The faculty and staff of LPS will do all they can to ensure that students are well represented as potential scholars, teachers and colleagues when they go on the job market. Recent placement information is available on the Graduate Alumni page.
A Guide for Current Students
Once a year, in the late spring, the LPS Placement Committee holds a meeting to discuss job placement strategies and procedures. The first step towards a successful job search is to start attending these annual meetings early in your career. No amount of written material can substitute for the opportunity to ask questions about your own particular case, to hear the thoughts and concerns of others, and to benefit from several informed points of view.
There are various things you can do, early in your graduate career, to lay the groundwork. Here are some suggestions. (You should discuss any and all such possibilities with your advisor and the Placement Committee.)
- Make an effort to get teaching experience in a wide range of courses. Save your teaching materials, evaluations (available on your ‘MyApps’ page for Social Science courses), notes from students, etc., and encourage the professors you TA for to sit in on your sections and give you written evaluations and advice. If you find an opportunity to teach a course of your own, either at UCI or elsewhere, it will usually be in your best interests to take it.
- Join and attend a meeting or two of the American Philosophical Association, to get a feel for the profession and to make contacts. If you have a paper that you and your advisor think might be suitable, go ahead and submit it as a contributed paper; speaking at a meeting will give you valuable experience and exposure. APA membership also gives you access to the all-important Jobs for Philosophers. Looking through these job listings before you’re actually on the market will give you useful perspective on how you might want to shape your intellectual profile.
- Do the same for the Philosophy of Science Association and/or the Association for Symbolic Logic, as seems relevant to the kind of work you hope to do. Both have inexpensive student memberships that include valuable subscriptions to the Association’s journal (or journals, the case of the ASL).
- Attend independent conferences in your area, such as the annual Notre Dame Philosophy of Mathematics Workshop, the North American Kant Society, the Formal Epistemology Workshop, the Society for Exact Philosophy, etc. Consider submitting papers that your and your advisor think suitable.
- If you write a paper discussing the work of a living philosopher that you think is particularly good, you should ask the person you wrote it for and your advisor about the advisability of contacting that philosopher about it. To prepare the ground for this sort of thing, it often helps to write to the person with a short question or two first, to demonstrate your interest in, familiarity with, and understanding of their work. If that goes well, you can offer to send the paper. If that goes well, you might eventually be in a position to ask for a letter of recommendation (and letters from people outside UCI are particularly helpful). Another way to make good contacts outside UCI is to attend seminars in your area at nearby institutions (UCSD, UCLA, USC, etc.).
- If you have a paper you’re proud of, that your advisor and others like, consider sending it to a journal. Publications are extremely helpful on the market -- they’re becoming the rule rather than the exception in successful job searches -- but quality counts much more than quantity. This means quality both of the journal and of the work itself. It’s probably a waste of time to collect publications in weak journals or conference proceedings just for the sake of a line on your vita.
- Be aware of your web presence. Goofy pictures or blog entries could come back to haunt if a potential employer takes a moment to run a search on your name. On the other hand, you should prepare and maintain a professional and informative web page on (or easily accessible from) the LPS site. (‘Professional’ means that you shouldn’t put up anything that your advisor thinks inappropriate, e.g., no underdeveloped work, embarrassing photos, etc.) This will be particularly important when you’re actually on the market and people at places to which you’ve applied become curious to learn more about you.
Going on the market
The primary criterion to judge when you’re ready for the job market is the state of
your dissertation. In the fall, your advisor and other letter writers who’ve read
it (including but not necessarily limited to your Dissertation Committee) need to
be able to honestly say that you will be done by the spring, and they need to be able
to summarize and tout the most important and catchiest conclusions you’ve reached.
In practice, this means that the dissertation has to be drafted in time for letter
writers to read it, which is to say, by August 31. Out of kindness, you would do well to give these readers draft chapters as they’re
ready, so that the whole thing doesn’t hit them at once. This also gives you the
opportunity to get useful feedback as you go along.
Another factor to consider is the look of your overall case. Do you have a suitable writing sample or samples? Are you prepared with a suitable range of plausible teaching skills? Is your level of professional activity where you want it to be? Etc.
When you and your advisors decide the time has come, you’ll need to spend part of the summer preparing your dossier. You should have a complete draft of the dossier to your advisor and the Placement Committee by October 1, so it can be vetted and revised in good time. The relevant issues of Jobs for Philosophers will appear in mid-October and mid-November, and the deadlines for application can come as soon as two weeks thereafter. (Once you and your advisors have decided where you intend to apply, you should give a copy of this list to your Dissertation Committee.) Your dossier will include:
- Cover Letter: It’s probably worth preparing a substantial cover letter that serves to introduce
the reader to the dossier: a summary of your research and teaching interests, perhaps
noting where further information can be found. This may be the one item the dossier-scanners
read, so you want to make it worth reading. You’re explaining why they should want
to hire you.
It’s okay if your letter runs over a page, but keep it under two. If you have special reasons to be interested in a particular job -- some emphasis in the department that you think you fit especially well, people there you might hope to work with, a geographic preference, etc. -- then you might consider taking the time to add a paragraph to your standard letter.
Curriculum Vitae: There are no set rules on how these are prepared; the Placement Committee will have some samples; many examples can be found on the web. Roughly speaking, Areas of Specialization (AOSs) are those in which you expect to do research and feel qualified to teach a graduate seminar. Any more than three may look implausible. Areas of Competence (AOCs) are others in which you could teach an upper division undergraduate course. Here it would be reasonable to list four or five. You may want to prepare alternative versions of your CV depending on the AOSs and AOCs of the particular job. Your advisor and the Placement Committee will help you with this. Include your web page URL with your contact information.
