Sunday, December 14, 2008

The M**ket

While just about everyone else is full of yuletide joy, this is a dreaded time of year for philosophers. It's Job M**ket time. (The very word conveys so much Sturm und Drang that it feels like a profanity.) I imagine that this year is even more ulcer-inducing than years past because of the depressed economy and numerous "canceled" searches, but it's bad every year. The next week or so is particularly bad, because philosophy job candidates are waiting for the phone to ring with APA interview invitations, which are the first measure of one's chances of being employed next year. Two years ago, when I was on the m**ket, I was spending this time pathologically checking the Philosophy Job Wiki and reacquainting myself with my Magic 8-Ball. Fortunately, I landed on my feet (and employed) after it was all over, but I remember well the misery.

This year is my first time on the other side of the process, and I can report that it's not much better from this vantage point. We received over 300 applications for our position. That means, if everything else were equal, each applicant would have only a 0.oo3% chance of getting the job. That's 3 thousandths of a chance. But everything else isn't equal, of course. Many of the applicants don't fit the job description; many of them don't look like they'll finish their PhDs in time; many of them aren't the "liberal arts" type. Even still, after all of those obvious cuts are made, the chances of any one of them getting the job are still depressingly slim.

In fact, when I first saw the complete array of boxes that held the applications, my first thought was: How does anyone ever get a job??!! (Followed closely, of course, by: How in the world did I get a job??!!) The truth is, most of the applicants are qualified. They're PhDs or very close to it. They have interesting research projects and evidence of good teaching. They've published. They are reported to be good colleagues. So, in the end, it seems to come down to finding the right "fit" for our department.

And there's the rub.

I was on the m**ket recently enough to remember how much is riding on what I am doing now, so I'm probably a more sympathetic reader of files than your average search committee member. Even still, no matter how much I try, I know that the odds are that I will somehow miss a "gem" amidst the 300+ files. So, I want to extend my sympathies and encouragement to my many friends who are on the m**ket this year. Here's hoping your file rises to the top, and survives to the end.


petya said...

This is totally terrifying.
Just imaging the stress that everyone is coping with makes me want to cry.

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

It really truly is a terrible process --- I'm taking a year off of it for the first time in 4 years and it's safe to say that it has cast a pall over every Christmas in the interim. I wish all readers of this blog who are on the market the best of luck.

But, Dr. J. --- didn't you get the memo (the one with the amnesia pill)? Once you're off the market you are supposed to immediately forget how it felt. It is, I suppose, like childbirth in that respect, except where the hormones that cause childbirth to be a fog to mothers have the purpose of perpetuating the human race, these have the effect of turning people into --- I'm thinking of a polite way to say "douche-bags."

When I was discussing certain things about the job market that are terrible and that could easily be improved (and suggesting that the university at which this colleague was employed and which was conducting a search could easily do these things) a more senior colleague of mine who will remain nameless for obvious reasons simply said "but that would be more work for us."

B/c the people who send out the applications, that's no work at all...

So, Dr. J., thanks for remembering the anxiety and stress behind all those apps as you look at them. I'm sure the 300 folks appreciate it.

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