Thursday, March 12, 2015

No more half measures

On the previous thread, 8:51 asks:
I wonder if you could start a new thread where those of us who are planning to leave academic philosophy could say a bit about our backgrounds, our reasons for leaving, and our plans (where plans exist). 
For those of us on who are certainly our way out the door, I think it would be interesting and helpful to see who else is leaving, why they're leaving, and where they're headed. And for people who are in the midst of deciding whether to leave, I think it could be comforting.
I am not someone who is definitely planning on leaving, but I'm definitely on my way to being pushed out slowly, so I am developing plans to GTFO. Relevant background info:
  • My Ph.D. is from a school in the middle of the PGR pack.
  • I've applied to jobs for more or less the past 5 or 6 years (but only a handful this year and none last year). I had no business applying for about 2 or 3 of those years.
  • Actively and slowly research; only one publication.
  • 4 - 5 years of active teaching experience (in 3 years, I've taught what TT folks at my department teach in 5 years).
  • A few TT interviews, two on-campus interviews, but no offers. 
  • More than a few VAP and/or post-doc interviews. 1 offer (for my current VAP).
  • Current position was originally for one-year, but I've been lucky enough to have it renewed a few times (always at the last minute because of funding issues).
  • 6 months after moving across the country for my current position, I turned down a 2 year postdoc that would've required me to move back across the country.
It was after turning down the postdoc and spending more and more time with people who don't uproot their lives every few years chasing a job that might potentially land them in a place they never thought they'd live, that I began to seriously think about leaving philosophy. I also feel very strongly about staying in my current city.*

And recently, I was not considered for what was probably the last opportunity at turning my current VAP into something more permanent [details redacted; but I'm not the only person at my current department that's super-pissed about this]. For a while, I thought that I'd be happy adjuncting in my current city, which offers a lot of teaching opportunities. But I'm less convinced I want to do that now (I hope some of y'all participated in National Adjunct Walkout Day!).

I've been trying to lay the groundwork to GTFO in a few ways; though these are more like half-measures than anything else. Through friends, I've been volunteering at a local non-profit, through which I've met people and made connections outside philosophy. These connections have led to editorial work and at least one writing assignment for a local paper. I feel like these connections and also friends get me a toe (at least) in the door at places I might enjoy working. But I haven't followed through yet. I've also been on Twitter a lot lately, which isn't helping me develop GTFO plans.

That's it!

--Jaded, Ph.D.

*One thing that I've found especially helpful are non-academic friends who work and live in one part of the country longer than one or two years and aren't constantly applying to jobs. They are also cool and I don't want to move away from them in the same way that I didn't want to move away from my badass academic friends, but did because that's what academics do. I'm probably not alone in having almost exclusively academic friends during graduate school (or maybe I was?). I found it harder to shake the "I'm a failure" feelings surrounded by my lovely academic friends; but less hard now. (Though I also found it easier to talk philosophy with my academic friends than I do now; trade-offs.)

145 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am being pushed out the door, and I have no idea what I will do once my current position is gone. I got my PhD in 2014, I have 3 publications (one solo publication in Phil Studies in 2013, and another co-authored in a top specialist journal in 2014, and another co-authored in a run-of-the-mill interdisciplinary journal in 2015). My degree is from unranked, but fairly well regarded, regarded program. I have been in a non-TT, full-time, lecturer position for the last 2 years. But that position is now going up for a national search that I am not likely to be considered for. My undergrad degree is in the humanities also, so I have no non-academic qualifications/skills. I expect to be doing entry-level retail or manufacturing work for the foreseeable future. Though I would like to move to a better city/region to do it in.

Anonymous said...

I'm headed out the door. And, at this point, I can't wait to be gone.

I finished my PhD late last year at a borderline top-5 department. I went on the market the year before (when I was ABD). I got some nibbles, including looks from a number of ranked departments, but I didn't land a TT gig. I was lucky enough to land a nice post-doc back home, so I took that, starting late last fall.

After graduating and starting the post-doc, I decided that I just can't stay in the discipline. So I didn't even bother going on the market this year with my PhD in hand. I'll always be curious about how I would have done. (But let's be honest: I'd have gotten my ass kicked and come up empty. Haha.)

I've realized that, as much as I love philosophy, I'm just not willing to move around the world to stay in academia. I'm very close to my family members (all of whom live in a particular city), and my wife and I just don't want to spend our lives somewhere else. In the last handful of years, there's been about zero hiring in (in my AOS) within ~3 hours of my home. So, since I'm not willing to move away, and since there's no real chance of my landing a job around here, I'm giving up. It's a bit sad, but that's just my reality. I've had an unbelievably easy ride to this point, so it would be ridiculous for me to complain.

It looks like I may be able to transition into a semi-related field that overlaps with my AOS. I'm close to having a professional (and only semi-academic) fellowship lined up that will allow me to make the transition. There are lots of jobs in this field (and in my city), so if it works out, I should be able to start a decent career. Fingers crossed.

I really feel for everyone out there who is wrestling with whether to stay (and continue to fight) or leave (and take the loss and uncertainty that comes with that). Good luck to you all. This isn't easy.

Anonymous said...

I am leaving this year if I am not renewed, but next year for sure. I'm exhausted. I defended in 2011, have been on the market full throttle since, and was an inside candidate twice. I have four publications in a small generalist journal. My VAPship has been good to me, but it's not forever, and I'm getting older.

I came from an unranked program, which should be shut down (cf. another thread). I'm not willing to name names, but here's the deal. This program has produced one or two PhDs per year since my departure, and none of them have even a VAPship. (I'm counted as a 'successful placement'.) Every single one of them is an adjunct, and we're all on the market competing for the same jobs. The placement record for this place is horrible. When I came to the department, I was told by my dissertation director and the graduate advisor at the time that although this department was unranked, they still placed graduates. This was before 2008, and before 2008 they did place graduates fairly regularly in tt or permanent positions you would expect graduates from unranked programs to go to (small SLACs and CCs). After 2008, the jobs that would have gone to graduates like us are going to graduates from more prestigious programs.

As for a Plan B, I'm working on that. I have some ideas, but nothing fully formed. I am hoping to move to a city of my choosing, though, rather than move to the only city where I can get the job. I want some measure of choice in this. I have office skills and experience, so I'm hoping this helps in some way.

I'm a little bitter at this point, and I want to improve my attitude, but I feel like I was deceived. It wasn't intentional deception, but a kind of willful ignorance on the part of advisors in both my graduate and undergraduate programs and myself (yes, I acknowledge my own responsibility here). Willful ignorance about what? Of course placement, but I had no idea about the climate either. No department posts on their own website about how frequently (or infrequently) they get investigated for Title IX violations, have to defend themselves against sexual harassment lawsuits, or cover up sexual assaults in the department. This is not an easy discipline for women, minorities, and the handicapped. It is tough for men, too.

Anonymous said...

Alright. I'm just gonna say this, though it'll undoubtedly piss people off...

Why do you find it so hard to publish? I see one publication, three, four... most of you have had time to publish. I just can't grasp what you find so difficult about it. I work a lot. I have a family and a mortgage. I still publish. How? I write down my best ideas, and I edit them until they're good. I edit a lot, I don't fall in love with my writing, and I evaluate my work with a harsh light. When it's good enough I submit it, and some of the time it gets published.

And that's all there is to it. So seriously, what's getting in your way? I simply don't get it. If you made it through your PhD program, I'm sure you have good ideas... why can't you write them up?

Anonymous said...

Barring a miracle, I'm about to leave.

My details. I have good evals and a strong teaching letter. I'm a good teacher and a good colleague and all that.

Additionally,

PhD 2006 from a Leiter ranked but low ranked program.

I have 12 publications in good journals (PPR, Phil Studies -- places like that).

This year, 1 interview. Most years it's more like 3. I've only had 1 fly out in the past 4 years.

AOS, AOC: I'm an M&E kind of person, although I have Ethics as an AOC. I've taught Ethics several times.

Don't know what I'll be doing next year.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respond to 10:52. You can get a better job than entry-level retail or manufacturing. You should read what post-academics are doing, and speak to some people who know more about the business world. YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN YOU'RE THINKING!

Anonymous said...

"PhD 2006 from a Leiter ranked but low ranked program."

I hate to say this, but very likely, many committees probably see you as out of date. Yes, you have a good publication record. But no, for many, that won't be enough.

Every committee that looks at you will ask themselves some version of: if this applicant is this good, why hasn't anyone else hired him/her? Yes, they know the market sucks. But honestly, everyone seems to forget that when whittling down to a list of finalists.

New PhDs always look shiny. Deserved or not, they still have that "new PhD smell."

I'm sorry, but this is how many people think.

Anonymous said...

10:52 here...

@6:25

Publishing is something of a crap shoot, and publishing in good journals is not easy. I don't doubt I could publish more but it would not necessarily be good work, nor would it be in journals that would make a difference to hiring decisions.

@6:42

I am not underinformed about how failed philosophy phDs have faired in the marketplace. I am aware that people with marketable undergrad degrees (STEM and Computer science degrees) have done well. I am also aware that with further education people have done well. I am too old, and too poor for further education, I have NO APTITUDE for programming/logic/computer science/math, and my BA is in foriegn language from a small regional state school. So, I don't have any marketability to fall back on. Manual labor it will be.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:39pm: With 12 publications, some of which are in places like PPR and Phil Studies, I'm thinking there HAS to be something else that is holding you back. With a record like yours, you should be getting a lot more than 1 interview. And it's not that you're going stale or not looking "shiny" and new. I know more than a few people with PhDs from nearly that long ago that have received a lot of interviews (with a lesser record than yours).

Have you gotten other people to seriously vet your job-market materials (cover letters, research statement, teaching dossier)? Might you have a bad recommendation letter you don't know about? Have you asked other people who know your record why they think you're not doing better?

Anonymous said...

@6:25 Four publications in four years isn't bad. But even if it is, maybe you are jut better than us. Or, maybe you don't have same circumstances that we have. Do you have someone to clean your house? Mow your yard? Rear your children? Do your shopping? Do you have any hobbies? If you answered 'no' to all of those questions, then perhaps you really ARE better than us.

Anonymous said...

I type this from the fetal position, where I've been since reading 6:39's post.

IMHO, 6:39 is deserving of Rusty Jones-level hero status, albeit for somewhat different reasons. (And, no, I do not know 6:39, though I'd have the same opinion if I did, assuming he/she is not a giant asshole.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not the person 6:25 PM was scolding, but to give a brief and reluctant response: it's not as simple as "I write down my best ideas, and I edit them until they're good." It depends on whether your best ideas are ones that the editor and your one or two referees happen to like. And with turnaround times being what they are, just a couple of rejections can easily put year-long holes in your CV.

But I'm REALLY hoping this thread doesn't get derailed by people opining about (1) how someone could have improved their chances by doing x in the past; or, even worse, (2) how the job market wouldn't be so grim if only we could impose huge changes like y (cf. the last thread on shuttering PhD programs).

That is: it'd be great if this particular thread could stick to the personal side of the decision to leave philosophy. SO many people I know are dealing with the emotional and practical ramifications of that choice in isolation from their academic friends, because 'leaving the profession' is still stigmatized (even though we're quickly getting to a point where the majority of candidates will be doing it). To second the OP, a frank discussion of the personal issues would be useful to many of us.

Anonymous said...

I'm the OP and also 12:22 from yesterday. Can we please, please, please, please stick to the topic of the thread? Please?

I know it's tempting to diagnose others' situations (and to evince one's amazement that others' lives, actions, and outcomes are different than one's own) but couldn't we please (please!) just stick to the thread topic? Please?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm not sure if I've left the field or not, perhaps I was never in... Here's my story: I became interested in philosophy as a 14-year old and throughout high school read fairly well.

In college, I ended up in psychology and as an undergrad I was pretty active in research in cognitive psychology.

After that, I got into a doctoral program in psychology where I spent three years doing research in cognitive science and behavioral neuroscience. Luckily for me, the psyc department I was in significantly emphasized conceptual analysis and methdology and the philosophical depth all that required. My informal philosophical background, and of course, my formal training in psychology, helped me succeed in this program. I have five pubs in psychology (two in top psych journals).

But, in my third year, I realized I was becoming more interested in the conceptual and methodological issues of psychological science than I was in continuing my empirical research. So, I got my master's degree in psychology and got into a doctoral program in science studies. In this program, I got a great training in philosophy, history of science and social studies of science. I focused my own doctoral work on philosophy of science, especially on issues of inference and methodology in psychological science.

I wrote my dissertation on cognitive neuroscience and got my phd about 4 years ago. I was on the market for only two years, the best I could do was a skype interview for a 2-year psotdoc. In the meantime, I went back to my hometown and adjuncted for almost three years teaching ethics and science, history of science, history of psyc, and grad level philosophy of science. During this time, I got two pubs in top journals.

Finally, and thankfully, I got a TT position in a psychology department at a private research university. I teach courses in research methods, philosophy, history and philosophy of psychology, and cognitive science. Currently, I'm designing a series of empirical experiments in the cognitive science of complex cognition and I don't think I'll get back to purely philosophical work other than a few things that jump out...

So, am I out of philosophy? Was I ever in? I can't give easy answers... What I do know is this, had I not had a training and pubs in psychology and had I not written my dissertation on cognitive neuroscience, I wouldn't have been able to get the job I have now and for which I am greatly thankful...

As much as I love philosophy and I don't think I can ever get away from it, I tell young people around me who show an interest in philosophy to not study philosophy at the undergrad or grad level...

Anonymous said...

Only somewhat off-topic, I promise.

I have tenure. I teach at a small school, carry a 4/4 load, and have a research record I am proud of (multiple articles, 2 books, a few invited speaker engagements). I love teaching, and I love research. I even enjoy meaningful service.

That said, I'm seriously thinking about walking away from it all.

