Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Game Plan?

Anonymous posted these queries to the permanent job search thread. I'm reposting here for discussion:
Could someone knowledgeable address, perhaps here or in a new thread, what the game plan should be here on out for those of us who did not land a TT job? 
I'm a research type and get little placement help. What should I be looking to do over the next couple of months in order to secure a TT job next year or the one following? 
Postdocs are an obvious choice, but what about VAPs? How do people feel about those? Would it be much better to do a VAP at a pedigreed institution, or just a place that will leave time for research? Etc. 
In general I think it might be helpful to have some thoughts about these matters put down, since it appears that many, many of us are in this boat. 
The answer may simply be that there are no answers, since the process is not a rational one.
A general answer is difficult without knowing specifics about your CV, and how you're doing on the market right now. Are you getting first-round interviews? Fly-outs?  

Have you published? If not, one obvious place to start is to get some papers published or at least in the pipeline. An accepted paper is as good as a published one, but given the time it takes to even get a paper accepted for publication, you need to basically get it to a journal now. Or sooner. Postdocs are a great way to secure time for research and publishing. Mine helped me tremendously on the job market.

Not every place is going to care that you are published in a top journal, although obviously, avoid the really crap pay-to-publish journals.  

Do you have teaching experience? A VAP is a good place to get significant teaching experience. You might be a "research type," but most of the jobs are not "research" jobs, so having some good teaching experience will help you. 

Finding time for both research and teaching is always a problem. Get used to working your ass off. 

And yeah, the market is lousy. So, it might not be you. 

~zombie


76 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about we not engage in groundless speculation. Here's a good test of what it takes to do well on the TT market. Ask people on the market this year to share their measurables. How many interviews and fly outs they have, what types of schools they have them with, how many publications they have, what types of journals they are in, how much teaching experience they have, what general Leiter-rank their grad department is, ETC. This will give us real facts to work with.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to start a thread discussing this:

http://dailynous.com/2015/01/28/students-protest-job-candidate-for-offensive-views/

I completely disagree with the viewpoints of the job candidate in question (whom I know). But the behavior of the Ph.D. students of the department in question (which I also know), not to mention how Leiter-wannabe is exploiting it, is utterly detestable.

Anonymous said...

Or, since the VAP/postdoc market is just as tight as the TT market, perhaps some advice on how to solicit departments for adjunct work (for those of us who foolishly refuse to leave academia).

Anonymous said...

The answer is simple:

You have to be good at everything.

-Publish good work in good venues.
-Be a good teacher.
-Be a good "fit."
-Be a good interviewer.

Because the OP is not going to share his/her CV with us, we can't give detailed advice. But more importantly, the details don't matter. The advice is the same: be good at everything.

You will know where you are weak. Improve that. You don't have impressive teaching experience? Get some, fast. That might mean adjuncting. That might mean an online college. That might mean a community college. But get that experience. You don't have good publications? Work on that. Have better scholars review your work and help you get it into shape where it cam published in noted venues. Work with a coach on interviewing skills (something that absolutely can be taught, but rarely is in academia).

Of course, someone will come up here and say, "but I know people who weren't the best at everything, and they got jobs, so this advice is not helpful." To which I reply: there is no magic formula for getting a job. None. Doesn't exist. All you can do - the only thing you can do - is to increase your chances of getting looked at seriously. And to increase your chances, you need to work on all parts of your game. Because you don't know what will be the focus of the search committee. (For every SC at a "teaching school" that sees publications in top journals as a flight risk, there will be another that sees it as an opportunity to get a good scholar in a bad market. And you will never know which school holds which opinion.)

Your game plan is no different from the game plan for each team going into the Super Bowl this weekend. Both teams are working on offensive strategies, both in the air and on the ground. Both teams are working on defensive strategies. Both are working on special teams skills. And because neither team knows what the other is planning, they are working on all aspects of their game. That's what you need to do.

Emphasize your strengths, and address your weaknesses. And hope for a little bit of luck in the process.

Anonymous said...

12:38, I have been insanely lucky (relatively speaking) with adjunct work, and have even had one of my adjunct jobs turn into a renewable VAP position. In each case I just emailed the department chair with a CV and said I was interested in picking up some courses and would love to come by and chat if they had anything available. A couple of times I followed up if I didn't hear anything. This has led to a lot of teaching offers. On the contrary, I have never so much as been formally rejected from an advertised adjunct position I applied for.

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

3:48,

You now have reached the point where all you can do is work on your interviewing skills and luck.

Anonymous said...

