Friday, July 17, 2015

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line Again Already

In comments here, Lost points out that "it has begun"--the first tenure-track job ad of the '15/'16 job-market season has been posted.

I find that with each passing year I have a harder time getting myself motivated to tackle the job market. Not that I was ever excited about it. But I used to feel a sense of anticipation and interest in seeing which were going to advertise and which ads I could apply for. Not this year, though. This year I feel a mix of dread and apathy.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I am not ready.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, I felt the same way last summer when the first ad came out in July. Here is what I did. I slogged through the season and had my worst year in terms of interviews ever. I've been on the market since 2010. This forced me to rethink things in terms of this question, "Do I want to stay in this profession, and if so, why and how?". I guess this was my version of soul searching. The answer that I found for myself was, "Yes, because I still like teaching and research, and maybe I ought to try Arvan's strategy of seeking job market advice from a consultant."

So, I put down the >$350 to get the consultant to look at three documents for me (teaching statement, letter, cv). We're still working on my letter, but so far, I have mixed feelings about the advice from the consultant. Some of it has truly been helpful, but some of it I'm not sure about. If doing this works, great. But, if it doesn't I'm learning from the exercise of having to revise my materials (something that no one from my program ever had me do) and from working with someone who is not in philosophy. We'll see.

Another thing I did was to firmly commit to myself that this is my last year of being on the philosophy job market. This really is it for me. I've applied to over 300 jobs, gotten 14 interviews, one on campus, two offers. I turned one of those offers down because it really was just not worth the big move to an area when neither I nor my family wanted to live for less money.

Another thing I did was to start to look outside the profession. Last year I applied to one non-academic job and got an interview, but not the job. This gave me hope for life outside of philosophy. This year, I'm going to apply for more non-academic jobs, and when the season comes to a close (which for me means July), I'm gone. I'll stay with the VAP position I've had for the last couple of years (it's likely I'll get renewed for a third year) and make the move to something else. What else? At this point, I don't know. I'm like a lot of people with a philosophy BA, MA, and PhD, and no other specializations. But, I'll figure it out. It's not like I don't have obligations or a family to support, I do, but I can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

I can imagine that others feel similarly to what you posted and what I felt last year. I've been telling myself, and it's true, not getting a tenure-track job is not failure as a human being. It just means I can't get a tenure-track job. So, if I can't, I'll do something else.

Anonymous said...

"It just means I can't get a tenure-track job."

You mean, you can't get a tenure-track job except for the two you were offered.

Anonymous said...

7:04, the offers were not tenure-track. Both were VAPs. I took one (my current position) and turned the other one down. I have not received any t-t offers.

shashank tiwari said...

respected philosophers,
can you please explain P F strawson's philosophy in simple words..please in very in need of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi - just a couple of basic job-related questions for a beginner, if anyone can help...

(1) where are the wikis and/or other sites online that a lot of job ads (particularly tenure-track) are posted? Are there a few on which most hiring institutions post their job ads, and most job-seekers go routinely to look for postings? I know of HigherEdJobs, but there must be a few really common and well-known ones with a lot of traffic that I am missing...

(2) Is it really the case that the Eastern APA is no longer really important for the first round of interviews? Is it really kind of a peripheral thing for hiring institutions and job-seekers? Someone who is much senior to me in philosophy academe told me it was still important around 8-10 years ago , but she also told me that with Skype etc. that she doubts it is really that important in the job search process these days, for either job-seekers or hiring institutions...just trying to get more of a feel for that.


Anonymous said...


The most common site, by far, is

Also, the Eastern APA is dying as a site for interviews. So I would not plan to go unless you get an interview or are involved in the philosophical side of the conference.

Anonymous said...

If someone doesn't even know that philjobs is where the jobs are posted, I seriously question what s/he's been up to and whether the job market is right for him/her. Higher Ed jobs mostly only posts community college jobs--i.e., jobs that aren't in philosophy departments and that are posted by administrators who don't know anything about the profession.

Anonymous said...

Hey 11:14, I guess you were born knowing about philjobs. I didn't learn about it until the summer before I went on the market this past year. I did fine.