Dissertation Abstract: There are various ways of handling this: a short summary (1-2 paragraphs) on your CV, a longer chapter-by-chapter summary, perhaps included at the end of your CV, a separate chapter-by-chapter summary or a discussion included in your Research Statement. Talk this over with your advisor and the Placement Committee. No matter what, there should be at least a few sentences of summary somewhere on the CV. Bear in mind that those reviewing these files will be tired and cranky, more than ready to rule a file out of contention on extremely brief exposure. So whatever you write must be readable and accessible to those outside your AOS, and include enough motivation to get them interested. Keep in mind that these readers may not read the whole abstract, so put the punch lines up front and make it easy to skip around.
Letters of Recommendation: You will need at least three letters of recommendation primarily about your research (five would be more common), and one (perhaps one of these, perhaps a separate letter) that addresses your teaching record and skills. Consult carefully with your advisor and the Placement Committee when deciding on potential letter writers. It’s standard practice to begin with members of your Doctoral Committee (as they will be best acquainted with you dissertation). If you’ve been in contact with well-known figures in the field -- at conferences, by exchange of e-mail, or whatever -- consult with your advisors on whether or not it would be appropriate to ask them for letter. Letter writers will need time to read, think and write, so make sure you contact them early and have all documents you expect them to read in their hands by August 31. Given the deadlines, you should ask that the letters be sent to the LPS Department Manager by October 1.
List of papers: Naturally you’ll want to list your publications, in print and accepted for publication (“to appear”). Work-in-progress should be listed under another heading, but only list papers you’re willing to have potential employers read, and give them an easy way to recover them (e.g., from your web site). Another way to fill in your research profile is to include short abstract (a sentence or two) for each of these papers.
Writing Sample:Your writing sample should be around 25 pages of the best work you have. Most often this will be a dissertation chapter that can stand well alone. You might want to demonstrate your breadth by submitting two papers in different areas, and/or vary the sample depending on the institution.
Teaching Information: One of your letter writers will be addressing your teaching directly; make sure you provide this person with whatever ammunition you can (teaching evaluations, syllabi, handouts, etc.). Include on your CV a list of all the courses you’ve TAed for or taught, making clear which are which. Some institutions will want to see a more elaborate Teaching Dossier; this can include syllabi, student evaluation data, and/or a Teaching Statement. You should discuss these possibilities with your advisor and the Placement Committee.
Research Statement: You may decide to include a research statement that describes work-in-progress and/or future research plans. Another approach is to include a section of ‘work-in-progress’ on your CV, clearly indicating which items are ‘draft-available-on-request’. Either way, a few sentences here or there on each of your ongoing projects will demonstrate that you have research ideas and goals for life after the dissertation.
Interviews and Campus Visits
Hiring institutions often schedule interviews for the Eastern APA meeting in late December, so you should plan on attending. As invitations can come by phone or by e-mail anytime from early December to the beginning of the meetings, you must make sure that you have complete contact information on your CV. It’s best to leave this information with LPS staff as well, for backup.
Interviews generally run from half an hour to an hour. The interviewers will be faculty members (and sometimes graduate students) with a wide range of expertise, often enough including no one in your AOS (that’s why they’re thinking of hiring you). Typically, interviewers begin by asking you to give a brief (about ten minute) synopsis of your dissertation. This needs to be prepared, rehearsed and honed. Often enough, people will interrupt before you get through your entire spiel, so you should put the main points up front, then circle back and fill in at increasing levels of detail. It’s a good idea to practice describing your dissertation to everyone you know.
After the general discussion of your dissertation -- during which people are trying to determine how good a philosopher you are, how good your thesis is, how good you are at explaining, what you’d be like as a teacher and colleague, etc. -- you’ll then be asked about your teaching. You may or may not want to have sample syllabi to pass out, but you must be able to give a sketch of how you’d teach a seminar on an AOS topic or an upper division course on an AOC topic. It helps to be flexible, especially on the undergraduate teaching; you might ask how the course is intended to fit into their curriculum, whether it would be better to do it this way or that. You may be asked if you’d be willing to teach a course not listed on your CV. The right answer is that you’d be happy to teach anything, given the summer beforehand to prepare.
If you’re successful at the interview stage, you’ll be called back for a campus visit, during which you’ll be asked to give a colloquium presentation (and possibly to do some teaching). The talk should be different from your writing sample, but could come from another chapter of your dissertation. Expect challenging questions and a good discussion.
You should arrange with the LPS Colloquium Director to schedule a colloquium at which you'll try out your job talk. (Colloquium invitations go out in the late spring, so you'll need to get on this the spring before you go on the market.) You should also work with your advisor to arrange for one or more mock interviews. Both these exercises will give you a sense of what the real thing will be like and provide valuable feedback to help you improve your performance.
Summary of Deadlines
August 31: Have your documents to letter writers.
October 1: Have a complete draft dossier to your advisor and the Placement Committee. Check with the LPS Department Manager to be sure your confidential letters have arrived.
October-November: Send out applications.
By the end of fall quarter: Deliver a job talk. Undergo a mock interview.
Finally, perhaps the most important piece of advice is to discuss all plans and decisions with your advisor and most plans and decisions with the Placement Committee. Unwitting missteps and oversights are all too easy, and all too costly, so make sure you consult first. And be sure to keep all these people informed about any and all developments in your job search.
The APA has its own Placement Brochure available to members at http://www.apaonline.org/resource/resmgr/placement_brochure.pdf. While we don’t endorse every point, much sound advice can be found there. As always, if you have the slightest doubt about any suggestion given here or elsewhere, consult your advisor.