After 2 postdoc positions (5 years in total) I was wondering what to do next, leave academia and try some altac career, if so, what career? I'm from an unranked department (because not in the English-speaking world), the chances of landing a tenured position in my home country are vanishingly small, with less than 1 position coming free for every 15-20 or so PhDs in philosophy. I plodded on, getting more pubs in good journals, a book with a good university press, invited talk. I networked patiently, wrote grant and fellowship applications, landed a prestigious fellowship at an R1.
And now I've landed a tenure track position at an R1. There is no magic formula. It's in part hanging on, luck, and gradually building your track record. I don't think staleness is as big a worry as people sometimes make it out to be here. I regularly see people, like me, getting jobs after one or even several temporary appointments. Getting a job straight out of grad school is something for people from top departments who can rely on the knowledge and resources of their department and placement people.
For the rest of us it's several of the following that work
- try to build a coherent research program, with work that you are known and recognized for,
- try to publish in good places. In my view, it really doesn't harm if they're not all Nous or PPR or even Phil Studies - a well-placed paper in a good specialist journal can help too
- network - but not just by trying to get noticed by the big guys and gals. Peer support is important too
- prioritize your research over teaching. It seems that every school I've interviewed with found my research more important than my teaching record.
- go to conferences - smaller, focused ones in your field seem to be better for building long-term professional contacts than the big ones

Anonymous said...

You have to be good at everything.

-Publish good work in good venues.
-Be a good teacher.
-Be a good "fit."
-Be a good interviewer.


This couldn't be more accurate. If you have only publications, you take yourself out of the running for teaching jobs. If you don't publish and only teach, you take yourself out of the research job searches. Even if you are a good "fit", you have to be enough of a good "fit" to make it to the top 12 to be interviewed in a market where the odds are that there are more than 10-12 "good fits."

So, it's like winning the lottery. Just keep buying the tickets and hope your number wins at some point before you lose your sanity and all self-esteem.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:09 PM,

Yes, maybe philosophers, both grad students and professors, can start behaving more professionally and stop being perpetually offended about everything and whining about it on social media platforms. It's a nice thought that would make our choice of careers less of a joke.

Anonymous said...

@12:09 What exactly did you find detestable about the "use" of the event by DN? Didn't he just post a thread asking for discussion of the topic? Isn't that what you were asking for here? From what I read of the comments, most seemed to agree with your general view that rejecting a candidate for expressing a view like that would be inappropriate. So why the whinging? If you want to discuss it, go discuss it with the folks who are discussing it.

12:09 PM said...

10:21 AM,

I am discussing it here because this is a blog devoted to discussing issues about hiring practices in philosophy. And clearly, the following two broad questions bear directing on this:

(i) Whether a group of Ph.D students can/should sink a job candidate's chances of success because something the job candidate was alleged to have said on the Internet made them feel "uncomfortable";

(ii) Whether one of the two most prominent sources of information and discussion in the profession can/should act as a sounding board for the concerns of these Ph.D. students **while the search is still ongoing**.

So, whether than asking why I am "whinging" about these questions here, the more interesting question is why you are trying to suppress discussion of these questions here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not 10:21, but I think the relevant question was "why the hostility towards Justin, and why should we think that he was exploiting it in some objectionable manner?"

(Note that I agree that it would be perfectly appropriate to discuss this topic on the smoker blog. But if it's appropriate to discuss it here, why isn't it also appropriate to discuss it there?)

Anonymous said...

"Prioritize research over teaching". For sure if you want to land a job at an R1 or a school that values research. If you want a job at a teaching-focused school, no.

Some teaching oriented schools will hold it against you if you have a lot of publications. I've been told that it shows you don't care about teaching -- you've been spending your time on research, not teaching, otherwise how would you have all these publications. (I don't have this attitude myself at all -- I hate this attitude. But it's out there.)

Teaching oriented schools definitely value evidence of teaching ability over publications, although most also would like to see one or two publications, all else equal.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

he more interesting question is why you are trying to suppress discussion of these questions here.

Suppression? Ha. No. Maybe in the sense that we are tying to have the comments relate to Zombie's original post, which wasn't about the Daily Nous story (also: I think when I pick up a topic that is being broached and discussed on another blog, it seems only fair we direct traffic their way, rather than usurp their discussion; as others have pointed out: If you want to discuss it, there's a forum for you to do so).

Some of our threads have specific topics that we like comments to be related to; though we often let other comments slide in (we have a light hand). We take requests for threads, sure, and often have open threads for discussion on a wide variety of topics.

But this isn't one of those threads and it's only natural to request that comments stay on-topic. We aren't just discussing any issues on this thread, we are discussing a specific issue.

Anonymous said...

Regarding teaching:

You get teaching gigs (of the adjuncting, etc. variety) by asking for them. That's all there is to it. My method was to email every university/college/community college/tech school within driving distance and ask. And then to do that again. And then again. I kept the jobs I liked, I dropped the ones I didn't.

Here's the kicker: teaching is really easy. You don't need magic to do well at it. Think about the material, present it in a reasonable way, and be personable and your students will (mostly) like you. (Btw, if you find it crazy hard to do one or more of those things, why are you trying to be a philosopher in the first place?)

Of course, until you do it a fair amount, teaching might look scary and whatnot. But it's not. Just ask for it, go wing it and use common sense, and, if all else fails, hand out better-than-deserved grades. That guarantees good evaluations, makes your life easy, and (unless you have an overactive conscience) isn't anything you'll lose sleep over.