To answer an earlier question, I had 9 first round interviews this past job season, 7 skype, 2 phone. None were at the APA. Also, several top PGR schools have stopped doing the APA interviews in favor of Skype. I definitely think the days of the APA interviews are limited, if not already over.

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous,
You definitely want to check all of the following on a regular basis, just in case:
chronicle of higher education (the most worthless of them all, but you can still check it out)

My current position was only posted on the chronicle of higher education for some reason. An earlier poster is right: lots of admins post jobs on That is why you should look there! You may think you are too good for a community college tt job now, or a position in a department that does not have a phil major; but you won't when you are starving.

Anonymous said...

slightly derailing. I know that a lot of law school grads are disgruntled these days for a lack of jobs. Many claim they were mislead when applying to law school about the job outcomes that would be available them after graduation. Turns out many have sued their alma maters. To my knowledge, no suits of this kind have so far been successful, but I'm sure the suits will make law schools a lot more transparent and explicit in presenting their placement data. Here's a recent-ish case:

Does anyone know of anyone suing a university for their portrayal of Ph.D. placement data, in any field? I know for a fact my (Leiter top-10) department misleads in their data in subtle ways, though they don't outright lie. I know it's *extremely* unlikely to happen, but I would love to see some department hit with a lawsuit on the grounds of misrepresenting placement records. It'd be probably be dismissed, but it would sure as hell inspire everyone else to make sure their data adds up.

Separately, a major piece of data that is almost always absent from placement is number of years on the market before one's first position. Sometimes they just list a first position and incoming students presume this position was gotten ABD. Seems naive, I know, but they are naive, what do they know. They might not realize that position happened after (say) 3 years of adjuncting and 4 years of trying.

Anonymous said...


In what way are they misleading?

Anonymous said...


They list as someone's first position their first, full-time job *outside* of the home university, failing to mention that many grads work as an adjunct or contingent lecturer in the home department after defending and before landing an outside job (all of these grads tried to to get an external job but couldn't). I am certain they aren't the only department who does this. They don't outright lie--but they also don't make explicit that this is what they are doing. Some other departments are better at this, not shying away from listing internal, contingent lecturer-type positions in their placement data.

Our department also doesn't update data, but whereas the previous thing is done with the intention of making our placement look shinier, I think this latter thing might just be negligence. There are people who got a post-doc or a temporary position several years ago who are listed as having done so, but their current position isn't listed. In fact, some of them have left the field (and our department could easily confirm this themselves with a simple email..), but they don't list this as their true, current position. This might leave the casual reader with the vague impression that these people are still at post-docs or in renewable contingent positions.

I wonder why the APA doesn't offer some standard placement data template that all departments could adopt, that would use clear, explicit definitions for 'first placement,' etc. They might also articulate an expectation that departments routinely check with former alums about their current placement, current for at least the last 10 years of alums or so. Also, it would be nice to combine placement data with information about drop-out rates.

Anonymous said...

My department lists internal placements, but only if it's outside the department. They also don't list adjunct gigs or failed job searches. They do list Ph.D. year.

I agree with both the APA idea and the lawsuit idea. Anything that puts pressure on the discipline to be more transparent about placement is good.

Anonymous said...

"They list as someone's first position their first, full-time job *outside* of the home university"

If they list it as their first position, then yes, that's a lie. But if they don't list it as a first position, then it's not dishonest, even if it is sneaky. And if they list it as the person's current position, then it isn't even sneaky.

"failing to mention that many grads work as an adjunct or contingent lecturer in the home department after defending and before landing an outside job (all of these grads tried to to get an external job but couldn't)."

Let's be fair here; do they need to? Anyone who knows anything about the job market already knows that most people won't get work, especially in the first year. I'd like to see departments note such things, too, but I see why they don't. The better they look, the better of a job they will do in recruiting top applicants. If you are in that program, that includes you. It's not very honest, but it's a dishonesty applicants want to believe when they apply to PhD programs.

"I am certain they aren't the only department who does this."

Haha. No. They all do this.

"Our department also doesn't update data"

That always bugs me. Departments should update their data - placement, faculty (including recent publications, etc. - every year. There's no good reason not to do so.