Some of this is professional. While I love where I live, I don't love a 4/4 load. Yes, I enjoy teaching. But I enjoy many things, and that doesn't mean I want to spend all of my time doing them. Some weeks, I can barely keep up with all the work I have to do. Additionally, my department is facing massive budget cuts (we've been told not to expect to be able to hire at the tenure track "for the foreseeable future"), and in many ways my workplace is toxic (a word used by an outside mediator who evaluated us two years ago, to help negotiate between two camps that refused to play nice). Even if we were hiring someone this year, I'd have a difficult time trying to convince anyone to take this job.

Some of this is personal. My partner and I do not live together, but would like to. I am tied here to my job; she is tied to hers (non-academic). One of us has to walk away, if we ever want to live together. With each passing semester, I'm having a harder and harder time figuring out why I am choosing my job over my partner. (Right now, it comes down to financial reasons. That's it.)

Yes, I have aggressively applied to academic jobs where she lives. No dice. (I would even take a non-TT job, provided it was full-time.) And so now I am dropping my research agenda entirely to look into other options, ways I can use my skill set outside of academia. I'm looking into various professional writing gigs (one promising job would have me as a grant writer for an arts-based non-profit), among other possibilities. But admittedly, it's tough. I need to convince myself that my skills as a researcher and public speaker, and that my experience in the academic machine, are sufficient preparation for other jobs. And truth be told, I think it's harder to convince myself than it is to convince others. We academics may see what we do as something special, but to many others, it's just a job. It's a job that requires skills, and many of those skills are transferable. (And my knowledge base could even be of some interest to some of the organizations I'm applying to, including museums.)

And the thing is, I'm not alone. It's not - or not just - that we feel were sold a lemon, though many of us were. It's that the profession, in many ways, is not what it should be or could be. Most of the meetings I sit on are about the budget, and I am not on any financial committees. Administration (here and elsewhere) sees the field as a luxury, because it's not directly STEM-related. And every single parent/child combo who attends a recruiting event wants to know what jobs we train for (and then walks away when we start talking about what we really do).

Anonymous said...

@9:37 I am a first year TT faculty member at a very similar sounding department, in an equally frustrating situation. I am actively considering leaving the profession (one application currently out for a non-academic job). Ideally I would like to stay in academia and find a job elsewhere, but the teaching/service demands in my position are so high that I can't keep up the publication rate of peers also angling for these job with only a third of my workload demands and twice the resources for pursuing research.

Anonymous said...

I left just recently (celebrated my second month of non-academic work last week). Since I haven't been out for long, I don't think I can really weigh in to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do, but I can sympathize with a lot of what is being said here.

Like many of you, I was in a VAP that was originally 1 year but renewed once already (at the last minute, of course). I defended in 2012, had four publications out, with 2 more forthcoming. Nevertheless, the job insecurity had worn me down. In my last position, I made enough to support myself and my partner in a modest lifestyle, but I had to invest energy in staying on the job market in addition to developing my research profile and managing a mountain of teaching. I was working all the time, evenings and weekends, in order to stay ahead, so we couldn't really enjoy ourselves. We were locked in wondering how long we'd be in our apartment, in our city, and thinking about how we would fund moving for the next job (if/when that happened). I wanted more stable employment and the chance to settle down.

I was inside candidate for 2 searches and passed over each time. In both cases, I was told that I was passed over due to my research profile, but any time I made an effort to assert or protect the 20% research time included in my position, I was given more teaching. I was told that my temporary position could become permanent, but those overtures felt like a carrot dangled in front of me to keep me on task.

I had thought of leaving the discipline in 2013, just before getting that last VAP. During that time, I did a lot of research on how to communicate and transfer my skills to the private sector. There are lots of resources for this online, and you don't have to pay a career counselor or resume prep service. There are alternate career options for smart people that don't include having to get another degree or training. You just have to build a narrative that ends with you in a non-academic job, tell that story through your resume, and sell it to HR and hiring managers.

If you already know you're being pushed out the door, don't wait. Look for positions now. Get on LinkedIn, start networking, and by all means don't wait until the end of the academic year. Many corporations turn down hiring during the summer, so your chances will be worse if you wait until summer. Look for something now, and be ready to leave when you find it. You may find yourself having to leave in the middle of the academic year, and you may leave colleagues and students in the lurch. Do it anyway because you have to take care of yourself if the profession won't take care of you.

Anonymous said...

If one is thinking about leaving, and in a position similar to the first post... Go to a temp agency before you go to the mall looking for a job. Tell the temp agency you want to be placed in office work. You will do filing or reception at first, but (unlike in academia) business people will and do create positions for quick learning hard workers. I know this, because it happened to my wife.... From temping to full time salaried employee (making more than assistant professors or VAPS) in six months. The trick is getting in the door... And that is what temping does for you.

And I agree with 11:19 - you owe the school, the profession and whatever nothing. When the opportunity presents itself, bail on them. The dean would fire you in a heartbeat if need be.

Anonymous said...

off-topic: I was wondering whether anyone knows which journals tend to review pieces over the summer and which more or less shut down over the summer? For those of us who would like to try to publish sooner than later, that might influence our decisions about where to place things (in addition, of course, to Andrew Cullison's excellent journal rankings). Does anyone *ever* get feedback, acceptances, rejections, or anything substantive over the summer months? Or is there just no point in trying during that period?

moderators: perhaps we could even use a thread dedicated to a new discussion of publishing for newbs (I know there's an older post roughly on this topic). Another question would be experiences with journals re: feedback and response times, esp. for those many journals lacking data in Cullison's survey: Thought, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Hypatia, Ergo, and Phil, Psych & Psychiatry are some examples.

Finally, is Thought still active since the shut-down (or whatever it is was) of Northern Institute of Philosophy?

thanks in advance for any advice or info.

Diogenes said...

Hey 10:34,
This doesn't answer your question about summertime shut downs, but in case you (or others) weren't aware of this source, check out Andy Cullison's journal survey wiki for information about response times and acceptance rates:
http://www.andrewcullison.com/journal-surveys/

Anonymous said...

@7:49

Anon 10:52 here:

I have looked into temping for summer office positions in the past, and I have never been able to get a foot in the door anywhere. Perhaps this is because I am a non-trad and slightly older than most new PhDs (I'm a 40 year old male). Employers are not looking for people my age to do reception/filing work. Most temp agencies immediately insist that I am better suited to warehouse/manual labor work. My education, and computer skills are less important to them than my age and gender. I am virtually certain that my next move will be to factory/manual labor employment. Frankly, I've seen NOTHING to dissuade a reasonable person from thinking that without an undergrad STEM degree, or some computer science aptitude, there is nothing for the vast majority of failed philosophy PhDs other than this modality. If you look at CDJ's interviews with post academics, or the comments posted here on various past Plan B threads, the trend is significant: in nearly all successful cases people either had personal connections, a STEM degree to fall back on, or they had the money/option to pursue further certification/education. Those successes are not widely repeatable.

Derek Bowman said...

@9:29: Before returning to school to get my PhD I was able to successfully get temporary work doing data entry (though not as a summer gig). Of course I was younger, and the overall economy was better then.

I agree about the over-specificity of many post-academic success stories (but for accuracy the interviews you reference were done by Helen De Cruz). But there are other resources to look into before giving up.

It might be worth investigating the Non-Academic Hires list at Daily Nous or joining the Have you tried joining the "Professional Philosophers in Industry" Linkedin group linked there.

http://dailynous.com/non-academic-hires-2013-14/

Anonymous said...

9:29 I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties transitioning into another job. I agree it can be tough and may partly determine on where you live and the local economy.

This may or may not be something you're interested in, but in case anyone else could benefit: in the large city I live in, there are a lot of coding "boot camps"--intensive, 3-month-ish training programs to get you from zero coding skills to employable at an entry-level position. Where I am, the starting salaries and demand for these jobs is apparently high. (I know two people who have done these programs with *no* coding or strong STEM background and were placed into good jobs). Of course, that costs money and time, but not a *lot* of time and not a lot of money, most philosophers would probably be pretty good at coding, i'd guess.

Also, you may not wish to return to school for many obvious reasons, but a masters in social work, an associates in lab tech work, or a masters in education to get certified to teach at the HS level might be worth the 2 year investment, depending on what you want to do.

In general, other things that philosophers might be able to do (I have not done these things, though all are things people I know do/have done, I'm trying to helpfully brainstorm, so please don't jump all over me if they're not what you can/want to do): tutor rich kids, tutor GRE/LSAT prep, teach at a private school (they don't always require state teaching certifications, and some fancy schools hire PhDs). Read grants for the federal government (they hire people to do this on an ad hoc basis), manage grants for the federal government (the feds *love* degrees, they don't care if they're in philosophy). And finally, academic administration--this may sound crappy, but if you have good ideas about how higher ed might be better managed, working in an admissions office or something like that could be something you're suited at, and will typically come w/ decent benefits, etc.

If you have a cross-disciplinary science focus, e.g., linguistics, philosophy of biology, philosophy of neuroscience, you may be able to find work in a research lab, even if you have no lab experience. But you should be forewarned that the work may be dull and not terribly well-paying. But also probably not the worst-paying, and there may be (limited) room for advancement.

finally, if you have a social justice streak, you may find some work in a non-profit, though I must say that most people I know working in the non-profit sector are something frustrated and underpaid.

Anonymous said...

another tip is to read up on how to put together a resume, esp. advice for alt-ac folk. A resume is most definitely not your CV (not in style or content) so try to be open-minded about listening to what other people have to say about marketing yourself. as a philosopher, you've likely become *very* rusty at this. You have skills you don't realize you have. Organized a conference? That's administration and management. Taught undergrads? You designed a curriculum, provided feedback, and kept a class on track for a whole semester. that takes some serious interpersonal and organizational management. Did you volunteer as part of a philosophy outreach thing? That's community involvement. Did you serve on a curriculum committee and help balance competing interests? That's negotiation and conflict management. You get my drift -- get outside feedback from a supportive non-philosopher who can see your skill sets in a new light.

If you're affiliated with a university, they almost certainly have a career center. Sure, it's mostly designed for undergrads and not adjuncts/phd students, but they'll likely have some good ideas, and may even have some connections with local companies and can help smoothe the way to a first job (more likely if you're in an urban environment of course). and they'll almost certainly have seminars on resume-building, info on internships, and may even go over your resume.

finally, like it or not, if you're like most of us, your professional references will have to come from your advisors or people you've TA-ed for. that's ok. Tell them exactly what kinds of jobs you're applying for, and explain what kinds of skills you think those jobs require so that if they get a call from a potential employer, they'll have something to say about your skills. Even *provide* them a bulleted list of things they might mention--otherwise, they might ramble on about your work on epistemic modals or whatever and alienate the very people you hope will hire you.

It's tough, though. It is. Nothing about 8+ years in academic philosophy prepares you for being suddenly cast into the real world.

Here's a suggestion for all those PhD programs that don't place 90 percent of their grads but still think they should remain open--how bout you get a committee going whose explicit function is to help prep those 90 percent of grads to transition into alt-ac careers, help them with career-building, internships, and developing side skills. Don't want to do that? then close your doors or *at least* stop admitting so many people..

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:36

Anon 9:29/10:52 here again.

Thanks for the comment. Some thoughts:

In general, other things that philosophers might be able to do (I have not done these things, though all are things people I know do/have done, I'm trying to helpfully brainstorm, so please don't jump all over me if they're not what you can/want to do): tutor rich kids

Tutor them in what? Philosophy? Where, outside of major metropolitan markets is anyone doing this? I have never even heard of anyone making a living as a philosophy tutor. Seems absurd.

tutor GRE/LSAT prep

My GRE scores would not make me a candidate for this option. And, I'm not particularly adept at the kind of reasoning the LSAT requires. Not to mention that LSAT tutoring in any part of the country that is not a major city is not going to be a steady enough income to make a prolonged living at.

teach at a private school (they don't always require state teaching certifications, and some fancy schools hire PhDs).

These jobs are even less common, and even more difficult to get than TT university jobs.

Read grants for the federal government (they hire people to do this on an ad hoc basis), manage grants for the federal government (the feds *love* degrees, they don't care if they're in philosophy).

This has been mentioned before. as have various federal jobs programs. The problem is that they are MASSIVELY more comepetitive, and they actually do care about what your degree field is.

And finally, academic administration--this may sound crappy, but if you have good ideas about how higher ed might be better managed, working in an admissions office or something like that could be something you're suited at, and will typically come w/ decent benefits, etc.

This perennial Plan B should also be retired. I have looked at, at least, a hundred positions, and i have applied to dozens, and never heard anything in reply. Typically they demand degrees in business or administration and at least 3-5 years experience in the position prior to hiring. They're a pipe dream.

The fact remains that for most of us, our degrees are meaningless, and our 'transferable skills" are in high supply/low demand. Which means that manual labor/food service/retail positions are about all we can expect to find waiting for us.

zombie said...

The federal government job database: https://www.usajobs.gov

There are a lot of jobs there for someone with an education.

Anonymous said...

So, after reading yet another "plan b" thread I guess the moral is that if you don't have that new Ph.D. smell you are fucked on any job market? Because I have tried most of the sound advice on offer here, yet still find myself both over and under qualified for all the non-academic jobs on offer. Can we just burn the grad schools down already?

Anonymous said...

"our degrees are meaningless"

No, they have meaning. They just have no value outside of one incredibly small (and shrinking) job market. But you knew that when you chose this path, right? I mean, you knew that you were going to spend a great deal of time and effort (and perhaps money) training for one very specific job, and spent very little time (if any) preparing for another career, didn't you?

Here's the thing. There's not a single person in a Philosophy PhD program right now who didn't know this was a tough field when they entered it. Unless, of course, they willfully and consciously kept themselves ignorant. It's a gamble. And like most gamblers, we don't plan on losing.

Most professional baseball players do not play for the MLB club. Most of them grind it out in the minors until they are cut, or until they realize they will never make it. We're no different. We both aim very, very high, and do our best to ignore the likelihood of never making it to the show.

Anonymous said...