Anonymous said...

Also, regarding publications: there is no magic to writing good-enough papers for good-enough journals (whatever those words mean), but here's my formula: write down the best idea I have. Spend two weeks turning it into a paper. Do 25-50 (I'm not exaggerating) total rewrites of the paper (this involves printing the paper, marking it up with a red pen, inputting these edits, then starting again).

At the end, this usually results in something enough other people want to read that it will get published somewhere. Or, if it doesn't, it will result in the kind of paper reviewers give helpful comments on.

The moral of the story is that all it takes is work. Not magic, not an amazing advisor, not genius, just work.

Anonymous said...

a specific version of the question of how to make a long-term plan: I have the opportunity to continue teaching at my PhD-granting institution after I defend. Probably for not more than a year. Should I do this or should I try to get a VAP not at my home institution? Moving for a year would be a hassle, of course, but I'm thinking maybe getting an outside job will look better on my CV and hence worth it? Or does it much matter?

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on tt job at a non-ranked school vs. a temporary position at a decent school?

Derek Bowman said...

@6:02: "[P]rioritize your research over teaching."

@4:03: "For sure if you want to land a job at an R1 or a school that values research. If you want a job at a teaching-focused school, no."

Candidates really need to do away with the myth of the "teaching-focused" school. Even many nominally "teaching-focused schools," their rhetoric aside, in fact value research over teaching, at least at the short-listing stage. And, as 4:03 goes on to note even actually-teaching-focused schools often want to see a publication or two, since that's part of their tenure requirements, and since they've got to winnow the pile of applications somehow.

So if you're weak on both teaching and research, prioritize your research. If you're strong on teaching but weak on research, prioritize your research. But if you're already moderately strong on research and weak on teaching, then work on your teaching (but don't neglect your research).

Thinking "I like teaching, and I want to work at a teaching school, so I'll work on strengthening my teaching profile" is a good recipe for becoming a perpetual adjunct.

But 1:08 is right - you have to be good at everything, and even then it might not be enough. Which should leave those aspiring to tenure track jobs to ask ourselves why we want those jobs so bad. In order to get them, those of us who don't secure jobs as ABD, have to show that we can do all the things that job demands without the support and rewards of a secure job. For those who can do that, why think you'll be able to do better philosophy in a tenure-track job than you could in some other better paid and potentially less maddening profession?

Anonymous said...

Q: How much research should you be doing?

A: Enough to easily get tenure at the institution you are applying at. For R1s, R2, and Selective Liberals Arts Colleges this means, at a minimum, 1-2 solid peer-reviewed publications a year unless you are freshly-minted.

Q: How much teaching should you be doing?

A: This is the wrong question, at least in my experience. There is a minimum amount of teaching experience that most places will prefer though this is a sliding scale with R1s caring less than just about all others. The right questions should be:

1) How are my teaching evaluations?

2) Have I taught the kinds of courses the place I am applying to needs taught?

The answers to those two questions matter a lot more than anything else, again in my experience, when it comes to assessments of your teaching.

However, unless you are applying to a community college job or to a liberal arts college that accepts 70% of its students (or more), you should never fool yourself into believing that teaching matters a lot more than research in terms of getting a job. Faculty absolutely need to be sure that you can get tenure.

Q: How do I fit in?

A: There isn't a good answer here. It's unfortunate that in many departments (including, I think, my own) the answer is something like: be a conventionally decent-looking funny white dude.

Having said that, fit is like virtue: you have to be funny and sociable in the right way, at the right times, for the right reasons. This is extremely contextual. If you got into philosophy because it seemed like a solitary gig where you didn't have to spend much time socializing with others then you are going to find it tough to do well (unless your research is absolutely stellar, even an R1 will look askew at you if you weird out the other faculty).

tldr: be good at everything while acknowledging that what it means to be good at something will be contextual.

zombie said...

1) How are my teaching evaluations?

2) Have I taught the kinds of courses the place I am applying to needs taught?

These are the right questions. It's not just how many classes or how many times you've taught. An SC is looking for whether or not you have solo taught courses, at what level (undergrad, grad), whether or not your student evals are decent (having a peer review of your teaching, as a formal review or a teaching letter helps too), and in cases where the job ad is looking for a specific AOS/AOC, they want to know if you can teach the classes they need you to teach. So, if you try to fake it by adding something to your AOS/AOC to fit the job ad, but you have no teaching experience to match, that's a red flag. If you have no papers to match, second red flag.

And like others have said, you have to be good at everything. Because there are a lot of people on the job market who ARE good at everything, and you're competing against them.

Anonymous said...

"Enough to easily get tenure at the institution you are applying at. For R1s, R2, and Selective Liberals Arts Colleges this means, at a minimum, 1-2 solid peer-reviewed publications a year unless you are freshly-minted. "

Not sure about this. The number given here need not be either necessary or sufficient. Not necessary, if there is (say) one publication in 2-3 years that is considered really important or groundbreaking. (This is fairly common.)