"I wonder why the APA doesn't offer some standard placement data template that all departments could adopt, that would use clear, explicit definitions for 'first placement,' etc. They might also articulate an expectation that departments routinely check with former alums about their current placement, current for at least the last 10 years of alums or so. Also, it would be nice to combine placement data with information about drop-out rates."

Um, because it's not in the APA's best interests to do so? You forget who the APA exists to serve, and it's those whose actions you wish to change. It's like wondering why Roger Goodell keeps neglecting to punish team owners when they break the rules, contribute to player injuries, etc.

Anonymous said...

Philosophy Metablob back in action, in a new and weird way.

Anonymous said...

From someone who swore that last year was their final stab at the market, I can now say this: it feels fucking great to see that old starting line and walk away from it. Even though I'm broke and freaked out about careening into the unknown, I smile every time I think of the degrading bullshit I don't have to put up with for the next 7 months.

zombie said...

Seems like the new jobs being posted have traditional late fall deadlines. If it were a case of rolling deadlines, I might be bugged. I don't mind some advance warning. This is the time of year one should be buffing up the dossier anyway.

Irfan Khawaja said...

Trust me, it's going to be harder than you think. I've excerpted a post below from Jason Brennan's FB timeline. He could be joking, but I don't think he is. Anyway, careful what you wish for. You wanted transparency, didn't you? Call it what you like, but it doesn't get more transparent than this:

Jason Brennan
August 26 at 10:01pm · Edited ·
If you knew a job candidate applying for a job at your department was one of the bloggers at Philosophy Smoker, would that be sufficient, or close to it, for you to axe that person?

Mr. Zero said...

Well, I speak only for myself, but I would be willing to work with Brennan, if it ever came to that, which it wouldn't, because he's a hot-shot and I'm a nobody, and he'd never stoop to the level of any department I'll ever work in, and I'll never rise to his level. But if he were to show up in my department, I'd be nice to him, and I'd invite him to have lunch with me and my colleagues, and I'd try to make him feel welcome. And unless I was super drunk or got to know him pretty well and developed a real rapport based on trust and mutual understanding, I wouldn't even ask him why he constantly has a need to shit on people who have less than him.

What's this guy's problem?

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I'm a frequent philosophy blogger and I always blog with my real name (I am now responding anonymously here since it seems to be what people do). It would be awful if that were held against me in the context of a job search.

Anonymous said...

@ Mr. Zero

Brennan's problem is the same problem that a lot of people at or near their top who are afraid that they are not qualified to be at or near their top have. He's a bully because he is insecure, and an easy way he can make himself feel more secure is by trashing those he views as beneath him. Unfortunately, knowing what his problem is doesn't make his behavior any more acceptable.

@ 2:10

This really never occurred to you?

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 10:33,

I think your assessment is basically right. Sometimes I suspect that libertarianism is merely a way to lend political cover and/or legitimacy to people who don't want to do their fair share to help people who need help, and who also don't want to feel bad about not helping. I know that's not *all* it is, but when you write an article that says that people who are trying to stand up for themselves against exploitation are "valorizing" their "victimhood," that's all it is. (You would also think that someone with his training and research specialization would have a better understanding of exploitation.) Brennan is trying to valorize what an asshole he is.

Irfan Khawaja said...

"Well, I speak only for myself, but I would be willing to work with Brennan..."

I wouldn't.

The truth is, Jason Brennan is just the continuation of Brian Leiter by libertarian means. It was Leiter who started the trend that Brennan now carries on--methodologically dubious apologetics for elitism, packaged as the cutting edge of social scientific rigor. That began specifically with PGR, which was widely, enthusiastically embraced throughout the profession (with a few notable exceptions--Richard Heck, Mitchell Aboulafia, etc).

Unfortunately, the wreckage of the Leiterian project hasn't really led to much self-criticism or self-examination within the profession. The question worth asking is, "How could a profession of putatively intelligent people (even super-intelligent people) have been duped by something so malicious--but so fucking stupid?" Unfortunately, we inhabit a profession too genteel, too opportunistic, and too insular to ask questions formulated that way. But that indicates a problem with the profession, not the question.