Which means that manual labor/food service/retail positions are about all we can expect to find waiting for us.

I'm not going to pretend I have access to any rigorous empirical evidence to the contrary or that my anecdotes amount to good evidence, but this does strike me as highly suspect.

A couple years ago I compiled a list of every single person who attended my grad program while I was there. I couldn't account for the then whereabouts of every person, but of those for whom I had or could drum up information, every single person who did not end up in academia was quite comfortable professionally. All white-collar jobs. All professions that typically pay more than the average salary for a full professor in the U.S. I've certainly never heard of a philosophy PhD digging ditches or working the register at a fast food joint.

My guess: By far the most menial position philosophers take after finishing their PhD is Adjuncting.

Anonymous said...

several of my friends have gone into academic advising administrative positions in desirable cities where they wanted to live. a phd and some grad teaching experience are sufficient qualifications to be considered.

to be sure, they are not especially lucrative positions. my sense is that they range from $25,000-45,000 depending on the university and region. however, it may be a good gig for folks trying to make ends meet as they plan the next move. or if you are interested in moving into administration but need to build some experience. after a couple years, you could probably move up the academic affairs ladder somehow etc.

Anonymous said...

"I've certainly never heard of a philosophy PhD digging ditches or working the register at a fast food joint."

I unloaded trucks for 3 years before landing a tenure-track gig.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:39

Your data sample is not representative. I know lots of philosophy PhDs who are working factory jobs, cooking in restaurant kitchens, working in retail, or else back in college working on yet another degree. I know fewer who transitioned into white-collar jobs. And all the people who have mad that transition they had one thing in common, undergrad STEM degrees from nationally recognized schools. Those of us with humanities degrees from small regional schools to go with our PhDs, are not going to fare as well as your colleagues.

Anonymous said...

8:04, writes: "Here's the thing. There's not a single person in a Philosophy PhD program right now who didn't know this was a tough field when they entered it. Unless, of course, they willfully and consciously kept themselves ignorant. It's a gamble. And like most gamblers, we don't plan on losing."

You're not wrong. I was fully aware that getting a job in philosophy would be incredibly difficult. Given this knowledge, I think most people would say I was foolish to attend. But I'm not so sure. At the time that I was entering graduate school I was too young to care that getting a job in philosophy would be incredibly difficult, and I also didn't realize that it was likely that I would eventually care about this. So if I was foolish to attend, I think I was foolish not because I knew that it would be difficult to get a job, but because I didn't know what kind of person I was likely to be six years later.

Does this characterize anyone else's experience? I got into this because I liked it and I was good at it and that seemed about as a good a reason to jump down this career path as any. Had I realized that it was likely that I would have a different desire profile at the end, I might have done something else.

Derek Bowman said...

A since deleted post at another blog made the sincere (if, in context, mean-spirited) recommendation that underemployed PhDs pursue careers at the insurance company GEICO.

http://careers.geico.com/

I know people (with BAs) who seem to have been satisfied with their compensation and opportunities for advancement there. Depending on where you live and your own dispositions this may be preferable to factory work, and it's almost certainly a better option than entry level food service or retail jobs.

----
P.S. If any of the participants to this discussion are interested in corresponding, I'd love the opportunity to compare notes on successful and unsuccessful efforts to transition to other careers. You can find my contact information on my website.

Anonymous said...

@ D. Bowman

First, I've had a look at the philosophers in industry LinkedIn group, and it underwhelms. Nearly all the members there are still in academic employment. And the few who are not have either converted STEM backgrounds to mostly computer based second careers or they are undertaking further degree work (which many of us find beyond our means). I am one of those people with no affinity for formal logic/programming, and no background in STEM. There are lots of links there to "advice" blogs that either, (a) hide their content behind paid firewalls, (b) are no longer in existence, (c) are for Canadians only, (d) are intended for STEM PhDs rather than humanties PhDs.

Also, wrt Geico. Only so many people can apply there. And without business experience, getting a job there is likely to be even harder than getting one in academia, given a massively larger applicant pool. "Apply at Geico" is no employment strategy at all.

Anonymous said...

11:03,

8:04 here again.

What you describe sounds very familiar. That said...

"I think I was foolish not because I knew that it would be difficult to get a job, but because I didn't know what kind of person I was likely to be six years later."

Yeah, you changed. People change in six years. But that's not the whole of it. Nor is it entirely honest, I suspect. I assume you want a job in philosophy. Was that not true six years ago? Did you have some other reason for apply to PhD programs, a reason that has changed?

"At the time that I was entering graduate school I was too young to care that getting a job in philosophy would be incredibly difficult."

I might add that you were also (I assume?) funded, so you were already being paid to "do philosophy." That is, you *had* a job in philosophy, and didn't worry much that this would not be true forever (despite knowing that grad school is temporary).

"and I also didn't realize that it was likely that I would eventually care about this."

C'mon, really? You expect us to believe that you never gave any thought to employment, or paying the bills, until you hit the job market? Have you never paid bills before?

This is what kills me about this (annual) conversation: a group of intelligent, thoughtful, research-oriented critical thinkers who, at the end of their graduate studies, suddenly expose themselves as incapable of long-term thinking? Or planning for the possibility (likelihood) of not winning the job market lottery? Or waking up one morning to discover that there are other people doing this as well, and those others may be more qualified?

I have a tough time believing you when you say that you only just now became the kind of person who wants a job.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. Your philosophy PhD has prepared you only for two things: (a) mildly-annoyingly batting away every suggestion for a way you might use your philosophy degree and (b) digging ditches.

Bummer. I mean, I got better gigs that ditch digging when I was coming out of *high school*. But yeah, having the degree is certainly going to fuck you over.

Also, because I can't help it, you're being an idiot about the tutoring thing. Of course nobody's looking for philosophy tutoring. But do you know *anything* about writing, perhaps? Maybe a little? I guess maybe people don't write at the school near you, and don't need help. That's too bad, because I can charge $30-50 an hour to read people's shit-ass essays and tell them whether to use ``there'' or ``their'' and make enough to pay my mortgage.

But by all means keep bemoaning your fate. You do seem to have been fucked.

Anonymous said...

11:03--that was me a long, long time ago, and I just got plain lucky. Right after I got my PhD I could have uttered every word you did. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

11:03

You are not alone. I think 2:57pm is being a jerk, completely lacking in empathy and probably venting their own angers at you for some reason.

Graduate school work is NOT "being paid to do philosophy" anymore than work-study programs are "being paid to be an x major." I want to lay a LARGE proportion of this blame on graduate programs for failing to adequately address professionalization in their programs.

It is COMPLETELY understandable that someone could get through grad school and not realize that it would be incredibly difficult, nearly impossible, to get a job post-PhD. When your department is comprised predominantly of dinosaurs who do not have any idea what the job market is like and who only know the R-1 life, I can fully (FULLY) empathize with those who feel unprepared when job-market realities hit.

I recall, for example, my old department's attempt at "professionalization." We had a meeting about publishing that was run by two professors who had not been on the market since the early 80s (and that was the YOUNG one). That conversation began with what to do when your paper has been accepted at a journal.

Seriously.

Departments need to get with the new reality. They need to make clear to their students, from Day 1, that they have a 50% chance at best (in the best departments) to end up in a tenure-track job teaching philosophy. That even if they get a tt-job that it will likely be in a geographic location that is not ideal, and that they need to keep a constant eye on professionalization work throughout their graduate school experience.

To the rest of you: have some empathy.

Anonymous said...

2:57 here.

It's one thing to have empathy for people who are realizing they can't get a *philosophy* job. It's quite another that I'm fucking sick of whoever-it-is who keeps grumbling about how the only lot left for him/her is ditch digging. There's a long way from the one of those to the other. A lot of people have offered helpful comments here, all of which have been batted away with either "whoa is me, lacking a STEM degree" or "that's just dumb". Alright. Fine. Then STFU and go dig a fucking ditch. The rest of us were finding the conversation helpful and are sick of hearing about your miserable life.

Anonymous said...

Graduate school work is NOT "being paid to do philosophy" anymore than work-study programs are "being paid to be an x major."

Huh?
Students employed in work-study work to pay tuition, and most of the work they do has nothing whatsoever to do with what they are studying. Graduate school work in philosophy is studying philosophy and PhD students pay no tuition.

My grad program did tell me that only about half of entering students would end up permanently employed in the profession, by the way. It gave me pause, but I decided to take the plunge (possibly deceiving myself that I had more talent than the other students).

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous 12:22:
I was in the same position 10 years ago; I had a TT job, but it wasn't in a place I wanted to be, and it meant being separated from family (including being separated from husband and young child). It's a bit scary, but it can be exhilarating to think about new possibilities. I was going to stick with academia, though--I had some experience in administration, so was looking at jobs in admission, financial aid, development, student life. It's a lot to ask of someone, to commit to living away from people and places they love for a job that may have many benefits, but not enough to outweigh the unhappiness caused by living away from people who are important. I wish you luck.

Anonymous said...

This is the OP (and 12:22) checking in again. I've got a few random career ideas for philosophy PhDs who do not have STEM backgrounds and which don't necessarily require you to go back to school. This is super preliminary. I'm just trying to be constructive and positive.

1. Consulting. Yes, it can be hard to break into the field. But have you tried going through the hiring process at BCG, McKinsey, etc.? They like bright people. Give it a shot. There are also a number of smaller consultancies established by people with backgrounds in philosophy. Reach out to them and make a case for yourself. There's no harm in trying.

2. Private high school teaching. Many nice private schools take people without Education degrees. It can be tough to break into the field. But have you given it a shot? Give it a shot! Reach out to area private schools and make a pitch. Highlight your teaching skills, your ability to teach across the arts and humanities, etc.

3. Private tutoring. I know a number of people who are making 2x-3x what they made in graduate school in the private tutoring sector. Brush up on your SAT knowledge and either join an existing organization or start your own private agency. Target the wealthy. It's not a sure path to wealth, but many people have sustained themselves for many years on private tutoring. (This time could be used to get some new practical education, to do volunteering work that'll get your foot in the door in a new field, etc.) Give it a shot!

4. Policy analysis. State/provincial and federal governments hire fucktons of people as "policy analysts" and "policy advisors." If you're not coming out of a policy degree, it can require a bit of marketing to get your foot in the door. But it's nothing close to an impossible task to convince hiring managers that your background in analysis and writing makes you a good candidate. These are good, secure jobs, often doing interesting work. Do the work and give it a shot!

5. Clinical/hospital ethics. This is a growing field. Many hospitals and healthcare networks employ teams of ethicists to provide oversight (on ethics review boards), to perform clinical ethics consults, and so on. Some of these jobs also offer opportunities for some university teaching (at affiliated institutions) and some research time. There are paid fellowships you can apply for which could get your foot in the door and which don't require you to have an extensive ethics background. Might as well give it a whirl!

(continued in next post...)

Anonymous said...

(Continuing from above...)

6. NGO work. Find an NGO/non-profit that you're passionate about and give them a call. Keep doing that until you find an organization that might give you a shot. You could also consider starting your own non-profit (though there are some obvious barriers to entry). Good NGOs are looking for smart people. They're often cash-strapped, so you probably won't be making a great income before you're an Executive Director somewhere. But, fuck, presumably you didn't get into philosophy for the money. Give it a shot!

7. Academic administration and academic counseling. You have insider knowledge of how universities work, both from the student side and from the academic/professional side. You're also a smart person. Do some networking and try to get your foot in the door. It's not a sure thing, but it's worked for countless people before you. At the very least, you can give it a try.

8. Academic publishing. Print may be slowly decaying, but academic publishing is still a massive, massive field. There are job opportunities. You're not trained in publishing, but you have every single skill you'll need to succeed in the field. Start writing to people and setting up meetings. Seriously, what's the worst that could happen?

I thought of these eight things when I sat down a few minutes ago. It's not intended to be an exhaustive list. I could list more.

I'm not saying that any of this is easy. It's not fun. As someone who is leaving the field, I agree that it's a sucky process. But if you don't want to spend your life digging ditches, the best thing you can do is try to put yourself in a position to do something else. It sucks, but what else are we going to do?

Start cold-calling/emailing people and setting up informational meetings. Keep networking, even when it sucks. If you speak/meet with someone and it doesn't seem like it'll amount to anything, boldly ask them if they'd be willing to put you in touch with further people. Get on LinkedIn. Make multiple versions of your CV targeted to different audiences/sectors and spam the world with your shit. Just. Keep. Pushing.

You could sincerely do all of this and still have no luck. I'm not pretending that it's an easy or sure process. And if you do go through this painful ordeal and you come out the other side unemployed and without any leads, it'll be a real shame. For now, though, we can't dwell on that possibility. All we can do is work hard and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

The Phil Jobs new appointment posting seems to me to be a failure. Nobody is posting on it. Is part of it because the person who is hired needs to post the info themselves whereas the Leiter version allowed either the hiring department or the dissertating department to do it?

Anonymous said...

Academic administration is a viable alternative career, but you have to know what you're doing. Don't look at Admissions. They want peppy 22 year old alums as admissions reps. As Anon 6:46 suggests, Advising is a much better route into university administration. It took me approximately 3 years of toiling away in the lower levels of administration (starting right at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008), but I'm an Assistant Dean now and I started out as an adviser.

In my current program our last adviser hire was advertised as needing a PhD in anything (I do not work in an Advising Center, but we do hire our own advisers). We hired someone who had been a VAP for several years in a humanities discipline. He also teaches a couple classes a year for us, as do most of the advisers at my university.

I think many people believe having a PhD and teaching for a while means you should be handed a high-level administrative position. That’s just not going to happen. You have to work your way up.

It also helps if your PhD is from somewhere prestigious, not from State U. That prestige is particularly important in my specific area within the university.

Anonymous said...