Not sufficient, if the 1-2 "solid" publications per year are not considered sufficiently important, original etc. (This is not as common, but it happens.)

Anonymous said...

Is there a link to find out which specific schools count as R1, R2, SLAC? I heard they changed the R1 and R2 categories.

Anonymous said...

At my R2, 1 per year is considered necessary and sufficient, unless you have a book, which apparently counts for several articles. I have colleagues who have never published in a PR journal, but have books adapted from their dissertations. Which apparently counts.

YMMV

Anonymous said...

@7:28 PM, I would think that a TT at a non-ranked is better than temp at a ranked school, on the following conditions:
- The TT school, even if not Leiter-ranked, has some national reputation (maybe in top 50 or 100 in US News)
- The TT school rates as at least "OK" in terms of location, compared with the temp gig
- the temp gig is equivalent to a VAP, with the typical heavy teaching load (as opposed to a cushy postdoc at, say, NYU)

Anonymous said...

9:58 AM:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_research_universities_in_the_United_States

First batch is R1, second is R2

zombie said...

I understand R1 and R2 are now obsolete terms, replaced by "very high research activity" and "high research activity," respectively, in the Carnegie rankings, from whence the terms come. R1 and R2 are certainly easier to say and type.

http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/lookup_listings/standard.php

Anonymous said...

@11:41 AM:
Thanks for addressing my question. Looking at the 3 factors you listed, I'd say only the 2nd (location) speaks in favor of the TT school. But it seems that this factor carries less weight than either of the other two.

However, I've been told by other people that it'd be pretty crazy to turn down a TT offer (even at an OK, definitely not great, school) given the dismal reality of the market.

Uhh.. all this discussion of strategizing feels so pointless!

zombie said...

Whether TT is better than temp/VAP really depends on a lot of personal factors, more than the respective rankings of the school. Is the TT in a place you could see yourself living/working? If not, is it so undesirable that you would rather take your chances on the job market again (and again, and again)? (You can always go back on the market from your TT job, if you want.)
As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Unless that bird is unacceptable to you for some reason.

Anonymous said...

How do people deal w/ the 2-body problem? More specifically, 2 bodies in different academic fields?

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick thoughts on getting a TT job from an associate professor. I think that it is important to have at least one publication when going on the market, because so many people often do. And it is better to have one good publication in a respectable journal than two in mediocre journals. This is helpful in getting you noticed at the initial stages. So I would spend my time polishing the one paper I think is the best and trying to get it into a respectable place before going on the market. Trying to get some teaching experience by adjuncting somewhere can be helpful to show you know how to teach and in answering the teaching questions that will come up. As to matters of fit, this can be very "contextual" as someone said above. You never know exactly what a search committee is going to be interested in for fit. Aside from the obvious points about this there are some intangibles. I think in my case the chair of the search committee had written a book on Russell and I (perchance) had published a very short piece on something Russell said once that was on my CV (but it wasn't my AOS or specific to the job). I think this maybe caught his eye in looking at my file. So you can't really game this issue and just have to put forward your best impression and hope something catches. Hang in there as it is not entirely a rational process unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

9:58 AM here
Thanks 11:55 and zombie!

Anonymous said...

1:08 here again.

For the record, I work at a "teaching college." And when I went on the market, I had multiple publications (one of which was in a well-respected journal). I was explicitly told by the SC that one reason I was short-listed (and eventually hired) was that my publications (and conference papers) demonstrated that I could teach in multiple areas, which appealed to them. (Everyone at this school has to teach a wide range of courses.) Because I had published in areas I had not offered classes in (my opportunities to teach a variety of courses in grad school was limited), I was able to demonstrate that I was able to teach all of the courses they wanted (as well as a few they were not advertising for). Range is always a good thing when applying to "teaching colleges."

My point is, SCs don't look at publications and think "only this is what he/she can research" and then turns to courses taught and think "only this is what he/she can teach." Your entire application is being evaluated. If you have multiple publications and fear being turned away by "teaching colleges," then use your cover letter as a way of explaining how that work you've published benefits your teaching in those areas (and how you would communicate your research to undergrads in the classroom). Remember that your cover letter is designed to put your experience into context for the benefit of the SC. In other words, it's your chance to explain to the SC why your skills and your background are a good fit for the department and college. (This is why I always tell applicants to do some tailoring of each application. You are not just selling yourself. The cover letter, in other words, is the first place where you can start to address "fit.")

Anonymous said...

@January 30, 2015 at 1:21 PM

The short answer is yes, given the dismal market you'd be crazy to turn down a TT position at an OK school.

But some of us are crazy, and anyone even entering this profession is already of suspect mental health, so the long answer is: what do you want from a philosophy career? If you want prestige badly enough, then maybe it's worth the risk.

But keep in mind that in the current market, you're not risking a worse job, you're risking no job at all. And keep in mind the prestige ladder in the business is steep, so the rewards of the risk are modest. Is the move from an OK to somewhat better school, the likely small added benefits in prestige, opportunity, location, etc., worth the risk?

