Friday, September 27, 2013

My Problem is Hope

This is what happens to me every year. I know what the job market is like. I know that there are lots of jobs and lots of applicants, and that the odds of me getting a job are not high, and that for any particular job, the odds of me getting that job are low. I know this.

But then the job ads start coming out. And I see a couple of jobs that seem really attractive. Maybe I know somebody in the department; maybe I've been to the city or town and thought it would be pretty cool to live there; maybe it's close to family or friends; maybe there's a reason why it would be particularly good for my family; maybe there's something about the job that I connect with somehow, where I'd be especially well-suited for it, or it would be especially well-suited for me.

And then I can't help but start to think about what it would be like to get that job. I start to get hope. I would rather not get these hopes, but it's hard not to. At least, I seem to have no ability to prevent it. I can't help it. And I have found myself doing this again over the past few weeks.

And a few times, I've actually gotten interviews at these places. It is very hard to avoid this hopefulness when you are prepping for an interview with your favorite job from this year's JFP, or with your favorite job ever.

And frankly, I'm not sure how you'd be able to summon the motivation to apply for these jobs, or to prep for the interview, if you weren't at least somewhat hopeful that you'd get the job. I once had an interview with a school that was located in a city I'd lived in as a child, and where I had a really tough time. When I thought about the possibility of moving back--and bringing my family with me--I didn't feel particularly hopeful. I wasn't excited about it. I wasn't "into" it. And I think that came through in the interview. I didn't say anything about it, of course; I didn't attempt to express these feelings and did what I could to conceal them. But I couldn't get myself excited about the job, and I think it showed. I don't think I fucked it up, or anything, but I also didn't blow them away, and I didn't get the flyout. So I suppose I see the utility of feeling hopeful. It seems to play a somewhat important role in providing motivation.

But I really don't like having to let go of these hopes as the season progresses. I don't like it at all. And so I wish there were a way to avoid it, and then to do without it.

Sorry if this post is a bummer. Here's some Miles Davis.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, September 16, 2013

Applying Out After A Postdoc

In comments here, an anonymous Smoker writes: 
I am about to go on the job market for the first time post PhD. I have had one year of a postdoc, but I imagine others who have spent two or three years on a postdoc have the same question.  
Are there any differences between what search committees will expect from my job app now and what they expected a year ago? What mistakes might I avoid as I prepare for the market this year? 
Thanks for your help in advance.
This is just a guess, but my guess is that the search committees will expect you to have some good publications--on the assumption that your postdoc is a research-oriented one, which may not be the case. If it's a teaching postdoc, I have no idea what they'll be looking for. Good evals? idk. Probably letters from your chair and other colleagues about your teaching. Not sure what else.

Of course, if you're only one year into your postdoc, it might not be reasonable for them to expect you to have a bunch of publications. After all, it takes a lot of time to get a publication. You have to write it, and then you have to send it out, and then they have to pester the delinquent referee, and even the best paper might still get rejected, and then you have to send it out again, and so on. It can take a long time. And the search committee might realize this, and they might even allow this realization to inform their expectations for your file. If they did that, they'd probably look for a highly solid writing sample. They'd probably also look for a well-developed research statement that sounded like it had clear, compelling descriptions of a lot of pretty fully-baked papers. (How many is "a lot"? idk.) You'd probably also want some letters from one or more of your current colleagues that discuss your research in detail, and in particular how awesome it is.

That's my $0.02, anyway. What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I've been using the joint PhilJobs/JFP website for a few weeks now. It seems to me that it works very well. They seem to have retained the entire PhilJobs user interface, which was better and more intuitive than any version of the online JFP. It also seems to me that the various search functions work better than the ones from the most recent online JFP did. I tested it on jobs in my AOS, and the search did not exclude any jobs. There were some false positives, but (a) in each case it was clear why the search picked it up, and (b) I'd rather have false positives than false negatives. I also like the "save job" function, which seems like it works better than the "star" function from last year's JFP. And I like that they just aren't running ads that violate the APA's nondiscrimination policy.

It's still very early in the job-market season, and so it's hard to say what the ultimate impact of the merger will be. And I haven't used PhilJobs very much before this--my usual procedure up until now was to consult the JFP first and foremost, and then to spot-check the other sources for jobs that didn't show up there. It was generally a pretty small number. So I don't really have a sense for how this is affecting PhilJobs. Maybe some Smokers who are more PhilJobs-savvy could weigh in: does there seem to be an appreciably larger or smaller number of ads up for this time of year? Does there seem to be an appreciably smaller number of ads for community college positions? For positions outside the English-speaking world?

My initial impression, when the merger was announced, was that it was all-things-considered awesome. That is still my impression. I think that the PhilJobs interface is superior in every important way to that of the JFP, and the fact that the JFP is now free to candidates is decisively awesome. Some comments left on that post convinced me that there were reasons to worry that PhilJobs will decline in quality as a result of the merger, because it will now adopt the JFP's practice of charging advertisers. But subsequent commentary convinced me that there were also reasons to worry that without the merger PhilJobs would have ceased to exist due to lack of funds. So I guess I'd rather have a somewhat worse PhilJobs that still exists as a PJ/JFP fusion than the same old JFP and a non-existent PhilJobs.

Though I guess I could be wrong. Am I wrong?

Anyways, it seems to me that this is another in a recent streak of good moves by the APA. And although I thought that last year's redesign of the JFP was a substantial improvement over the previous version, I am particularly impressed that they were willing to abandon it after only one year when this clearly better opportunity arose. A lot of people/organizations wouldn't have wanted to do that.

--Mr. Zero