“I have wanted to be a philosophy professor since I first took an Intro to Philosophy course my first semester of undergrad. I have worked tirelessly for 15 years toward this goal. There were so many times when I felt completely defeated, hopeless, on the verge of giving up. There were several occasions when it seemed clear to that it just wasn’t going to happen. I am elated that it has worked out.”
Jeremy V. Davis is currently a tenure-track assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Georgia. It took him five years of applying for academic positions to land that job. His aim in sharing his story is to provide a sense of what it’s like to be on the academic job market for up and coming graduate students. He says:
Five years is not an uncommonly long time on the philosophy job market. I’m not sure of the numbers, but I’d guess it’s pretty close to average—maybe a little on the high side, considering that many people leave for other careers after a few years on the market. Moving around for years, living in relative financial precarity, constantly having to do confusing and time-consuming administrative paperwork in new places, finding new doctors, paying first/last month’s rent before receiving the returned deposit from your previous apartment, wondering whether you’ll ever be able to find longer-term stability in a place, losing and making new friends, and generally just uprooting your entire life (and that of your spouse/partner/family): these are, unfortunately, pretty standard occupational hazards in the field.
But it is not my aim in this post to wax poetic about this journey, what I’ve learned about myself and my profession, and so on. My goal here is rather to illuminate some of the more specific elements of my job search that, in my experience, remain relatively opaque to those who haven’t already experienced it—particularly, graduate students who are planning to enter the profession. In my case, while I knew that finding a job in academia would be hard, I didn’t have a clear enough sense of just how hard it would be—and what, specifically, my own trajectory might look like.
The post shares some details of Professor Davis’s job searches, with numbers and graphs:
But he cautions:
Please don’t take me as offering advice here. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m just sharing my information in an area that I find otherwise rife with opacity. This is intended only as offering perspective, not any type of roadmap for you…
I don’t think my journey on the market offers too many lessons that we didn’t already know; and when it looks like such a lesson might be available, I suspect it’s not very replicable—it’s too specific to my circumstances, the circumstances of the job itself/the committee/the university/the other candidates. The randomness of this process is just so pervasive.
And in a way, this is sort of the rub: while I know I worked so hard to get here, I don’t think I earned it in any real sense. I, like every other job candidate, made a series of choices, over the course of many years, that happened to align in the right way—in some sense better than a sufficient number of other candidates—with the needs and interests of a certain group of people who just so happened to be hiring that year.
You can read the whole account here.