The major issue is the disproportion between the kind of risk (being in the profession at all) and the kind benefit (a better job in the profession). What do you want from your job, and does it require that risk?

Anonymous said...

As someone who teaches at a teaching college (small private liberal arts college) and has been on several SCs, I can say that I have only once heard a colleague say that an applicant's high profile publications were a reason not to hire them (because they were a flight risk). But no one else on the SC agreed with that person.

That said, even if you're a "research type" I'm not sure you can get a job these days without some substantial teaching experience. So VAPs and Postdocs that allow you to develop your teaching are really good opportunities to show how well you do in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

"How do people deal w/ the 2-body problem? More specifically, 2 bodies in different academic fields?"

Learn to love long-distance relationships. Or be very, very, very lucky.

zombie said...

2 body problem: If you're lucky, you can negotiate a spousal accommodation. Lots of people at my uni do it, because the remote location leaves much to be desired, and there are No. Other. Jobs. (Interdepartmental accommodations happen, so that s/he is in another discipline isn't a deal breaker.) That can mean that the trailing spouse ends up in a non-TT position, or even in a non-academic position. But this may not be cool with the trailing spouse if said spouse already has a better job.

This has to be negotiated at the time of your offer, not later. Once you're hired, you've got no juice (as I have learned).

Uni administrators are well aware of how much the current job market favors them, so I wouldn't be surprised if SAs get harder to come by, except for superstars, administrative bigwigs, and for schools in the outer-outer boondocks.

Anonymous said...

"Any thoughts on tt job at a non-ranked school vs. a temporary position at a decent school?"

Yes, starting with: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "non-ranked" vs. "decent." Well, I think I know what you mean, but this is an incredibly ungenerous way of looking at schools, if the only way to even be "decent" is by being ranked. If you really do believe that unranked schools are indecent, don't bother applying to jobs at such institutions.

OK, now that we have that out of the way...

Nothing looks like success quite like success. If you are planning on working your way up in the profession (which, by the way, has become increasingly difficult), then you want your career to look successful at every stage. You "level up" by showing the next level that you have been successful at the previous level, by the standards of the next level.

Part of this has to do with the job title at the "decent" school. Are you a VAP, which smells of success, or will you be one of the various ways we refer to adjuncts, which to many smells of failure? If you are deciding between adjuncting at a "decent" school and entering the tenure track at an indecent school, go with the latter. The tenure track always smells of success.

But to level up, you also have to produce. And if your goal is a tenure line in a ranked program, you will have to demonstrate that you can publish at their rate, and at their quality. Graduate students get the benefit of "potential, absent production"; faculty do not. This means publishing good work in good venues. This means presenting your work at major conferences, and lining up invited speaker gigs. This means demonstrating your skills as an educator (innovative pedagogy, teaching awards, etc.). This means securing letters of recommendation from people outside of your graduate program, who can speak to your contributions to the field.

So another consideration is: which position allows you to best do that? If you are looking at your first job as a "starter job," you are going to have to screw that job in some way. The more you focus on that job, the less you will be able to focus on building your career. A tenure-track job will expect you to advise students, perform university service, and a variety of other tasks that may have no value on the market. (Someone in that department may write positively of your service, but that carries little weight.) You will need to out-publish the tenure requirements at that school, and some of your colleagues may resent you for that (and may see you as sacrificing other duties to do so). So it is entirely possible that you risk not earning tenure at one school in order to level up to another. It's a risk. That said, adjuncts often are not so burdened, as adjuncts are often considered stop-gap hires anyway. Because many adjuncts are invisible, you can use that to your advantage, and build your career through publishing and teaching.

A final consideration is that you very well may end up never leveling up, and your starter job may be the only job you ever earn, no matter how good you are or how hard you try. So you should also consider your life in that position. Can you live there? Can you have a life outside the office there?

Anonymous said...

On the note of ``good journals'' I've always assumed that, simply because of its methodology, Leiter's list (here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/07/top-philosophy-journals-without-regard-to-area.html), regardless of any flaws people might point out, is a reasonable criteria by which to judge whether an average SC member will think your publication in x journal is a publication in a ``top'' journal.

Note that I'm not saying this says what the ``top'' journals are, just that it gives one insight into what other people *think* the ``top'' journals are.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

On the 2 body problem: I'm part of an academic couple, and I got an offer last job season from a school. This was an unranked school without a PhD program.

This school employs frequent lecturers (who are on a year-to-year contract and have benefits, teaching 8 courses/year). The pay of the TT was low (far below the national average) and the pay of the lectureship was also very low, but with both wages, we could make ends meet. Unfortunately, the school didn't want to offer a lectureship for my partner and were only vaguely talking about a bit of adjuncting. They said they would do an international search for the lectureship since they wanted to hire the best candidate (also, negotiating a higher pay did not work). So unfortunately, I had to decline the position (I was a postdoc at a well-ranked school and had still time left).

As 7:40 says, it is risky to take a position that is ultimately unsustainable since you may never end up leveling up.

