards Ivy pedigree.

Anonymous said...

12:46 PM:

Interesting contrast with housing market.

There have been heaps of "one and done's," places like UMBC, Iona, Miami Ohio, Missouri-KC on the losing end of folks looking for something better.

Do these depts have legitimate reasons to be angry at the person leaving? Maybe not.

Are the folks who leave jerks for leaving? Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

> Are the folks who leave jerks for leaving? Perhaps.

Why would -anyone- be a jerk for pursuing what they took to be a better job? Do we slaves really owe our gracious masters that much?

Anonymous said...

"No, it won't necessarily result in a higher ratio, but it MIGHT serve to check the urge of many SLAC/teaching oriented departments to snap up pedigreed candidates and leave the rest of us schlubs to talk about Plan B ideas. In the past small departments never had rising stars even apply. Now that they are applying, these departments seem to find themselves with no good reason not to go with them. I am hoping that the worry about flight can now serve as a good reason. But I am also (probably incorrectly) assuming that search committees exercise good instrumental reasoning."

Isn't this one lesson we learned from W? Some small schools are consciously avoiding hiring potential flight risks. And didn't we also learn that a great many people think that programs making decisions that way will be demonized for doing so?

(Yes, there were other problems with W's case, and other sources of outrage. But one of the tensions at play was whether or not small schools should be considering flight risk when hiring applicants.)

Anonymous said...

8:08 am, I was speaking to someone from Bowling Green recently, and they mentioned that they actually have a few others in the department retiring as well - but that they seriously doubt that they will get all of those tenure lines back. So, not so much reason to celebrate even there, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't see the moral upside of wishing for the misery to be merely different distributed. I can assure you that there are already plenty of Ivy-league PhDs who are striking out on the job market - how does that make your life better?

Anonymous said...

"I guess I don't see the moral upside of wishing for the misery to be merely different distributed. I can assure you that there are already plenty of Ivy-league PhDs who are striking out on the job market - how does that make your life better?"

12:46/7:02 here--I should be clearer. I am not saying that the misery should be differently distributed. I don't want to punish Ivy League candidates. I am relishing the thought that some of these departments with stars in their eyes due to the job market's pushing pedigreed candidates down the food chain will be losing these same people when new posts open up. And I fully recognize that this is schadenfreude and should not be encouraged. Still, I take what freude I can get.

Anonymous said...

@2:46

I certainly can't blame you for taking your joy where you find it. But all I see in the job market is is a tragic waste of effort, talent, and good will all around.

zombie said...

4:55: we had a thread a little while back on applying for VAPs. perhaps your answer can be found there: http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2014/02/so-you-want-to-be-vap.html

BuddingPhilosopher: Journals do not want you to submit your paper simultaneously to another journal. I have seen conferences that ask that a paper not be under submission elsewhere, but unless that's in the guidelines for the conference in question, I would not consider it bad form.

zombie said...

Re: a thread on whether the job market is improving/will improve in the future

I have no particular expertise there, and the big picture, data-wise, eludes me. But if anyone wants to do some digging into the numbers, have at it. I'll be happy to start a thread if there's something to start with.

I guess one question I have is: what constitutes an improvement in the job market? More jobs? I think there are more jobs than there were immediately after the Annus Horribilis (ahhh, my first year on the market. Good times.), and I think there are a lot more fellowships, but my general impression is that there has been compression in eligibility (i.e. the prestige factor)

This is the kind of thing Carolyn Dicey Jennings does/is doing well (and elsewhere)

Anonymous said...

"what constitutes an improvement in the job market? More jobs?"

More jobs + fewer applicants.

As long as the number of applicants outpaces the number of jobs, the market will not improve.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, it's not so much 'more jobs' as it is 'More jobs that pay a livable wage' or 'More jobs with a modicum of job security.'

There are plenty of jobs out there - the problem is that too many of them are part-time adjunct bullshit.

Anonymous said...

The Ugly Truth About the Job Market

There are tons of jobs in Philosophy. Tons. Lots and lots and lots. You know this because many of you have those jobs: Graduate Assistant Positions.

Those are the jobs that exist in Philosophy (and, more generally, in the academic humanities).

Graduate Assistant Positions exist to do the work of teaching lower-division, general education courses that faculty at research programs don't want to teach. Sure, sometimes you can teach courses in your AOS/AOC, and sometimes you can get funding to do non-teaching work. But the reality is, grad students exist to relieve research faculty from having to teach lower-division courses.

Grad students do not exist, in other words, in order to train the next generation of tenure-track faculty.

Yes, from that large pool of grad students, a small pool of tenure-track faculty will emerge (and, from what I can tell, and increasingly smaller pool as many programs move from TT to adjunct work). But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

The ugly truth is, given the nature of academia, getting a Graduate Assistant Position *is* what success on the job market looks like.

How do we address it? Schools need to realistically look at their programs and ask themselves if they can afford to carry so many grad students (or, if the program doesn't place many graduates into TT positions, if it can afford to expend resources on an unsuccessful program). They can turn those resources to TT positions that include teaching lower-division courses. Cut back the number of grad students; increase the number of full-time teaching positions to teach those courses. In fact, I bet LOTS of people would jump at the chance for a full-time teaching load that focuses on introductory-level courses.

But right now, many program do the opposite: in response to the loss of tenure lines, some programs increase the number of graduate students, to off-set the loss. Graduate students are cheap labor.

Anonymous said...

@9:13

Good points, but let's not forget the community colleges and 'teaching' schools which simultaneously claim that elite schools aren't training people to teach at their schools, all while hiring scores of those same grad students as adjuncts.

http://suburbdad.blogspot.com/2014/05/secret-teaching.html
https://chroniclevitae.com/news/241-training-ph-d-s-to-teach-where-the-jobs-are

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of the season, can we get a best of the worst student evaluation comments thread going over here? Spiros has one, but hearing the insane things students say to those of us who's livelihood can still depend on these things might remind us that we're not alone when we get the inevitable jaw-dropper this round...