Clinical ethics/hospital ethics: if you look at those job ads (and I have), they want people with actual experience doing clinical work and ethics. Mostly, they want MDs. I have a clinical ethics internship on my CV, but no other experience beyond that. I teach medical ethics. I'm not qualified for those jobs. You get those jobs by being affiliated with an academic medical center where you can get the requisite experience. (So, PhD in Philosophy is neither necessary nor sufficient)

Anonymous said...

11:03 here, again.

@8:04, writes: "I might add that you were also (I assume?) funded, so you were already being paid to "do philosophy." That is, you *had* a job in philosophy, and didn't worry much that this would not be true forever (despite knowing that grad school is temporary)...You expect us to believe that you never gave any thought to employment, or paying the bills, until you hit the job market? Have you never paid bills before?...This is what kills me about this (annual) conversation: a group of intelligent, thoughtful, research-oriented critical thinkers who, at the end of their graduate studies, suddenly expose themselves as incapable of long-term thinking? Or planning for the possibility (likelihood) of not winning the job market lottery? Or waking up one morning to discover that there are other people doing this as well, and those others may be more qualified?...I have a tough time believing you when you say that you only just now became the kind of person who wants a job."

I've had funding, so you're right that I was getting paid to do philosophy. And it turns out that the amount that I had been getting paid was about as much as I had been making prior to entering graduate school. So, yeah, I gave as much thought to paying bills and the like as I had ever did. What I'm trying to suggest while thinking aloud here, I guess, is just that if I was foolish to enter graduate school, then I don't think I was foolish _solely_ because I did so while knowing full well that I was unlikely to get a job. After all, when I started graduate school I was fine with earning just above poverty level wages, just as I always had been fine with. If I was foolish, I think it's also in part because I didn't sufficiently appreciate how often people change in their late 20s. Maybe I've "expose[d]" myself as "incapable of long-term thinking," but again I'm just not so sure. If I've exposed anything, I think, it's that it's difficult to plan long-term when the ends of the subject you're planning long-term for (i.e. yourself) are shifting. It's like trying to hit a moving target.

Just to be clear: I concede that I was foolish. I just think the story about why I was foolish a little more complicated than you seem to think.



Anonymous said...

10:03 AM, yes, that all sounds true. A PhD is neither necessary nor sufficient. That's why I said: "There are paid fellowships you can apply for which could get your foot in the door and which don't require you to have an extensive ethics background."

Across North America there are more than a few full-time (one- or two-year) paid fellowships in clinical/hospital/organizational ethics that get people up and running in the field. People who complete these fellowships can then be employed as full-time ethicists at hospitals, health networks, government programs, etc. I'm speaking with direct knowledge of the process (at least in my part of the world).

Of course, one has to apply for and land one of these fellowships. And it's true that having a PhD in phil language from University of Nowhere, and no other relevant experience, might make it tough to land a fellowship. But lots of people with philosophy PhDs will be good candidates, so I thought it would be worth listing alongside the other options.

Derek Bowman said...

To 11:03 - I think you've made a number of important points that are getting lost in the overly adversarial back-and-forth that has emerged. I certainly didn't mean any of my suggestions to be 'strategies,' or to suggest that they could in any way be general solutions to the problems you rightly identify.

But if you're right (as I think you are) about the limited generalizability of the available post-academic narratives and success stories, then there is a need for a proliferation of other stories and options.

The point of that proliferation is precisely NOT to say that there is some one family of solutions that will work for everyone. Nor is it to blame you for not pursuing any particular option. Rather, the hope is that by increasing the range of suggested options it's more likely that someone (possibly even you) will be able to find one that better fits their own dispositions and circumstances.

Anonymous said...

@9:10 AM, maybe one reason people are not posting to the philjobs hiring thread is fear of being trolled on the third iteration of the philosophy metablog. Already people have taken ugly anonymous potshots at people deemed 'undeserving' of their new job.

At least, that's why I'm not posting.

Anonymous said...

8:04 here.

"What I'm trying to suggest while thinking aloud here, I guess, is just that if I was foolish to enter graduate school, then I don't think I was foolish _solely_ because I did so while knowing full well that I was unlikely to get a job."

-I don't believe I ever said you were foolish. You did. But I don't disagree with you.

"After all, when I started graduate school I was fine with earning just above poverty level wages, just as I always had been fine with."

-But did you really think you would always be fine with it? Did you never think about someday not being poor? Owning a house? Starting a family? When you thought about the future (you know, the future you were thinking about when you thought about finally earning a PhD), how did that future look? Did you imagine yourself as faculty? Were you imagining that you lived out of a van? I have a tough time believing that anyone who enters into a multi-year graduate program that requires the completion of a detailed, long-term project hasn't thought about the future. Particularly when everyone who enters those programs has the exact same goal in mind.

"If I was foolish, I think it's also in part because I didn't sufficiently appreciate how often people change in their late 20s."

-This is because you never met anyone in that age bracket?

"If I've exposed anything, I think, it's that it's difficult to plan long-term when the ends of the subject you're planning long-term for (i.e. yourself) are shifting. It's like trying to hit a moving target."

-So what was the original target? Did you really think you would always be fine with poverty wages? If so, then congrats! You got what you wanted. Just make sure you place the blame on past-you, and not on the job market, the field, or the program you attended.

-In short, what it sounds like to me is that, like a great many philosophy students, you were a largely self-absorbed individual who assumed that because you were smart, hard working, and praised for both, you didn't need to worry about the future. It would just happen. And then when it didn't, it was because something went wrong with the field. Don't think I'm any different; I'm in the same club. I have just learned to accept it.

Anonymous said...

@ANON 10:27

A PhD in Ethics, with a specialization in medical ethics, does not qualify you for those fellowships. Look at the postings, they require a J.D. or M.D.just to get your foot in the door. As I have tried to explain to my mother a thousand times working in academic medical ethics is not a qualification for hospital ethics work.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 10:51AM

Then I suppose we have knowledge of different fellowships at different places. I'm not going to go into my personal history or the personal stories of my peers. What you're saying may well be true of some fellowship programs, but it is absolutely and categorically false of others. That's all I can say. Interested people should do research of their own and see what they find. Take care. :-)

Big D said...

You can get a job in an IRB with a philosophy degree, and medical ethics are relevant to the field. (They even have an annual conference, PR&MR, where you can present research!) I did it.

It's still tough finding a job. Maybe not as tough as getting an academic position in philosophy, but "easier than getting a philosophy job" does not translate to "not requiring any effort at all."

I was laid off my previous job, due to an acquisition, and I'm currently learning programming. My prospects are pretty good, but looking for a job still sucks.

So, yes, even if you identify some jobs you could do with your philosophy Ph.D., that doesn't mean those jobs will simply be handed to you on a platter, nor does it mean you won't need to do some extra work that is both incredibly annoying and personally demeaning. Tell your problems to your barista at Starbucks; I'm sure they'll understand.

Anonymous said...

11:03 here

8:04, writes: "...So what was the original target? Did you really think you would always be fine with poverty wages? If so, then congrats! You got what you wanted. Just make sure you place the blame on past-you, and not on the job market, the field, or the program you attended. In short, what it sounds like to me is that, like a great many philosophy students, you were a largely self-absorbed individual who assumed that because you were smart, hard working, and praised for both, you didn't need to worry about the future. It would just happen. And then when it didn't, it was because something went wrong with the field. Don't think I'm any different; I'm in the same club. I have just learned to accept it."

The original target was to keep doing what I enjoyed doing while earning enough to do it underneath a roof while not going hungry. And you're right that I got exactly what I wanted. But what I wanted eventually changed. And all I'm saying, while you continue to condescend to me, is that the rationality of my deciding to enter grad school was in part determined by a factor that was hard to take into account while deciding whether to enter grad school, namely, that my desires _might_ change five years into grad school. That's interesting. It's especially interesting because it seems _especially_ hard to take into account while making decisions. Imagine someone advising you of the fact that your desires might change. That seems so obvious as to not be worth pointing out, yet it is really easy to overlook the significance of it. That's interesting. That's all.

And I never said that something went wrong with the field. Do I think it would be nice if it the field was such that I could get a job and continue to continue doing what I enjoy while earning enough to do it underneath a roof while not going hungry, and now perhaps also starting a family? Yes, yes I do. Not sure how that makes me self-absorbed, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

9:10, it is not true that the person who go the job needs to post the appointment on Phil Jobs. From the website: "Information can be submitted by the appointee, the appointee's placement director, and by relevant members of the hiring department (e.g. chair, chair of search committee, administrator)"

But I did not post my appointment, for the same reason as 10:31. I didn't want anonymous trolls talking shit about me.

Anonymous said...

I finished my PhD in 2014 from a mid-level Leiter program (top ranked in my AOS). I got only one interview last year for a non-TT position but I got that job. That's where I am now. I got two first round interviews this year, but nothing transpired. I've got two sole authored pubs and two co-authored pubs and several APA/other professional conference presentations. I've taught and designed 15 courses. I will probably give it another shot next year, but as of now I'm thinking that will be my last attempt.

I don't feel like I'm being "forced out" of the filed. I will leave mainly because I simply don't want to wait it out in VAP/adjunct positions until I (maybe) land a TT job. I don't have the patience for that (and I actually like money...). And, I have other ideas about what I might do. There are plenty of other things philosophy PhDs can do. You just have to be willing to do them. Think of the many ways you can apply your logic skills. Also, if you're under 30, you can begin any career you want from the ground up. Jesus, even if you go to med school you can be some kind of MD by 37-40. Think of it as a chance to start over.

Anonymous said...

"And all I'm saying, while you continue to condescend to me, is that the rationality of my deciding to enter grad school was in part determined by a factor that was hard to take into account while deciding whether to enter grad school, namely, that my desires _might_ change five years into grad school."

You are right, it's completely unreasonable of me to fault you for not taking into consideration that someday, you might grow up, and want to live like a grown up.

It's amazing to read someone try to use rationality as a defense for wanting to remain in Neverland.

Anonymous said...

I would third the suggestion for those leaving to consider jobs in university administration. Too many people think their academic training in philosophy is useless if they don't apply for teaching jobs. But there are administrative jobs at all universities and these can come with decent benefits. These include the fact that you can do some teaching usually (many administrators at my school teach a class on the side); you get to work around PhDs which isn't too bad; you get to work in a university setting; and there can be other benefits like getting to take free classes on the side (so you could possibly work on a second computer science degree or whatever for cheap sometimes). Administrators can make good salaries too, once you work your way up.

If one goes to the site for Inside Higher Education, one can see jobs listed on the right side of the page if you search. It's worth at least keeping in mind that your knowledge can actually be used in another career outside of being a professor. God knows we need more philosophy people and fewer MBAs in administration.

Anonymous said...

Talk about living like a grown up, 8:04!

And what's this about a "defense"? I know you're on this bizarrely aggressive commenting kick, but I can assure you that I wasn't defending "wanting to remain in Neverland." Again, if you go back, I think you'll even find the word "concede" somewhere up there. But just to be _really_ clear this time: all I (repeatedly) said above was that things are interestingly less straightforward than they might have seemed.

What's truly amazing is how much you read into the little I said above. Let me set things straight for you, though: I'm not sweating the situation I'm in! I'm good, really. Sure, the job market is and will remain tough. But I'm not worried about it. You, on the other hand, are clearly working through some shit. I hope you can sort out whatever it is that you're trying to sort out before some other unsuspecting commentator has to suffer your sad, antagonistic feedback. Since I can't imagine signing out with a phrase that is any more likely to get under skin like yours...

Vios con dios, philosophy-bruh!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this thread was actually helpful for a little while until it wasn't. I really don't understand people like 8:04 who seems to almost get some sort of glee off of shitting on people.

zombie said...

Ad hominem attacks are not contributing anything to the discussion here.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, long time reader here (6+ years) but first time poster. I would like to share my experiences trying to get a non-academic job in philosophy with you, and question some assumptions I've heard for years now.

Some of the suggestions in this thread—and advice available elsewhere in our profession—seem to assume that other fields are not as competitive as professional philosophy. I've attended a program that would be a good candidate for “PhD program in philosophy that has little to no justification to continue exiting,” and I have been aggressively applying to a variety of jobs outside of professional philosophy and across the US for the past year or so. Some of my colleagues have been doing the same—because, frankly, no one here gets jobs, contrary the assurances of our incredibly dated faculty who are still convinced that “their year” was in fact the worst and we will get a job if we work hard enough.

I do not have any statistical evidence, but I would like to question the assumption that jobs like academic administration, non-profit work, grant reporting work, ethics committee positions, and so on,
are to a significant degree less competitive than TT jobs in academic philosophy.
Have you devoted at least a year or more to full-time work in these fields already?
How many unpaid internships have you done?
Do you have an MBA?
Do you have a degree in the social sciences?
Do you have a social work degree, a JD, or an MD?
How many years experience do you have with SPSS?
How many grants have you actually applied for and obtained?
Do you have at least an associate's degree in computer science and the ability to do a variety of programming tasks on the spot?
Do you speak a second language fluently, such as Spanish? (And no, I've learned that mere research language proficiency does not count.)

If you are like me, the only—pardon my language—god damn thing you've done in the past decade is highly esoteric academic philosophy. Then guess what: you already do not qualify for the minimum requirements in even entry level positions in many of these fields—again, though, not a claim I can back up statistically, only my experience applying for dozens of jobs in many of the fields that have been suggested by previous posters. Sure, a PhD in philosophy might give you skills that would be useful in these and other fields. However, jobs in these fields are extremely competitive and require extensive experience—the sort of experience you have spent the last 5-10+ years obtaining in philosophy, and not in these other fields.

During my unfunded MA I was lucky enough to land a data entry job at a university library. A permanent position at the library opened up. I applied. My “boss” knew I was a perfectionist and a perfect candidate. I was an inside pick. How many people applied? Over 600. Many with law degrees and so on (this was 2008 admittedly). I didn't get the position etc. You think TT jobs and professional sports are the only competitive fields out there? Then you are in for a big disappointment, unless you have something else working for you, such as experience in another field or a wealthy background.

Anonymous said...