Anonymous said...

9:12

The problem with that list is that it is lemming-centered. If you work in M+E broadly construed, then definitely take that list into account.

But suppose you work in ancient phil - then that list is useless (the two most prestigious journals in that area aren't even on the list). If you work in history of modern, then focus on trying to get stuff into JHP, BJHP, or Archiv. Plenty of top people in phil. science publish exclusively in Phil.of Science or in BJPS. etc.

Anonymous said...

Derek Bowman might be right about most schools, and so his advice about publications might still be right, but I can say for sure that he is wrong that the 'teaching only school' is a myth. I have taught at two places where publications were not much of a help when applying and at a certain number of publications could turn into a red flag. I am currently on a search committee where I have to argue against excluding people because of their apparent focus on research.
In the case of where I currently teach, the school has seen several young faculty leave. Those in positions of authority at the school have interpreted this as these young faculty not being teaching oriented (this is not why they left, but administrators and senior faculty telling themselves this allows them to ignore the other things about our university that makes it unattractive to those who don't already have a decade of investment in the place), and so when someone is coming out of grad school with multiple publications it is a struggle for me to keep them in consideration.

Again I do not know enough to recommend a general strategy, but I will say that I know of schools where Derek Bowman's strategy will not help and might hurt. There probably is no one strategy that will keep you in the running at all schools. There is probably no reliable way to judge which strategy keeps you in the running at the largest number of schools. I will say that if you know going into the market that you are not in the running for highly ranked schools (as I knew I was not) it would be a good idea to teach more than the one class a semester for 2-4 semesters that most people have coming out of grad school. It would be a good idea to mention your teaching in your cover letter. It would be a good idea to put a lot of work into your teaching portfolio.

Anonymous said...

Wait wait, a VAP "smells of success"?!
That raised my spirits for the afternoon!

Anonymous said...

All this talk of "top journals" is getting pretty annoying. But only because it's bothersome to discover that some people pursuing PhDs in Philosophy seem to have no idea what "top journals" might mean.

Here are some pointers:

1. What journals do you read for the most interesting, cutting edge research in your particular area?
2. What journals publish the work by the most influential and engaging scholars in your area?
3. What journals publish the work that is cited in the research you do for your own studies?

As a rule of thumb, the answers to these questions are your "top journals," regardless of where they might be ranked on some list posted somewhere on the internet. And if you have the same journals as answers to all three questions, those are very likely the elite journals in your area.

zombie said...

These things matter:
Publications
Teaching Experience
Pedigree
"Fit"

You can do something about all of them except pedigree, if you ain't got pedigree.

How do they get weighed in the decisions of search committees? You will never know, and speculating will be of little help. There's no Golden Mean here, some ideal number of classes and publications that will hit every SCs spot. This is why, more than ever, tailoring your cover letter to the particular job matters. In your cover letter, you can make your case for why you're right for the job, and why your particular combination of teaching and research is what they need/want.

I applied for a job in a subspecialty of my AOS this year, and I didn't really think I was especially strong in that subspecialty, until I started drafting the letter, and realized that I had direct and relevant teaching experience in that subspecialty, and multiple publications. Which made it possible for me to make a strong case for myself, which got me a fly-out.

Anonymous said...

@9:05 This is exactly how I would go about deciding which journals to read. It is exactly how I would go about deciding where to publish for my own sake. My only interest at this point is publishing in places that will impress other people. I don't care at all (at this point in my career) if getting article a published in journal x actually *is* me getting a publication in a ``top journal''. I care whether random-SC-member is more likely to *see* the fact of article a's being published in journal x as an instance of a publication in a ``top journal.'' Since I can bet on random-SC-member not answering any of the questions you've posed in the same way as I do, they are of little help in answering *that* question.

Anonymous said...

a couple related questions: is it better to stay on as a lecturer at your grad program (if that's a possibility) or take a VAP elsewhere? Which is going to make you look more attractive in future years (assume your personal life permits you to do either)? is it worth the hassle of moving for a 1-year gig?

Anonymous said...

"is it better to stay on as a lecturer at your grad program (if that's a possibility) or take a VAP elsewhere?"

Define "better." Staying on in your home department is not getting a job. Getting a VAP is getting a job. One way of looking employable is by showing that other departments will hire you. As a line on the CV, a VAP at another institution *looks* better. That said, if the VAP puts too much of a strain on your personally or financially, or does not give you as good a chance at publishing and teaching as staying home as a lecturer might, then staying put might be better for building your CV. As with everything else market-related, the answer depends on the context.

"Which is going to make you look more attractive in future years (assume your personal life permits you to do either)?"

Honestly, neither, inherently. It's what you do with the opportunity that makes you look better. Landing a prestigious VAP where you earn shitty evals and don't publish anything looks worse than being an award-winning Lecturer who publishes good work. What makes you look better is you, not your letterhead.

"is it worth the hassle of moving for a 1-year gig?"

Depends on the gig. Depends on how expensive the move is. Depends on how important this gig is for your career development.

