Friday, October 2, 2015

Philosophers' Cocoon Mentoring Project

Helen De Cruz and Marcus Arvan of the Philosophers' Cocoon have started a job-market mentoring program that is open to everyone, in order to help meet the needs of people who aren't eligible for this other awesome mentoring program.

You can find details here.

I think this is pretty cool, and I am grateful to Helen and Marcus for doing this. I've also been pretty impressed by their Job Market Boot Camp series. A lot of good stuff is happening at the PC these days. Get over there and check it out.

--Mr. Zero


Marcus Arvan said...

Thanks for the kind words and link to our project, Mr. Zero!

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the Cocoon, I'd be pretty lost on the market right now (not that I'm "found"). I have the misfortune of being alone on the market in a year where our competent and engaged placement director left and was replaced by someone who can't be bothered to get back to me in any way, shape, or form. Thanks to the Cocoon's series, though, I was more or less ready to start applying months ago.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Marcus' good intentions might not be sufficient to make this project work. Read this comment by Joanna on the Philosophers' Cocoon that some of you might have missed:

"What if the mentee notices that the mentor has less prestigious pedigree than her/him, and decides s/he doesn't want to be mentored by someone who applied for positions and was hired by institutions s/he believes are not worthy of her/his time? Of course the mentee would not give this reason for not beginning the mentorship. Why? Well it strikes most people as a less than satisfactory reason and reflects poorly on the mentee. So s/he will likely offer some other lame excuse (e.g. I'm just too busy this term) instead. Given this possibility, you might want to match mentors and mentees with similar pedigree, or at least make sure the mentor is better pedigreed than the mentee. It could happen in reverse, but I assume it is less likely given the power dynamic of the relationship. Unfortunately the dick-ish nature of our profession emerges even in well-intentioned projects to help job market participants."

Not only employed individuals and search committee members are to blame for the elitism in our crappy job market. It is actually systemic...yes, even in the implicit and explicit biases of job seekers. Don't get me wrong. I think this is a noble idea. But what Joanna calls the general "dick-ish nature of our profession" might make the project unworkable. So before we express sympathy for that Michigan or Chicago grad who couldn't find a job six years after finishing his/her Ph.D., let's first ask him/her what jobs she refused to apply to because they were below her.

Marcus Arvan said...

I think it's also important to be aware of my reply to Joanna:

"Thanks for raising your concerns. It is nearly impossible to devise a program that cannot be abused. We hope that mentees who sign up for the program do so in good faith. If this problem appears to us to arise, and arise consistently--in a way that undermines the program--we may look for alternatives."

Thus far, the program seems to be working well, and we are prioritizing people in need (i.e. people without adequate mentorship, not people in highly-ranked programs who have good mentorship).

In short, good intentions are of course not sufficient to make anything in this world--but it is our hope and belief that the program will work *sufficiently* well as it is intended, and the early returns (from my perspective, and I believe Helen's, though I cannot speak for her) are positive. The people we have paired with mentors so far have been people in clear need, and the feedback we have received so far has been positive.

Anonymous said...

I signed up to be a mentor and two weeks later I'm still waiting for the mentee to contact me. My account shows that someone keeps Googling my name though. I hate being cyber-stalked by these damn Millenials.

Marcus Arvan said...

If this is the case I'm thinking of (the only case to my knowledge that we've had any problems with), it turns out the problem wasn't the mentee's fault, but rather an overactive email "spam" filter with my email that prevented an email from the mentee from getting through. The match in question has now been made, and to my knowledge there haven't been any other similar problems.

Anonymous said...

I admit that the comment referenced at 9:24 is the primary reason I haven't signed up to be a mentor. I spend enough of my time eating shit because I don't work at a top-flight program. I'm not about to voluntarily subject myself to more.

A recent graduate said...

Anon at 11:20:

There are some of us who would like jobs where you work. I am involved with a mentor project where my mentor came from a high-ranked school and is working at a well respected school. I come from a non-ranked school and am looking for a teaching-oriented school. I suspect you could be a more relevant mentor for me than the one I have. I haven't worked with this person enough to know whether the relationship will be helpful, but I can more easily see the relevance of working with someone like you. FWIW.

Derek Bowman said...

A recent graduate:

Agreed. In particular I think a number of PhDs and ABDs could benefit from mentoring from those teaching at community colleges and/or regional state universities. If that's the sort of job you're looking for even well-meaning R1 profs can be worse than useless.

Perhaps as the project develops Marcus, et al could find a way of calibrating the assignment of mentors to take these factors into account, including factors like concern with pedigree/ranking.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:20am: I understand your reservations about participating. However, my experience thus far is that the vast majority of people who have signed up so far are genuinely in need--in many cases at/from "unranked" programs--and would be thankful for help from someone like you.

Derek: we are already very much trying to match mentors and mentees in ways that directly address what mentees are looking for. For instance, we have had some mentee applicants state that they are explicitly looking for work at a teaching school, and we have done our best to find them a mentor who best fits that goal. Our only real problem has been finding enough mentors for everyone who genuinely needs one.

Helen said...

FWIW, 11:20, I found Joanna's comment baffling and so far the feedback we received has been very positive. Our prospective mentees are very often people who, for various reasons, do not have any mentorship on the job market, and the vast majority aren't from top-PGR ranked programs. Several have expressed a desire for a mentor who knows about teaching-oriented schools and would help them prepare to find jobs at such places. So we do our best to find suitable matches between prospective mentors and mentees, taking these and other factors (e.g., AOS) into account. We currently have far more mentees than mentors who have signed up. So if you are in a TT or tenured position and want to help someone out, I am quite confident we can find a suitable mentee.