I'll chime in as someone who has (so far) successfully transitioned from academic philosophy to a solid job at a tech company. Other than some courses in math, logic, and i very basic computer science, I don't have anything that could count as academic training for the job. My path to getting this position wasn't particularly easy but I have no doubt that motivated philosophy PhDs are going to have a much easier time finding a non-academic job that they enjoy than a tenure-track job that they enjoy.

I would definitely emphasize the importance of writing effective cover letters and resumes. It took me a surprisingly long time (over a year) before I felt like I really knew what I was doing when it came to these. It's essential to have a story that you can tell yourself and your prospective employer about why you are an excellent fit for the job. And sometimes to create such a story, you need to take some additional steps. In my case, I took advantage of the extensive free resources online for learning about programming languages/creating web content/databases/etc. I was by no means studying this stuff full time, and I wasn't an expert when I got my job. But what I could do was honestly say that I knew something about various tech-related things. Otherwise, I just sold myself as a smart and hard-working person looking to switch careers.

My new job has been great so far. My job is fun; I learn a ton and about things that are useful and marketable; and I work with very smart and friendly people. I'm just one person, but I have no doubt that many philosophers with a little bit of soul-searching and preparation could successfully develop a new career.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people talk about minimum requirements for jobs. While some of these are inflexible, like graduate degrees, don't get discouraged and apply anyway, most work experience requirements are flexible. (This is true from personal experience, cf. http://qz.com/255565/job-requirements-are-mostly-fiction-and-you-should-ignore-them/)

What is true is what 6:47 PM said - the best way to get a job outside academic philosophy, just like inside, is to know someone where you're applying. Reconnect with college friends, reach out to family members, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to sing the praises of academic publishing as a job. I've been successful getting jobs in this line off and on as an editor at various levels just by cold-emailing HR people at academic publishing houses. Very often they have rather amusing jobs that need doing that pay ok-ish.

The American Association of University Presses even has its own jobs list:
http://www.aaupnet.org/resources/jobs-list/table/3/0/aaup?resetfilters=0

Anonymous said...

9:22 here.

6:47 writes:
"I do not have any statistical evidence, but I would like to question the assumption that jobs like academic administration....are to a significant degree less competitive than TT jobs in academic philosophy."

I'm not sure anyone said they are less competitive. Certainly there is competition for jobs in administration. But it is worth pointing out that there are MANY more administrative positions at universities than TT jobs. A quick glance at the section under "Administrative jobs" on Inside Higher Education shows 7092 current jobs listed. The faculty jobs under "Humanities" are 594. So the point is that there are many more potential administrative jobs out there than faculty positions.

6:47 continues:
"Do you have an MBA? Do you have a degree in the social sciences? Do you have a social work degree, a JD, or an MD? How many years experience do you have with SPSS?"

Some jobs may require this, but I don't think all do. Here is a current job add listed by the College of Wooster for an Assistant Dean of Students. The required experience?

"•Master’s Degree, experience in advising & counseling students, and experience with programming are essential.
• Knowledge of and/or experience with independent higher education and an appreciation for the relationship between the academic and co-curricular programs at a liberal arts institution are important.
• Strong computer skills"

This is merely one example of a job listed. It doesn't seem like the requirements are completely out of reach for PhD/Master's students.

Anonymous said...

"Also, if you're under 30, you can begin any career you want from the ground up. Jesus, even if you go to med school you can be some kind of MD by 37-40." OMFG

People--are you unaware that there are many folk out there who do not fit this profile? People who are maybe "stale." People who maybe were aware that philosophy was a competitive field but tried to time their grad school exit to coincide with the official APA forecast that there would be a ton of jobs out there around 2010--but then the big crash happened and we got stuck in the endless candidate backlog? People who have been applying for those non-profit jobs everyone seems to think are a gravy train?

I keep checking up on this thread looking for solid advice on how to make an exit by people who have maybe done it. What do I get? Internet pissing matches about "neverland," variations on "dude, someone told me to look at admin," and "a friend of a friend of a friend got this sweet consultant job."

Look, this might be tough to hear, but not all questions can be solved a priori. Can we get some more advice from people who aren't just speculating?

Anonymous said...

"Can we get some more advice from people who aren't just speculating?"

I doubt it. I suspect most of the people you would want to hear from have long since stopped reading a philosophy blog largely devoted to the academic job market.

Anonymous said...

3/22 @ 9:27

Clarificatory question: are you talking about freelance work? If so I'm very interested about projects, pay, etc. Any chance you could email me some details at post.philosopher [usual sign] gmail [usual suffix]?

Anonymous said...

9:20 here again.

I suspect most of the people you would want to hear from have long since stopped reading a philosophy blog largely devoted to the academic job market.

Well, I'm here, as I usually am this time of year to try to help a little and it's been a long time since I left philosophy.

Yes, jobs in academic administration are highly competitive, as are most jobs full stop. But, take for example the search I mentioned in my prior post. We had maybe 40-60 people apply and less than 10 were actually qualified (no philosophers applied if you're wondering).

But applying to a "dozen" jobs isn't going to cut it. Apply to anything you think you're qualified for until you find your sweet spot -- the area(s) you are actually getting phone interviews for or maybe even an on-campus.

If you are at a University now take advantage of committee work to gain relevant experience. For example, someone mentioned the Assistant Dean of Students position. You are not going to be looked at for that position if you haven't served on a Student Conduct Hearing Board. You are competing with new MAs in Higher Ed Administration who've worked on a Conduct Board for two years during their MA. They have more experience than you do for this entry-level job.

Another problem is that no one hiring in academic administration actually believes you won't immediately leave when you get a tenure track offer (which they think will happen almost immediately because they have no idea of the state of philosophy). I was the number one candidate for my current position in part because I looked like I'd stay for awhile. Everyone they had hired prior left for a tenure track position after a year or two (they clearly did not have philosophy phds) and they were sick of that happening. Make them believe you no longer are interested in being a prof.

You'll have a much better time of it if you apply in crappy locations. Did you grow up in the midwest near a crappy directional state u? You already know it sucks to live there, but you can tell them you'd love to move back to your homeland. They assume you really do want to live there and won't immediately flee because there is no culture whatsoever within 200+ miles. But, you really want to live somewhere awesome? Well, make that your goal when you start applying elsewhere in a year or two so you can move up. Do I currently live someplace I love? Nope, but it's OK and something I hope to correct with my next move.

It is possible to make this move and I know lots of people with lots of different kinds of academic phds who have done it. It is harder than it used to be with the professionalization of academic administration. You will be competing with lots of new MAs in higher ed administration, but it is possible.

And no, I don't have an MBA. I have all and only philosophy degrees from undergrad on. I did not get an additional degree after my phd (although I thought about it).

Anonymous said...

This discussion of academic jobs has made me realize I understand very little of academic hierarchy/governance.

Here, I notice that some advising deans are also lecturers (including one a philosopher): https://www.college.upenn.edu/college-advisors Could somebody knowledgeable comment whether this is a common situation--a split lectureship/academic advising position?

Are there are career ladders worth exploring outside of academic advising? I mean career ladders that might make special sense to try to get on, given a Ph.D. in philosophy?

thanks to everyone for their helpful advice and ideas. im sorry it hasn't been appreciated by everyone, but I for one very much appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

9:22 here.

The advising dean who is a philosophy lecturer is very likely a PhD student whom the department wanted to keep around for teaching, and they helped find him a position in advising. So it's probably not the case that this person applied formally for an externally listed job or something. On your other point, it is common to see administrators who also teach a class on the side, but I don't know that there are positions explicitly designed this way (split).

I have no idea what ladders might be good for someone with a PhD in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

9:20 (& 10:03) here again.

This discussion of academic jobs has made me realize I understand very little of academic hierarchy/governance.

I'm not surprised. There are not standard titles and very often an Assistant Dean is an entry level position in one part the university and a very high level position in another part. I have no idea why.

Could somebody knowledgeable comment whether this is a common situation--a split lectureship/academic advising position?

Yes and no. It is common for advisers to teach. Most have at least an MA and so departments do buy out their time rather than hiring off the street lecturers. Some places you can teach for extra money. Other places neither is allowed and so you teach for free out of a desire to teach.

There are not a lot of split positions where it is built into the position itself. They exist, but are very rare.

As for the link to Penn. Well, it's Penn, don't look at it as typical. Most advising centers have far fewer PhDs. Although, I will say it is very common for your PhD granting university to hire you for a position like this. At most universities I would say it would be an external listing because I've witnessed lots of open positions filled by new PhDs from the university listing the job.

Are there are career ladders worth exploring outside of academic advising? I mean career ladders that might make special sense to try to get on, given a Ph.D. in philosophy?

Sure, but it depends on your background. Did you compete for a National Fellowship or Scholarship (Fulbright, etc)? Did you win? Have you already assisted in a faculty review committee? Apply to jobs in National Fellowship and Scholarship Offices. Do you have lots of experience abroad (did you study abroad, etc)? Apply for jobs in study abroad programs. You have a PhD, which entailed research, so Undergrad Research Offices are another good option.

Look at your alma mater(s) job listings. Sometimes they'll throw you a bone.

Philosophers are, in my mind, jacks and janes of all trades, so use that to sell yourself. If you look you'll find philosophy PhDs in all levels of administration across the US. I believe the head of admissions at one of the Ivies has a PhD in philosophy (I'm not sure if he's still in that position). So, you can do just about anything as long as you can sell the hiring committee on your abilities. So, use your training and convince them with your arguments as to why you'd be a great hire.

Anonymous said...

9:20 & 10:03 again.

Forgot to add, I might be willing to mentor someone who is also a decent human being.

You can reach me at my throwaway email: stillaphilosopher AT gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Philosophers are, in my mind, jacks and janes of all trades, so use that to sell yourself.

This is not a widely shared view of the ability of philosophy PhDs. We're not considered generalists, we considered obscurantists (and mostly curmudgeonly ones at that).

If you look you'll find philosophy PhDs in all levels of administration across the US.

This is not as true as it might have once been given the existence of Higher Ed Admin degree programs.

So, you can do just about anything as long as you can sell the hiring committee on your abilities. So, use your training and convince them with your arguments as to why you'd be a great hire.

This is pie-on-the-sky. Of course you can get into a job IF you can sell someone on your qualifications. The question is will you get the chance, given that you have little no experience in the field, and a degree in an obscurantist discipline with a problematic reputation even amongst other disciplines? And the answer is, unfortunately, typically, "no!"

Anonymous said...

I finished my PhD (top-5 program) while in law school. Just finished my first go-round on the phil market. Zero interviews for TT jobs; a gerrymandered position to stay in philosophy for next year. Think that I could have ended up with a philosophy job if I stuck with it for a few years; but there is a very good chance that the eventual job would not be a "great job" (by my own standards of what makes a job "great") and almost no chance that it would be in a location that my partner would be happy with. Took a job at a law firm instead---great money, complete geographic control, and many options for having an interesting career / life. Very happy with this decision. I think that a career in law is definitely worse than a home run philosophy job...but I am confident that law promises a better life for me than 95 % of the phil jobs I would have ended up with.

Bailing on philosophy feels sort of like chopping off my own arm. But I also know that I will get over it. I could have never decided to bail so quickly, however, without having (what I consider to be) a very promising alternative career. And I feel very fortunate in this respect.

Anonymous said...

I earned my Ph.D. in 2008 from a barely ranked program. I have been on the market every year since 2007. I have five publications, one in a top-ranked history journal. I had a full-time, non-TT job for six years at a large Catholic university from 2008 to 2014. This position was not renewed for the 2015-2016 academic year. I decided a year ago I would leave academia. I am heading into a leadership position at a K-12 classical school.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to hear about the experiences of people who have gone to law school after completing their PhD, especially those who have done this in their 30s. (After a couple of years on the philosophy job market trying to solve a two-body problem, I am seriously considering this.)

I'm interested in peoples' experiences of applying to law school (especially highly ranked schools), their experiences in law school, in how easily they got jobs (in the law) afterwards, and in whether they are happy in these jobs.

Some questions I'm worried about: Was age an obstacle to being admitted to law school? Was it an obstacle to getting a job afterwards?

zombie said...

According to this: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-06-20/the-employment-rate-falls-again-for-recent-law-school-graduates

the employment rate for new law school grads is 84.5%, which is a helluva lot better than for philosophy PhDs. But law school is pretty expensive, so expect to grauate with a lot of debt, which might not be so much fun if you're of an age where you want to buy a house, etc.

zombie said...

It's considerably worse according to this: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-jobs-crisis-at-our-best-law-schools-is-much-much-worse-than-you-think/274795/

Anonymous said...

10.47 here.

Yes, I'm aware of the cost of law school. The links to articles about employment rates are helpful.

Does anyone have any information about how age impacts on admission to law school, or employment after law school? Any info would be appreciated, but I'd especially love to hear from people with first-hand experience.

Anonymous said...

I went to law school in Canada, where there's no Yale's or Cooley's and the employment outlooks are perhaps a little rosier.

One thing I would presume to be the same between our countries is that age won't matter at all for admission, if anything, that plus your PhD will help you get in somewhere. Once your in, they totally cease to matter at all whatsoever. You are law student now, here's your kool-aid cup :)

I can't talk about age in the employment search. I imagine firms with strict and high billable requirements might question how much of the kool-aid your going to be able to drink. On the other hand, you'll probably be able to jump into the professional role much quicker than younger cohort.

Anonymous said...

I know two people who recently left top-10 Leiter departments at 28 and 30 (one from an ivy, one from one of the state schools) and went to law school. Both got into Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc. It's worth noting that neither discussed their PhD much at all in their application materials, focusing instead on what they wanted to do in law. They are still in law school so I can't speak with absolute confidence about their employment prospects, but their internships have been very good.

Anonymous said...