Feel free to search for the key to Jason Brennan's malice in his personal motivations or in libertarian ideology. But I think a more constructive task is to do in his case what people like Richard Heck, Mitchell Aboulafia, Gabriele Contessa, Jennifer Saul et al did with PGR. They persistently chipped away at the facade of rigor behind it until it fell apart. And they did that within the context of a well-conceived general critique of the profession. We all owe people like that the gratitude of emulation. It worked once, and can work again. Though no one could have predicted this 15 years ago, PGR is now widely considered a joke. The anti-adjunct crusade is a similarly unfunny joke, and it deserves the same fate.

Reallism Now said...

Unfortunately, the wreckage of the Leiterian project hasn't really led to much self-criticism or self-examination within the profession.

Oh for the love of god.
I can just imagine the moral preeners gathered at Eric Schliesser’s house for a self-criticizing retreat. Probably recording it all, to post on YouTube. Or no, Facebook.

They persistently chipped away at the facade of rigor behind it until it fell apart.

Students still use the PGR just as they ever did, its board is loaded with philosophy superstars, it has added Berit Brogaard to its throw weight. And the Filosophy Facebook Friends congratulate themselves on the overthrow of a tyrant.

Anonymous said...

"The question worth asking is, 'How could a profession of putatively intelligent people (even super-intelligent people) have been duped by something so malicious--but so fucking stupid?'"

Great question. And long overdue.

Sabrina Bano Jamil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anon 7/23, 11:14am

L.O.L. Community college professor. Hired on the tenure-track. Teach only philosophy. Received tenure 3 years in. Eight years of steady readily increasing income. Wonderful union contract -- one of the best I've seen in higher ed in the country, actually. My salary has increased approx. $15k since I've started. I've received every promotion I apply for. Excellent benefits. (I broke my arm once while out of town. The surgery cost $100k and required a three day hospitalization. I paid the hospital a $300 copay. My employer pays my entire premium.) I live 30 minutes from my aging parents who caring for my dying grandparent. I live in a condo on the water, have time to pursue hobbies and interests, maintain an active social life, and am treated with respect and decency by my colleagues, despite being non-white and a woman. I published an article in a philosophy journal once, but then I realized I was no longer interested in working for free, so am now using my ample free time to pursue a career in writing where people actually PAY me for my intellectual property. It might even work! And if it doesn't -- well, my bills are still paid. Oh! And once I make 120 on time student loan payments, the government will forgive the remaining half of my loan balance because I'm a public servant.


Anonymous said...


Good for you. I mean it. Sounds awesome.

I wonder: why are you reading this blog? I often wonder this about commenters who are, by their own admission, well beyond needing to engage with a job market blog. Especially in your case.

Derek Bowman said...


How many part-timers work in your department, and how well situated are they to take care of their aging parents, pay their medical bills, buy condos on the water, etc?

Many (most?) tenure-track community college jobs are great. But because community colleges rely so heavily on adjuncts, those jobs are not generally any less competitive than tenure-track jobs anywhere else. So while you certainly shouldn't dismiss them as 11:14 did, you also shouldn't count on them as a back up, or even as a solid plan A.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:15 here.


I agree with you re: the adjunct issue -- and am actively involved in efforts to unionize adjuncts on a national and local level. (I do a lot of work with our local union and some with our national as well.) Unionizing adjunct faculty in a right to work state is EXTREMELY difficult but I hope it can be done one day. As a labor leader, I believe every one I work with deserves what I am fortunate enough to have.

My remark wasn't intended to suggest such positions are perfect -- but rather to suggest that the original commenter who implied that it wasn't a good idea to look for jobs on Higher Ed jobs because they were "mostly community colleges" -- basically disparaging the exact job I found on Higher Ed which has been amazing for me, specifically. The commenter was basically dismissing the jobs -- an attitude which is incredibly pervasive in the profession.

On this count though, I can at least say that although my institution relies heavily on adjunct labor, we try to do our best by them, and also reducing our dependence on contingent labor. Our union frequently pitches in when we can help someone in need. I've personally given money, time, and support to people who needed it. We add TT lines as often as state funding allows us too, and I know our administrators has a strong preference for FT professors. When those TT lines are opened, they often go to adjunct professors, and all current adjuncts who apply are guaranteed a first interview. (Our last three TT philosophy hires were just such cases.)