Derek Bowman said...

@1:42: Thanks. I should have been clearer. I did not mean to claim it to be a myth that schools like yours exist. Rather, the myth is that there is a single meaning of 'teaching school' such that both a) most jobs are at teaching schools and a) you can reliably expect to get a job at a teaching school on the strength of your teaching alone.

Anonymous said...

"My only interest at this point is publishing in places that will impress other people."

And sometimes I wonder why people outside Philosophy think so many of us are navel-gazing dilettantes who are obsessed with rankings and prestige.

Anonymous said...

And sometimes I wonder why people outside Philosophy think so many of us are navel-gazing dilettantes who are obsessed with rankings and prestige.

I know. Because in all those other fields, nobody ever does anything just to get a job. They all just do the things they love doing, employment be damned.

Derek Bowman said...

@5:57: Which should lead us to ask - if a professorial job is just a job like any other, why do so many of us continue to sacrifice so much to compete for them?

zombie said...

I don't think a professorial job is just like any other job. But if someone does think that, I would advise them to look for another job that would give them equal job satisfaction + better odds of making a decent living.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think a professorial job is just like any other job."

Why do you think that is? Is it more special? More prestigious? Are people who hold such jobs better than those who don't?

Anonymous said...

@5:27

"Why do you think that is? Is it more special? More prestigious? Are people who hold such jobs better than those who don't?"

Yeah... I'm sure that's what he was going for. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with, I don't know, being essentially the only way to get paid for doing philosophy. Or the having summers without scheduled work.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that is? Is it more special? More prestigious? Are people who hold such jobs better than those who don't?

Right, those are the only possibilities I can think of that would make an academic job different from non-academic jobs.

(And "more special"?? Mister Rogers, is that you??)

zombie said...

5:27 -- Really? Do you think professors are held in high esteem in this country?

It's none of those things.

I, me, Zombie, do not think it's just like any other job. It's THE job I've wanted for a long time. I do the things I want to do -- teach, study philosophy, write philosophy, while being pretty free to make my own schedule and work on what interests me. Sure, there are a few annoying things associated with committee work, paperwork, chasing tenure, etc. But, speaking as someone who has had many jobs over the years, this is the best.

But someone who could get everything they want out of another job, where the prospects for employment are better, would be prudent to consider another career.

Derek Bowman said...

Zombie says:

"I do the things I want to do .... while being pretty free to make my own schedule and work on what interests me."

That's great for you, but the context of my question was a conversation started by someone who was not free in that way.

@8:37 said: "My only interest at this point is publishing in places that will impress other people."

If the job (including the prospects of advancement and tenure in the job) requires you to make continued employment the driving force that shapes your teaching and research activities, then it looks like the professorial job is no longer living up to its promise.

8:48 says a professorial job is "essentially the only way to get paid for doing philosophy." But the question we should be asking ourselves is why it's so important to get paid to do philosophy instead of being paid and doing philosophy. The former is only way way of doing the latter, and for those of us who don't yet have secure, satisfying academic positions, it's not at all clear that it's the best way.

Anonymous said...

6:02AM: I just wanted to say thanks for your post. I think my plan at the moment is to try to have something like the trajectory you did (so far it looks a lot like yours though without the job at the end) and I was wondering if it might possibly work, and it seems like it might. I feel like I finally have some great ideas for research and I've gotten a bit of it accepted, but the whole staleness thing keeps me up at nights. Glad to hear you think the worry is overrated. And also glad to hear that merit is rewarded and it's not just whether you get a chance to kiss up to the right people when you're a grad student.
It is kind of sad to hear what you say about teaching though. Mind you I've always been pretty sure that was true and acted accordingly. Still it really shouldn't be that way, especially since teaching can do so much good and so much of the "research" people do is so completely without value.

zombie said...

Derek, I was responding to 5:27, not you.

Anonymous said...

Derek Bowman, I must be missing something.

@8:37 said: "My only interest at this point is publishing in places that will impress other people."

If the job (including the prospects of advancement and tenure in the job) requires you to make continued employment the driving force that shapes your teaching and research activities, then it looks like the professorial job is no longer living up to its promise.


Did you not understand that 8:37 was very explicitly saying *at this point in her career* she is worried about what other people think? She does not have a professorial job. She wants one, and if she gets one then, one may still hope, it will very much live up to its promise, as Zombie's has. Or are you saying that anyone who is not guided as Socrates was at every moment of every year may as well chuck it in? Or what?

Anonymous said...

I'm actually both 8:37 and 8:48. I should say the only research I do is the research I find valuable and important. But when it comes to deciding where to *publish* it, my only concern is finding the spot that will make other people think highly of me.

Why do I do this? Because I want to get paid to do philosophy, and people thinking highly of me makes that more likely. Why do I want to get paid to do philosophy? Because I love doing philosophy, and getting paid to do something I love sounds awesome.