As others have said, age won't hurt your law school admissions chances, and PhD will most likely help, though probably only a little. Law school admissions decisions in the US are heavily based on LSAT scores and undergrad GPA. There are a lot of websites with advice on law school admissions, but it might help to start here:

https://officialguide.lsac.org/release/OfficialGuide_Default.aspx

Use the UGPA/LSAT search option - not all the top schools are listed, but have a look at Harvard, NYU and Texas as a sample of various levels of 'top school'. With a 3.8 undergrad GPA and a 175 on the LSAT, you're almost guaranteed to get in to NYU and Texas, and have a better than 50% chance at Harvard.

Anonymous said...

@ March 30, 2015 at 10:47 AM:

3:12 here.

I started at Yale Law when I was 29. There are many people with PhDs here...around 7 or 8 in phil alone from my class (of about 200). Some were older than me. Some had been phil professors previously; some still are. Several phil PhDs have come here over the years to become legal academics. Others (including some former phil profs) come to change careers.

I seriously doubt that age will be an obstacle in being admitted to law school. It was also not a problem for me getting a job at a law firm. I was 31 when I started as a summer associate at a firm (between 2L and 3L year); I was the second oldest summer associate out of a class of about 100. But there are a number of people at my firm who started in their 30s. Age has seemed like a total non-issue to me.

In interviews for summer associate positions at biglaw firms (if you want to go that route...many people don't), you will get "why law school?" "a PhD huh?" type questions (I did at least). Some interviewers are obviously suspicious. Some think it's sooooooo cool. If you go to a top law school, you'll almost certainly get an offer from a firm if you want one. (Everyone I know who wanted biglaw jobs from YLS got one...but this is only going to be true at the very best law schools.) There are many other legal careers besides biglaw…and you can also get a lot of those from top programs.

On the two-body problem: this was a big part of my decision. Law school completely solved the problem.

The comments about a high LSAT score being important are true...and I'm not sure to what extent a PhD compensates for low-ish GPA / LSAT. Most people in phil would crush the test, if they studied hard.

Regarding zombie's concerns about the job market. I don't know a single person at Yale who can't find a good, interesting job. (Ya, it's a special case...) The biggest question, as I see it, is just whether you will really want the jobs you'll be in a position to get (assuming you go to a top program). And also whether you will like law school.

Anonymous said...

Just a side-question, since I studied and I work as a post-doc in Europe: How likely it is in the US to get a TT position and not have one's tenure granted after three or four years? In Europe, most positions are research-based and one gets financed only if one is able to submit interesting projects, but if one has been lucky enough to get a TT, then tenure is almost a non-issue.

zombie said...

In the US, tenure review in philosophy and the humanities typically happens in the 6th year, so it is unlikely for someone to get tenure in the 3rd or 4th year, although it is possible to go up early if you've met the requirements for your institution, and the institution allows it.

In the sciences, the timeframe can be longer, and is sometimes contingent on grant funding.

Some places disconnect tenure and promotion, and other places don't.

Anonymous said...

What zombie said in response to 3:28 is right, but I take it 3:28's comment wasn't just about timeframe, but also about difficulty--is the tenure review typically a serious hurdle, or not?

The honest answer is that it certainly varies from place to place, and there isn't great data (see link here: http://www.opia.psu.edu/sites/default/files/AIR_Tenure_Flow_Paper_06.pdf)

I can say that at my own institution, it is definitely a serious hurdle--as an assistant professor, I don't feel particularly secure, as it's quite common (in the philosophy dept, at least) for people to fail to be promoted.

zombie said...

5:48 is correct. It varies a lot by institution. Some have pretty minimal tenure requirements, some have more rigorous requirements. A rough metric is that higher teaching load = less rigorous publishing requirements. If you're in a R1 or R2, your research/publishing requirements are likely to be greater.

There have been a few people in my dept who did not get tenure in the last few years -- but they didn't publish anything in 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Regarding tenure expectations:

My department - a small department at a regional state university - has been trying to replace two tenure lines for a few years now. However, administration won't approve a hire (for tenure track, VAP, or even full-time lecturer). We have been repeatedly told that we must meet our curricular demands (including university gen-ed offerings) on "existing resources."

Similarly, we have two faculty members (myself included) who are coming up for tenure soon (one each for the next 2 years). Our senior colleagues have told us that, because they fear losing either line, both of our applications will be unanimously supported by the department. We were told that the department chair will not include any negative feedback in our evaluations, though any suggestions for improvement and development will be provided for us informally. The chair does not want there to be any indication that we are anything other than perfect for the job, because the chair knows that if he loses us, he will never replace us.

On the one hand, the suggestion of job security is comforting. On the other hand, the security comes not as a result of my value as a teacher/scholar, but my value as a warm body who is already in the system. (I have no reason to think I would not have earned the support of my department on the merits of my application, though I'm sure there would have been suggestions for improvement.)

I wonder if we are going to see more of this, and if we have already seen this elsewhere. When I took this job, I saw it as a "starter job"; I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could move up. However, given the realities of the market, that now seems impossible. However, it now seems like departments are also stuck; where in the past they could not tenure someone and simply re-hire for the line, university hiring freezes make that increasingly impossible.

I'm sure that top research programs and elite SLACs will survive this trend longer than the rest of us. But are we looking at the last generation of tenure track jobs? Are schools like mine destined to become little more than glorified community colleges?

zombie said...

Not sure what is meant by the dig at community colleges. They also have tenured faculty. They may emphasize teaching more than other colleges, but they still have tenure requirements.

Anonymous said...

Zombie,

Many of the CCs I know of - and not just the ones in my area - employ anybody they can get, just to fill their courses. And this is true for many departments, which hire small armies of part-time adjuncts who often have nothing more than an MA. Yes, there are tenure track faculty in such places. But they have also, for years it seems, been out front in the move to cheap staffing with warm bodies.

Sure, some CCs are better than others. That's also true of other kinds of institutions.

My comment has to do with that trend, as well as the (again general, but not universal) focus on teaching and service at the expense of research, at CCs.

I have nothing but respect for the people who manage to make a living doing such work, and more so for those doing it well. But that's not the kind of job I want, nor is it what I want my job to become.

-12:22

Anonymous said...

@12:22 - though tenure review is still years away for me, you situation sounds otherwise just like mine. I am very likely the last new faculty member will see until someone retires, and even then there is unlikely to be a replacement. Even if my colleagues hated me (and, to be honest, they aren't crazy about me) or thought I was woefully inadequate I would be recommended for tenure without hesitation because if I leave I won't be replaced. Hell, despite the fact that I teach more courses, perform more research, and advise more students than any of my colleagues (and for less money) the administration would probably be thrilled to hear that I was leaving. If only I could find anywhere else willing to take me.

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a Search being suspended vs. a search being cancelled on the jobs wiki? Is one due to money and the other due to other factors. More particularly, why did Michigan-Flint suspend their search? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

@12:22 PM, I had an interview with Flint and I was told that the reasons had to do with a budget crisis that required cutting the line entirely. Not sure whether there is a deep distinction, at least in this case, between the search's being suspended and cancelled.

zombie said...

At this point, I think it's safe to say the Flint job has been canceled, although what they told the candidates was that it was suspended. That was a while ago.

Anonymous said...

wowee wow, Brian Leiter is really oblivious to himself, isn't he?

Anonymous said...

I'm certainly grateful to Prof. Leiter for leading his tireless crusade against middling philosophers prone to self-aggrandizement. I've always understood his own blog as a kind of esoteric self-enactment of that very critique.

Anonymous said...

I graduated with my PhD from a UK university in 2014. I have 5 publications, some of which are in top 20 journals. I had 4 of these within months of graduating. I thought I looked impressive.

The first year on the market I got one interview for a 1 year VAP (as it's called in America). My competition included someone already teaching there, and people who had already had postdocs. On one hand, this made me feel proud. I was competing with people who had already been employed. On the other hand, it made me realize how badly the market sucked. People who had already had postdocs were competing with me for a bloody 1 year position!

I didn't get the job. I have later come to suspect I was just invited to interview, because of policies that they have to interview x number of people. I had zero chance from the beginning, because the person they gave the job to already worked there and had way more experience teaching.

After that rejection, journal and job rejections poured in for months and months. It was bad for my health, both physical and mental. I was about to go mad until two R&Rs came back from top 20 journals. I'm hoping with these published, I'll be able to get a job for 2015. However, the reality is that, unable to move out of the country due to my wife's job, my prospects of finding any kind of stable employment are low.

I told myself that I would try to secure a job for 2 years. I told myself I would continue writing philosophy during that time to maximize my chances. I am surprisingly productive given that I have been given little evidence that my work will result in employment. Somedays, though, I get too depressed to work. We'll see what happens. Even if I do secure a job, it will be short term, and I might end up unemployed soon after.

GTFO will plausibly happen sooner or later if not for economic reasons, certainly for psychological ones.

zombie said...

ICYMI: Report on results of survey concerning what to do about the oversupply of PhDs (or undersupply of jobs) in the humanities: https://hortensii.wordpress.com/full-report/

Derek Bowman said...

Is it fair to say their solution is:

"Be nicer to people but accept that any attempt to seriously change the conditions of academic employment are too impractical, and it would be too paternalistic to reduce the number of PhD students (except maybe at really crappy departments)."

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that people mulling this over might do well to look at Marcus Arvan's recent posts on the philosophers cocoon as well as his analysis of recent hiring and the conclusions he draws from it. From what he can tell the staleness worry is way overblown as long as you keep publishing and unless one has the R1 or bust mentality it's much better to try to have more publications in reputable journals than it is to obsess about getting the elusive top 5 or top 20 pub. Anyway, not saying that there aren't very good reasons to leave, but people despairing due to staleness worries or their inability to get something into a journal that is in some top whatever list might mull that over.

Anonymous said...

"I'm certainly grateful to Prof. Leiter for leading his tireless crusade against middling philosophers prone to self-aggrandizement. I've always understood his own blog as a kind of esoteric self-enactment of that very critique."

hahahah, omg, 3:27 thanks so much for this. so true (though I'm not sure what *particular* recent Leiter-event elicited this comment?)

Anonymous said...

4:05, I feel for your situation. Yes, it's ridiculously psychologically hard to be in this situation. In my own case, I've found that committing to leaving after a certain period if I get nothing has somehow helped relieve the stress.

It is not The End Of Life As I Know It if I don't get a job in philosophy. I have a lot else going on in my life, as I trust/hope we all do, and philosophy doesn't define me, thank god. Of course, I *wish* I could do it for a living, but if I can't, I won't trash my mental health trying. At least, this is the perspective I'm able to take on good days. It's rough, though. It really is.

zombie said...

ICMYI: Marcus Arvan's job market survey data compiled, and analysed, with some interesting results, including that "staying on the market longer does not hurt you, and may even help you (at least in terms of interviews)."

http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/03/interview-and-hiring-analysis.html

Anonymous said...

The normalization of staying on the market for an indefinite amount of time, often many years, while perhaps not hurting one in terms of their chances for interviews clearly does hurt one economically and psychologically, provided one is not independently wealthy. Having to scramble for low-paying work year after year, moving from one part of the country to another, being treated like a second-class member of the profession, losing years from one's life in which one could be buying a home, having a family or at the very least having a better quality of life than someone out of high school working a cash register, etc. are all real costs for those of us who actually need to earn a living, however much we might 'love what we do'. I appreciate the survey and the disclosure of information, but any attempts to draw optimistic conclusions from it under present conditions (i.e., the widespread casualization of academic labor and the annually shrinking pool of TT jobs together with the annually growing pool of qualified PhDs) is hopelessly misguided, unless, again, one is independently wealthy (I, for one, am independently impoverished). A more fruitful engagement with the issue would be to join the militant agitation for a living wage for all adjuncts that is now gathering steam with various 'Faculty Forward' groups across the country.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, the rhetoric of the posts at Philosopher's Cocoon is unfortunate, despite the excellent practical advice on particular issues. The notion that unemployed PhDs need a kind of boot-camp to make themselves more marketable is deeply flawed. Here's a thought-experiment: suppose every unemployed or underemployed philosophy PhD took the advice offered there to heart and adopted every measure there advocated. Would that do anything to change the paucity of TT jobs relative to total number of qualified applicants, to change the outcome that sees many if not most end up on the trash-heap in one form or another? We need to get out of this mind-set that all that matters is getting yourself a job, damn the rest. That's part of what led to the present impasse. The corporate flunkies who run university administration needed the complicity of already tenured faculty to pull off their continued casualization of academic labor, faculty who were all too often all too happy to tend their own intellectual gardens rather than stand up to their bosses and fight for the maintenance of the working conditions that are now being eroded for their younger colleagues. The two-tiered caste system prevalent in academia wasn't just the work of businessmen making the university more 'efficient'. It played on the vanity and insularity of those already comfortably ensconced within the profession.

Anonymous said...

"Having to scramble for low-paying work year after year, moving from one part of the country to another, being treated like a second-class member of the profession, losing years from one's life in which one could be buying a home, having a family or at the very least having a better quality of life than someone out of high school working a cash register, etc. are all real costs for those of us who actually need to earn a living, however much we might 'love what we do'."

Keep in mind, you could leave the profession, and this could *still* be your life.

Can we please stop with the idea that all one needs to do is walk away from the profession, as if chasing this dream is the only thing keeping people from a job and a better life?

Plenty of people have walked away, and found themselves chasing low-paying work just to pay bills, not able to buy a house, and often moving around to find better opportunities.

For some of us, the choice is not between "what we love" and "economic stability." The choice is between "work we love to barely make ends meet" and "work we don't love to barely make ends meet."

Anonymous said...

4:05 here. Having devoted my entire adult life to philosophy I really don't have anything else. I don't know many people who aren't philosophers. I don't have connections outside of philosophy. I don't have skills for most other well paying jobs. So, I'm basically in a position where I'll need to get another degree. The idea though of more degrees when the BA, MA, and PhD I already have are all useless is, for some reason, unappetizing.

The only thing I'm really considering right now is taking the LSAT practice test and seeing how well I do. I could then perhaps go to law school. I'd have to find a way not to make the world a worse place being a lawyer though. Fight for the disadvantaged or something instead of corporate whores.

zombie said...