I think if it were fiscally possible, our administration would actually prefer not to rely on adjuncts, except for in reasonable cases (such as working professionals in relevant fields teaching a class on the side, that sort of thing). Unfortunately, we are in a very red state south of the mason-dixon line, and we are a school that caters mostly to people of color and immigrants. The legislature hates us and will defund as much as possible during every session. Even under those conditions, we've managed to turn three part-timers in philosophy into tenure-track full-timers since I've arrived. In other disciplines, we have converted many more part-time faculty into tenure track faculty. That's not perfect, but we really are trying. I can't speak for every CC in the country, obviously, but we are trying to do right by people here, at least.

@Anon 1046: I have friends on the market. And I like to pop in occasionally just to make sure that people who are giving terrible advice (like "ignore higher ed jobs, its just community colleges and stuff") are appropriately contradicted. It happens often enough. Working for a community college is amazing -- don't count it out. If I had three wishes from a genie, I would definitely use one wish for all non-asshole job-seekers to get a job as good as mine is.

The other two would definitely be "win the lotto" and "perfect boyfriend", though. I can only be so charitable.

Anonymous said...

Oh and also -- absolutely they are not less competitive. The last time I was on a hiring committee, there were 400 applicants for one position.

So, by all means, people who think they are too good for CCs -- please remove yourself from the applicant pool and let non-snobby people who aren't too good for us have a better shot!

Derek Bowman said...


Thanks for the very detailed and charitable reply. It sounds like we're pretty much in total agreement. It may be small consolation to hear that I know people working at CCs and similar institutions in blue states that have the same funding (and resulting staffing) problems. I apologize if I made the tone of my previous comment more confrontational than it needed to be. I understand that the over reliance on adjuncts at CCs is a result of deep systematic problems, including the severe underfunding of public higher education, rather than individual ill will. But I'm glad to hear that you and your colleagues acknowledge how unacceptable the situation is, and are doing what you can to address it. And I completely agree that people who think they're too good for community college jobs are unlikely to end up in an academic position as desirable as yours.

Lost said...

Genuine question: when a program asks for a teaching statement, how safe is it to send a teaching dossier? I'm quite proud of my entire teaching portfolio, but I don't want to send it if it's going to hurt my chances.

Anonymous said...


Send only what is asked for. You don't need to tell programs what criteria they should use to evaluate your application.

Best case: they ignore it. Worst case: they find it annoying (which may be used against you). But serving on a search committee - especially given the number of applicants for jobs - is so time-consuming, they will not be reading additional materials, just for fun. Some may be obligated to toss it, given the way some HR departments (and state laws) work (in that they cannot consider anything outside of the application materials, so that every applicants can be evaluated on the same criteria).

In general, it can't help you, and might hurt you.

zombie said...


like 8:26 said. Send what is asked for. No more, no less.

Lost said...

Thanks 8:26 & zombie. It’s my third year on the market – you’d think I wouldn’t have such elementary questions now. Then again, probably the reason it’s my third year on the market is because I have such elementary questions.

Best of luck to everybody!

Anonymous said...

Again, any word on McGill? December 9, 2015 at 4:32 AM, you said "soon." Has soon come and gone? Thanks...

Anonymous said...

My Memphis application says "approved for interview". I hope that means an interview is coming and not simply that I've met some basic qualifications or something. I'd love that job.

Anonymous said...

for 11:31, who wanted to know what the Temple email said:

"We received your application for our Postdoctoral Fellowship in Philosophy position, and I am writing to update you on the progress of our search. We received over 350 applications, and have completed the first stage of the search, which is to select a long list of 20 candidates. I am pleased to inform you that you are on that long list."

Anyone know whether there will be interviews for the Temple post-doc or a timeline? (the email didn't specify). Thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

"some philosophers get good jobs, and some do not. The ones who do not can still be worthwhile philosophers."

Sure, I suppose it's possible, but it's incredibly difficult without all of the benefits of institutional support for their work.

Who are the best philosophers working today who are not now, and have never been, on the tenure track? Who are those "worthwhile philosophers" who manage to work without institutional support? Or are you positing it as a hypothetical?