But, you know, I'm obviously in it for the prestige and stuff, so take all that with a grain of salt if you must. And obviously by feeling like this I'm supporting the long tradition (which I've never actually heard of) of people who claim only professional philosophers get to say anything philosophical.

Anonymous said...

My game plan is to apply for postdocs. I have one available in the area and am hoping to make a good case for my project. I am wondering, however, whether its a good idea to shoot the project head an email and meet with them before submitting the application? Is that an acceptable thing to ask?

Derek Bowman said...

@6:00 Yes, you're right that I didn't adequately acknowledge that distinction in my comment. Given that my aim was to combat some of the romanticism about the professorial job, I certainly don't intend to replace it with a romantic notion of the pure philosopher who's uncorrupted by all that petty need to eat and live.

We need to find ways to live in the world and combine our interests in philosophical reflection with our material and social needs. But we should recognize that 'being paid to do philosophy' need not be the only way to do that. And the more of our 'doing philosophy' that amounts to 'doing whatever is needed to get/keep an academic appointment' (as 8:37/8:48/7:11 describes their publishing activity), the less our academic careers are allowing us to do what we had in mind when we set out to 'get paid to do philosophy.'

The goal should be to live a life in which we get paid and we do philosophy. Getting paid *to do* philosophy is only one way of meeting both goals.

Anonymous said...

Since publishing is a big part of any sensible game plan I feel like it's okay to crowdsource a question I've been wondering about: How long should you wait to email a journal about a paper you've submitted if they haven't reached a decision? My feeling was that anything after about three months was okay, but people older and wiser than me say four and some others say just don't ever do it. In the past I did get one journal to hurry up and later got an acceptance with a polite email, but a few other times I think I emailed way too soon (at about the two month mark) and, I think, ended up annoying the editor or the referee.

Anonymous said...

@6:27

I've been told to wait six months. But I've never actually emailed -- if I start to get anxious about a paper, it's usually because it's the only paper I have under review, and then I realize that rather than worrying about that paper I should just write more.

Derek Bowman said...

For what it's worth I've been told by knowledgeable folks that after 3 months you should just write to ask for an update and that it doesn't hurt to ask. And anyway, even if asking does lead to a rejection, that opens you up to send to the next venue and start the process over again.

Do your best to think of yourself as a professional who's asking other professionals a reasonable question about a part of their job that affects you. It is not unreasonable to ask for an update about your paper after 3 months.

Anonymous said...

If I can, I'd like to add something to Derek's comments.

"Three months" = "three working months." Knowing that some journals don't do any work during semester breaks, don't add that into the time spent reviewing your article. Sure, some editors/readers might use that time to review work, but some may not.

Anonymous said...

On this topic: Say you've had a paper at a journal for a very long time (over a year), and the journal is still listed as 'under review' on the portal. However, inquiries to the editor do not get a response. What, if anything, would you recommend a junior faculty member do in this situation?

Anonymous said...

Anybody heard anything about the Brown PTP postdoc?

Anonymous said...

11:01 - I was in this situation recently, and when I finally emailed the head editor of the journal (rather than the editor assigned to my paper) it turned out that the editor assigned to my paper, who had not been responding to emails, had gotten seriously sick and was no longer an editor of the journal. My paper fell through the cracks. So I would see if there is a senior editor or some such at the journal who you can contact directly.

Anonymous said...

What I'm going to be doing to try to improve my chances for next year:

(1) get an outside letter to add to my existing letters

(2) have a trusted third party more thoroughly vet my existing letters to make sure there are no inadvertently weak parts of the letters (I think they're fine/pretty good, but just to make sure)

(3) place a couple papers under review at fast-ish journals and hope something sticks

(4) submit papers to 1-2 refereed conferences and hope something is accepted

(5) get a cleaner/better/more professional website

(6) improve my research proposal and ask my letter writers to rewrite their letters to accommodate the new and improved proposal

(7) referee for a journal -- this is something I would like to do anyway to get a better feel for journal practices. Anyone know if it's possible to volunteer for this? I've never been asked.

*career question*: for APA invited papers & symposia -- is it OK to submit papers that are under journal or already published? Or is it standard to only submit unpublished work? I would like to get some of my work a broader audience, and the APA seems like a good place for this, but some is (or will hopefully be) accepted by the time the APA rolls around. Anyone know about this?

Anonymous said...

I'm not answering your question. I'm responding to the part about ``plac[ing] a couple papers under review at fast-ish journals and hop[ing] something sticks.''

A good resource for this: Andrew Cullison's journal surveys:

http://www.andrewcullison.com/journal-surveys/

Highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

I'm most likely out of the running for a TT job this year. I need funding next year so on to VAPs. I'm a first-timer at this, so I was wondering what the timeline is for VAPs? How long do departments typically take to find someone between the deadline for applications and making an offer? And do VAP searches usually involve a skype interview or are they sometimes offered sans interview? Do they ever involve an on-campus?

Finally, is it yucky to contact someone I know at a school advertising a VAP to mention that I'm applying?

zombie said...

Suggest questions get posted to a newer thread, as these older ones don't get much traffic.