3:54 - I think you have an inaccurate view of the power of tenured faculty in this situation, and their supposed complicity. Just because you have tenure does not make you or your department invincible, or able to dictate financial terms to the administration. Administrators have many ways to punish the tenured and their departments -- by removing funding for grad students, reducing departmental budgets (travel funds, support for research, raises), increasing teaching loads, etc. Some departments (the ones that can bring in big grants) may have some sway, but philosophy departments are not usually in that boat.

Anonymous said...

3:36/3:54 here. I'd like to respond to the two responses to my earlier post, which I appreciate. To 10:00: In the words of John Lennon, 'The dream is over'. I disagree that the choice is between barely making ends meet doing what one loves vs. doing what one doesn't love. If one is resigned to doing what one doesn't love there are many ways to securely make ends meet (admittedly not the most fulfilling work, to say the least). For instance, many of the same universities that are denying adjuncts benefits (such as health care and retirement pensions) provide those very benefits to their landscapers and maintenance men, and to their staff more generally. And notice that there's generally not the expectation that a university landscaper must remain on the market and be prepared to travel across the country year after year taking visiting assistant landscaper positions. The landscaper and the adjunct might make a similar low wage, might make 25-30k a year, say, but one of them doesn't have to find a new job every year, doesn't have to move continually, and has health care, a pension plan, earns vacation time, etc.

Anonymous said...

3:36/3:54 again. To Zombie: Of course tenured faculty aren't 'invincible' or able to 'dictate' terms to university administrations. Once upon a time in the United States there were forms of what was called 'collective bargaining', which included labor actions such as strikes, slowdowns, picketing, etc. Apparently all faculty can do these days is passively react to what their administrative overlords command, ever fearful that their departments and jobs will be eliminated if they don't capitulate. Too bad for them, I suppose, since it's pretty clear that tenure is being largely replaced by casual academic labor in various forms. The only thing that will change that is faculty, grad students and adjuncts working together to advocate for better working conditions. That's something I learned in the many years I spent outside of the profession before I was ever in it, working low-paying jobs where there was at least some semblance of solidarity and union protections. Sure, casualization of labor is a global phenomenon, hardly unique to academia. I just see a lot more resistance to it outside of academia, in movements such as the ongoing struggle for a 'living wage' among various service industries, and am puzzled that so many academics, highly educated, simply wring their hands and watch their profession decline and degrade in front of their eyes while janitors and fast-food workers (two jobs, mind you, that I held once upon a time) refuse to passively accept their degrading working conditions. In the last six years I've seen my undergrad alma mater, a bellweather, go from having all tenured or tenure-track faculty (with the occasional former student coming back to teach a class or two in the summer) to now having two classes of academic: tenured and perma-adjunct, with the latter outnumbering the former. That's an unacceptable trend. It seems to point to a time not too far in the future when a small minority of tenured faculty, decently paid, with decent benefits and job security, will oversee a vast majority of casual academic laborers who are systematically underpaid, denied benefits in many or most instances, and who must be prepared to take on enormous personal costs for the privilege to continue to be exploited and treated as second-class (it's even more complicated than this, of course, since there are important differences between tenured jobs depending on where one works). Or is that time already upon us? I've said my piece. Fact is, this was my first year on the market and the next cycle, for good or ill, will be my last. So, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about. I didn't pay attention to any of this while I was in grad school because I was too busy meeting and exceeding every expectation the program had. I was told that the job market was 'tough', even 'brutal'. If I can borrow a term from natural science, I think 'critically endangered' is probably closer to the mark.

Derek Bowman said...

zombie - Of course tenured faculty are complicit. So are untenured faculty and those continuing to search for and accept these positions. The system only works because we enact it and continue to (explicitly and implicitly) encourage others to continue enacting it. The fact that administrators can retaliate doesn't mean that faculty don't have power - it just means that it may be costly (perhaps too costly) to use that power.

I'm not sure what we should be doing differently, but an important step to figuring it out is getting past the kind of passive complacency that comes from not acknowledging that shared complicitly.

Anonymous said...

Zombie,

Some things my university has done to (in part) weaken faculty (tenured and not):

1. Eliminated most forms of funding for travel and research.
2. Delayed sabbatical leaves, often for multiple years.
3. Raised caps on courses.
4. Added gen-ed designators to courses that previously were for majors only.
5. Raised the standards regarding service for tenure and promotion review.

Because we are unionized, there's nothing to be done about our teaching loads. They are set. However, course caps are determined by the university. As is funding for anything other than salary. And the administration gets to set the standards for tenure and promotion (with the approval of the board of trustees).

I have tenure. However, as you note, this doesn't give me much power over anything. 3:54 is right, in that at one point (and to a lesser degree, currently) tenured faculty were complicit in creating this mess. Many such faculty members were fine with the idea of hiring part-time labor to teach lower-division courses, or gen-ed offerings, or doing other various tasks. But now? Now we have a fully corporate system where even the most powerful members of the faculty have little to no power.

Marcus Arvan said...

Anonymous 3:54pm: I'm sorry to hear that you consider the rhetoric at the Cocoon unfortunate. You are certainly right that the job market boot camp does not address the heart of the problem: namely, too few well TT jobs for too many qualified applicants. But, why does this make the boot camp unfortunate? It may not solve the job market problem, but for all that, it may provide individual candidates with information that might help *them* do better on the market. And what is unfortunate about that? Sure, if everyone followed all of the advice, there would be a collective action problem (everyone would do the same thing). But, this is unlikely. Not everyone may accept all the advice, not everyone may follow it, etc. From my perspective, if the advice helps just one struggling candidate improve their chances and get a job, the boot camp will have served a good purpose. I, for one, struggled on the job market for 7 years...in large part because I struggled to find good advice.

Anonymous said...

"Keep in mind, you could leave the profession, and this could *still* be your life.

Can we please stop with the idea that all one needs to do is walk away from the profession, as if chasing this dream is the only thing keeping people from a job and a better life?"

Like I said above, before entering graduate school I worked for years in a menial and degrading 'profession' that is among the most stigmatized and low-paying out there. It paid the same, more or less, as an adjunct makes, but included benefits such as sick time, vacation time, and a pension plan. Strangely enough, I'm worse off financially after earning a PhD than I was beforehand. Now I'm supposed to earn 20-30k a year (if that) without benefits, and try again year after year to land a TT job in a 'market' that sees less TT jobs each year and more applicants. Chasing the dream of a TT job may not be the only thing that keeps PhDs floundering on the market from being happy (I, for one, have several distinct sources for my unhappiness). But unless you're independently wealthy or willing to live a life of voluntary poverty (I don't mean these disparagingly, they represent real exceptions to the rule), it strikes me as increasingly Quixotic. It's charming, deluded, and symptomatic of deep societal ills all in one. I just can't afford it much longer.

Derek Bowman said...

Marcus,

While I both share 3:54's frustration AND think that your boot camp serves a valuable purpose, I find this explanation of the value perplexing:

"If the advice helps just one struggling candidate improve their chances and get a job, the boot camp will have served a good purpose."

First, I don't see what the value of merely improving someone's chances on the market are. The help I've gotten from my graduating department's placement advisor greatly increased my chances to get a nonadjunct job but (so far) has not actually allowed me to get such a job. Do you think that increase in my chances will have been a benefit for me even if it never results in my getting a job?

Second, even if your claim is strengthened to helping just one struggling candidate actually get a job, won't that likely mean that you've also helped some OTHER struggling candidate fail to get a job? So why think the net benefit will have been positive?

I just don't think these kind of 'increasing the chances' reasons are likely to count in favor of efforts like yours.

On the other hand, I think it has a number of benefits for helping to equalize access to information, allowing people (prospective students, current students not on the market, advisors and hiring departments that don't know how bad the market really is) to see more clearly the realities of the market, promoting solidarity among members of the profession, etc. But it seems clear that any market outcome benefits are just going to wash out in the aggregate.

Anonymous said...

I think the Cocoon's job market boot camp is a worthwhile endeavor because it levels the playing field. It makes good job advice available to anyone willing to look it up, without any barriers such as being part of a grad program that does efforts towards placement.

My eyes were opened the first time I went on the market, in the fall of 2011 and attended the E-APA. Seeing all those job candidates from (usually top) departments who had placement directors lobbying for them, etc. I learned that even their letters of rec were vetted by placement directors before being sent out. They got actual advice on how to write a cover letter, compose a CV, prepare for an interview. I got no such advice from my grad department, and my advisor just always said my materials were excellent (they weren't). I got no advice on where to publish, and heard conflicting reports on whether I should just aim for top journals or try to place papers where I could place them.

Looking for advice in 2011, I stumbled on the Philosophy Smoker. Unfortunately, while PS has been a great forum to discuss the difficulties that plague or profession, I could find very little concrete advice (the large interview questions roundup I found was more confusing than helpful). The Philosophers' Cocoon, however, does provide information I know to be helpful - I in the meantime have a TT job, but it took me years to figure all this out.

So yes, if some hapless person who doesn't get all this advice from their awesome grad program can get a job by heeding the PC's advice, I think that is valuable.

Marcus Arvan said...

Derek: Thanks for your comment. You seem to be thinking about benefits purely consequentially--as though if my advice and information helps someone (a benefit), then since the job market is a zero-sum game, it must set back someone else (a cost).

I don't think about costs and benefits purely consequentially. I tend to understand moral costs and benefits partially deontologically--that is, in terms of personal choice, responsibility, etc.


I think good advice can reduce morally problematic brute bad luck, as someone who misses out on jobs, or interviews, because they never had good advice is simply a victim of bad luck.

On the other hand, good advice can reduce brute bad luck by providing people with information that they can use--through personal choice and responsibility--to improve their chances on the market.

So, for instance, suppose two candidates read my advice: (A) one takes it, works super hard to improve their materials, and gets a job, and (B) the other candidate does not take the advice, or does not work hard to improve their dossier.

I want to say, before they had good advice, these two candidates were equally subject to brute luck. Now, however, if they both have the same good advice and only one of them uses it, the person who doesn't use it incurs a cost, but a cost that they chose.

In other words, I think good advice improves the situation *not* in terms of pure consequences, but in terms of making whether a particular person gets a job or not more a matter of what they choose to do, rather than pure luck.

Of course, there still is luck on the market. But, I think *lessening* the extent that luck determines outcomes is a good thing. Improving one's chances through good decisions using good information is simply sometimes the best one can do.

Anonymous said...

What this thread makes me think is that, if it is at all possible, you should escape. I mean, even if you manage to land a tenure track job after several years of misery, you are still in a pretty stressful situation since the administration is out there to get you. The only thing that bothers me is that I don't know many people who have full-time jobs outside of academia and who still actively contribute to academic philosophy. I know for sure that I want to keep on writing and publishing even if I'm not employed by a university. But is this doable? Who's pulled it off?

Anonymous said...

3:54 again. Sorry, I should clarify. I think the information provided in the Job Market Boot Camp is for the most part quite helpful, for the reasons Derek Bowman points out (though I share his concerns,too, and he makes a number of excellent points). As I said, I appreciate the work put in there. It's just the 'rhetoric' I find problematic, it rubs me the wrong way. That is, the choice to call it a 'boot-camp' suggests that the problem out there for PhDs aspiring to tenure-track positions is that, at present, their application materials and professionalization have left them in some sense inadequate for what it takes to get a TT job, and that what they need to do is whip their application materials, and themselves, into shape for the market. To me, that falls victim to a persistent ideological distortion of what's going on today in the 'job market' for philosophy. It plays into a still prevalent idea that if one only tries harder and tries smarter one should expect to succeed and conversely, if one fails, it's because one wasn't 'fit' enough. I think a more apt rhetorical approach might allude to 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', to be honest. We're collectively charging into a disaster, and whether one makes it or not is about as blind a process as whether the enemy's bullet finds your head in an infantry formation or finds someone else's instead. I don't really care whether 'I' succeed, in a sense, when that success involves driving others out of the profession, others who deserve a decent job as much as I do. Likewise, failing to land a job strangely enough has begun to seem like it might be the best thing that could happen to me, individually. What Derek describes as 'washing out in the aggregate' is I think exactly what I'm experiencing as a profound sense of futility. When I visited my undergrad alma mater recently it was quite distressing to note the new academic caste system in place: the minority of tenured professors over and against the majority of casual academic laborers, 'lecturers' or what have you. Reminded me of those grad programs I visited when I was being recruited that funded their PhDs by exploiting their terminal MA students. After a while it starts to resemble a pyramid scheme.

Anonymous said...

I'm a tenured full prof looking at my last few years before retirement, and lucky to have had what I've had, and have, and will have. But though I came out to a bad market in the early 80s, this one is worse in terms of absolute numbers of great candidates versus TT jobs. And all I have to contribute is that unless there are large-scale political turnarounds in many states, it will only get worse. It's clear that ALEC/Koch long-term state-level strategies are working at undermining the concept of public education as a public good, and state support of those institutions K-PhD is falling at an alarming rate. Unless there is significant political pushback against the privatization of all education, the march toward short-term contract instructors at all levels of education will not be stopped. Yes, the tragedies of individual lives here makes me sick. But the tragedy of the continued success of right-wing destruction of public education makes me sicker, and must be stopped.

Derek Bowman said...

Marcus,

Thanks for the reply. I guess I just don't believe that these kinds of efforts can lead to a net reduction in the amount of brute luck involved in the job process. So long as the relative proportion of qualified applicants to positions remains the same it is inevitable that brute luck will play a huge factor in who gets and job and who doesn't.

In fact, by helping more people both to be and to present themselves as qualified, I think it ensures that, at the decision point, some factor of luck (or bias, or other non-effort, non-merit factor) will be the difference maker.

At best you can move around where the luck factors come in; perhaps there's a way of seeing things on which the luck factors you're helping to reduce are morally problematic than the ones they are replaced by. But it's delusional to think that the present two-tier system of hiring can be made substantially more meritocratic given the numbers.

I remain in agreement with 3:54. The job market boot camp is really a valuable service to the profession. But I do think it's important to be clear about what such advice and information can and cannot do. We need to be clear about the inevitability of highly qualified candidates being excluded from the profession, no matter how much we equalize access to information about the job market.

Anonymous said...

I just want to make a quick comment about the exchange by Arvan and Bowman. On the issue of luck and chance, Bowman is right.

If a job seeker's initial chances of getting a job (J) are already small (e.g. PhD from an unranked program, let's call this a prior probability), then though getting and using the information (I) is useful and will increase a candidates chances, it will only do so in small increments.

Pr(J\I) = Pr(I\J) x Pr(J)/(Pr(I\J) x Pr(J)) + (Pr(~J) x Pr(I\~J))

It seems like, at least for me, that the small increase in chance (i.e. small reduction of luck) is not worth the opportunity cost (e.g. lost time with family, lost time pursuing other goals, lost time working at or on another career).

Moreover, I think Bowman is right about moving the luck factors around for a job seeker. At best, this is what market "boot camps" can do. An unranked program is still an unranked program, and there is nothing you do about that.

Marcus Arvan said...

Anonymous 2:31: Let's not talk in terms of abstract equations. They're not very helpful, as (with due respect) you do not know what the relevant probabilities are.

Here are some facts: I know two other people who were (A) struggling on the market, (B) received a lot of the advice I'm conveying in the "boot camp", (C) used that information, (D) ended up getting a ton of interviews immediately, and (E) both ended up getting tenure-track jobs immediately. They then (F) conveyed the information to me, (G) I used it, and (H) the same things happened to me.

Yes, these are three anecdotes, but they are all striking, salient data points all pointing in the same direction--namely, that no, the information does not make a merely incremental difference in probabilities. It makes a real, significant difference: it can (and did, in my case) make the difference between getting zero interviews and getting many, and between getting zero TT offers and (finally) getting one.

Marcus Arvan said...

And, I should add, the recent hiring data I have reported at the Cocoon show that people from unranked programs are by no means excluded from the TT market. They are actually getting 22.8% of the TT jobs.

http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/03/interview-and-hiring-analysis.html

Anonymous said...

I'm not 2:31. I just walked into this conversation. Indeed, perhaps I shouldn't be commenting, since I don't have any idea what's at stake here.

Here are some facts: I know two other people who ...

Yeesh.

Yes, these are three anecdotes, but ...

You had me at 'these are anecdotes'. Yes, they are anecdotes. (This is where you stop, go back, and erase the anecdotes as evidence of a general claim.) They do nothing to help your case here. Philosophers should know better than this. C'mon.

Anonymous said...

8:13 here, following up on my own comment.

Marcus, I apologize. My remark was unnecessarily pointed. (The "philosophers should know better" bit made me cringe re-reading it.)

Here's a different way of putting the thought. I don't think your anecdotes show that the boot camp "makes a real, significant difference," as you claim. I doubt you could at present have good evidence for that claim. I also happen to think others are probably correct in suggesting that at best the boot camp could diminish the effects of luck to only an extremely slight degree.

However, I think your best reply to this worry is just that the boot camp has value outside of improving one chances on the job market. If it improves one's understanding of the job market and improves one's attitudes about the job market, that alone provides at least some support for its being worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Marcus, 2:31 here.

I just want to clarify. I think that the information you are sharing is wonderful. Really. I really appreciate the effort that you put into the posts about "boot camp", and the statistical data you shared about interviewing and hiring. You really did do the profession a service.

Now I have a question, though. What are the ratios for tt job offers/# of tt interviews for graduates from ranked and unranked programs. My hunch is that graduates from ranked programs get more interviews, and thus get almost 78% of the jobs. I have this hunch because of anecdotes I know of (e.g. unranked program graduate with teaching experience and publications is passed over for job in favor highly ranked program graduate with neither publications nor teaching experience).

My point is that while your advice may help some (i.e. those who stand a decent chance initially), it's not going to help all or even most. What it does do is shift the luck factors around.

Lon said...

This one weird trick will get you a tenure track job in just thirty days!
(NYU grad students hate this man.)

Anonymous said...

"However, I think your best reply to this worry is just that the boot camp has value outside of improving one chances on the job market. If it improves one's understanding of the job market and improves one's attitudes about the job market, that alone provides at least some support for its being worthwhile."

It might improve the chances of those people who engage in the boot camp, but it doesn't do anything about the market itself. It doesn't change the number of jobs, so it doesn't change the number of people getting hired. It just changes who gets hired.

It doesn't add any more deck chairs to the Titanic, it just rearranges them.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh! It's good to have good information out there. A lot of people get bad/no advice when they go out on the market. It's not like people don't spend time wondering or trying to figure out how to get letters and who to get them from, etc, now they have a good place to learn about these things. I would have loved something like Marcus' posts when I was going on the market for the first time. And I had lots of people to ask, and a great placement director, and people who were willing to show me their materials. Others are not so lucky.

Perhaps what we are seeing here is people upset that the information is good information, and that it will be helpful to people just going on the market. If you've been on the market a few years, you've learned a thing or two, and so have a bit of an advantage over a n00b. One wants to protect that information and thereby that advantage.

Anonymous said...

"If a job seeker's initial chances of getting a job (J) are already small (e.g. PhD from an unranked program, let's call this a prior probability), then though getting and using the information (I) is useful and will increase a candidates chances, it will only do so in small increments.

Pr(J\I) = Pr(I\J) x Pr(J)/(Pr(I\J) x Pr(J)) + (Pr(~J) x Pr(I\~J))"

Exactly. Why are all of these other people even bothering to talk about this issue since it can be put in logical form? This makes it so much clearer than it was before.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how quickly things get ugly on this board and how ugly they get. Arvan's trying to help people-- and using a fair amount of time he could have spent otherwise to do so-- and the thanks he gets are allegations that his attempts to do so are pernicious at best or useless at worst. Look if nothing else it can level the playing field and that's a good effect. Despite what we like to think placement efforts matter. Look at the fact that some schools not even on Leiter's list have better placement rates than most schools in the top 20. What do you think accounts for that? The placement director at my own school was worse than useless (what little advice he did give was uniformly awful) and I only started to get interviews after I realized he didn't know what he was talking about (and was too arrogant to admit that) and started trying to figure out the market myself. I'd have really appreciated something like this a few years ago. And as Arvan points out it increases agents' autonomy, which is also morally important. If you're the kind of person who lashes out at someone for trying to help you I have to say it's probably no one's loss but you're own that you haven't landed a position of power like a TT job.
I'll finish by adding that I know from my own efforts on the non-academic job market that knowing what you're doing makes a huge difference. When I graduated I spent 2 months sending out about 50 resumes and didn't even get a nibble. I then met with our schools career services person and after following her advice I started getting 1 interview for about every 10 applications and had a job within a little over a month. Sure I ended up absolutely loathing that job, which is why I went into academia, but the advice did work. I know someone is going to scream "anecdotal evidence" here, but if career counseling didn't work schools wouldn't hire these people. And as I said before Dicey Jenning's data on placement strongly suggests that it makes a huge difference in academia as well.

Anonymous said...

If logic was the end all be all of truth then we wouldn't have much cause for philosophy, would we? If logic was the end all be all of truth we wouldn't have logical paradoxes. So stfu about logical form as though that is the platonic form of truth. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Um, I think 7:18 was joking about how logical form might bring clarity to the complex issues surrounding the current job market. Sheesh.

I would also like to thank Marcus for all his efforts. I have found his posts very helpful.

Anonymous said...

"Look if nothing else it can level the playing field and that's a good effect."

You're joking, right?

Applicants don't want a level playing field, because it makes it harder for them to stand out.

Search committees don't want a level playing field, because it makes it harder to identify finalists. (And it forces them to rely on non-merit-based criteria.)

A level playing field is not anyone's goal when it comes to the market.

Anonymous said...

To 7:09. Critical isn't necessarily ugly. Ugly is ad hominem, willful misrepresentation, etc. Didn't realize there was an obligation to reflexive cheerfulness and gratitude on a site devoted to 'griping' about professional issues and problems. Incidentally, I'm not sure anyone 'likes' to think placement efforts don't matter. It would be great if they really did matter. Maybe they used to. Maybe it's consoling to believe they still do. But the simple fact is that there is a real scarcity of decent TT jobs, a lot of jobs with too-heavy teaching loads and of course the ever-increasing adjunctification of the profession in general. You or I landing a great job because we paid consultants to vet our materials, paid our own way to the job interview (see DailyNous today), spent several years traveling around the country earning less than a bus driver (without their benefits and job stability either), etc. does nothing to change this or address it. I think that the idea that in today's market one can remain optimistic if one puts one's best foot forward doesn't make sense when the profession is teetering on an abyss. That said, information and advice on matters of professionalization are valuable. It might marginally help level the playing field. But that field and the game being played on it require transformation, not our increasingly pathetic adaptation and conformity. I've found the critical analysis of the North Carolina education bill and the news stories detailing the Faculty Forward movements springing up around the country much more informative and helpful for my professional development.

zombie said...

My placement advisor was beyond shitty. His only piece of advice to me was "get a postdoc at Oxford." Which, admittedly would have dramatically increased my prestige, given my unranked grad program. But "get a postdoc at Oxford" is helpful advice on a par with "get in a time machine, go back six years, and get a PhD at Princeton instead of here."

The advice I got from the internet, from people like Marcus, and once upon a time, this blog, helped me significantly. Like me, there are other people out there with shitty placement directors who can use good advice. Will such advice by itself land anyone a TT job in the current market? Of course not. Will hiring a job coach to vet your dossier land you a job in the current market? Probably not, and anyone who claims they can guarantee you a TT job is selling snake oil.

But that doesn't make good advice about reasonable things you can do to improve your dossier useless or pointless or naive.

Anonymous said...

'Get a postdoc at Oxford' is really shitty. Didn't he know that most postdocs at Oxbridge go to insiders?

What a joke!

Anonymous said...

7:41 is right.

Forest, trees.

I do sympathize with those starting their careers, but this has been unfolding for awhile if anyone was paying attention. Things are not as they should be. Stop banging your heads against the wall. I don't mean to sound unsympathetic; I too, would like things to be different. But at this point what to work on is not your CV but how to fight Koch etc.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the lucky ones--for a time, at least. I accepted a TT offer while ABD, but (cliche warning) couldn't manage to motivate myself to finish the dissertation. My dept. managed to keep me around for years to give me a chance to get my act together, but I never did, and for reasons good and bad.

In the meantime, my state U started to fall apart--in particular, it started to transform its campus into a ghost town by unwisely adopting the "we know you don't have time to drive to campus" and "we know you know liberal arts is a waste of time" advertising strategies. And, of course, 2008 and some meddling, undereducated state lawmakers didn't help. It just wasn't clear that I'd ever be able to get another philosophy job, even if I could somehow keep the one I had, and it wasn't clear to me--or to anyone else in my department--that our jobs would have much at all to do with what made us fall for academia in the first place. So began a mass exodus--I had to go, and most others left insofar as they were able to switch careers or departments or universities conveniently.

I'm now an adjunct in the city in which my spouse works, and I haven't yet started a serious search for an alternative career. I always thought academia would be the only place for me, because I find social interaction incredibly stressful and draining, and I thought that was the norm in academia, so that success in academia would depend on something other than having a taste for and skill at social interaction. I turned out to have been--at least if my experience is sufficient indication, which it probably isn't--quite wrong about the relative insignificance of the social side of academic life. But I'm still confident I'm ill-equipped (even when heavily medicated, as I have been for decades) to handle all the social interaction in most alternative careers. I have no idea what happens next. I know earn less than 1% of my spouse's salary, and I feel like a failure both when I'm teaching and when I'm not. But at least when I'm teaching I feel as though I'm a failure who has some real knowledge and professional skills and something to offer at least some of the students in my courses.

Anonymous said...

I came across this thread very late, obviously, but I was very interested because I transitioned out of philosophy myself.

Two big things that I would recommend:
1) Dream bigger than being an office assistant. You are a smart person and a fast learner. Most jobs only require smarts and an ability to learn, and hiring managers are conscious of this.

2) In cover letters and interviews, don't overemphasize your philosophy PhD, except perhaps in explaining why you decided to move on. Your PhD in philosophy shows that you are smart and a fast learner, which is all that most hiring managers are looking for. What your PhD does *not* show is that you know how to (e.g.) write financial reports or (e.g.) work in the R programming language. Pretending that your philosophy PhD makes you the perfect match for a position in finance or human resources will only make you look clueless. Instead, as a general rule, it will be best to mention the PhD but write your teleological narrative without relying too heavily on it. From your perspective, the PhD may have felt like the culmination of a decade of hard work and the central driving force of your entire life. But from the hiring manager's perspective, it's just another nugget of experience on par with everything else.

For example, maybe you've always been fascinated with education policy and have read avidly on the subject, particularly X, Y, and Z. Last winter you taught yourself how to code in the R statistical programming language, in part using datasets produced by the Education Policy Institute that you are now applying to. You are impressed with the Education Policy Institute's work and would like to apply for a position as a research associate. Over the past several years, you have pursued a PhD in philosophy, which gave you important critical thinking skills as well as first-hand experience in the complex system of higher education in the USA. You have since decided that philosophy isn't for you, but the ups and downs of your experience obtaining a graduate degree only served to further pique your interest in education policy. You think this Education Policy Institute would be an ideal next step for you. You thank them for their consideration.

Notice how I didn't pretend that a degree in Philosophy gave me the ability to program, or that the several courses on Ethics that I took gave me the ability to determine education policy for the US. Those kinds of assertions only make you look like you don't know what sorts of things you'll have to do while on the job. Instead, the Philosophy PhD is just another line on my resume, like any other job.

Just my opinion. If others disagree please speak up. :)