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The Job Placement Process and Services

Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 1:40pm

The Job Placement Process

If you are going to be looking for an academic job in philosophy, you have to start to prepare early. The Placement Officer's job is to help you with the process of finding a job; but most of what's necessary has to be done by you, and has to be done early, even as early as when you're still in your MA program.

From your first year

  • Start collecting things for a “job” file.
  • Collect everything that might be useful for a teaching dossier, such as student evaluations, feedback, samples of grading.
  • Get faculty to observe and comment on your teaching.
  • Collect course syllabi.
  • Try to get a mix of courses to TA for.
  • Apply for as many scholarships as you can: not only do scholarships look good on your CV, they will enable you to devote more time to your work.

Make sure your coursework and prelims will give you a good basis for future breadth and depth. Don't just take ethics courses; make sure you'll eventually have a case that you are a philosopher with reasonable breadth.

From your second year

  • Prepare a CV.
  • Start thinking about your AOS and AOC. Where do you want to be in 4 years?
  • Give presentations in seminars. You'll need good public speaking skills when you go to campus interviews.

From your third year

  • Start working hard on the dissertation.
  • Consider submitting some papers to journals and conferences. Especially for journals, backlogs might be long; sending offprints of a published paper along with your applications is most impressive.
  • Give talks at conferences. Not only is that a line on your CV, but also an opportunity to meet people in your field of research, and an opportunity to practice public speaking and answering questions.

From your fourth year

  • Start tracking Jobs for Philosophers.
  • Become a member of the APA, if you aren't already.
  • Sit down with the Placement Officer and talk about the job placement process and what you should do.
  • Compose a 1-2 page dissertation abstract.
  • Identify a writing sample and start working on it.
  • Contact people outside your committee. Send samples of your work, ask for feedback.

The year you go on the market

Summer: You will start compiling your placement dossier. The dossier includes: CV including a dissertation abstract, letters of reference, a writing sample, and a teaching portfolio. You should start working on all these well ahead of time. In particular, you should request letters of reference. You will also need to have a job talk ready by mid-Fall, so start working on that. It can be your writing sample, but it's better to vary the stuff you present to hiring departments.

Early October: You will work with your advisor and the Placement Officer on your CV, dissertation abstract, and writing sample. Your letters of reference should reach Denise Retzlaff by early October. Note that SSHRC Post-Doc Fellowships are due October 6th!

Around October 11: Jobs for Philosophers comes out. You should go through it as soon as possible and identify jobs you want to apply for, in consultation with the Placement Officer and your advisor.

The first application deadlines are usually at the end of October. So be prepared to send off applications around October 20! Deadlines for many postdocs are also in early-mid October.

November/Early December: This is when most applications are due (usually November 15 or 30). If you want to, you'll give a try-out job talk and/or submit yourself to a mock job interview.

Around November 10: November JfP comes out. Same drill: select jobs, send out applications.

December 27-30: APA Eastern Division Meeting. This is where most job interviews are held.

January-May: Hopefully, flybacks (i.e., on-campus interviews); February JfP comes out around February 20; more interview possibilities at Pacific (March) and Central (April) APA meetings.

Placement Services

The job of the Placement Officer is to make sure that the job application process goes smoothly, and that your application is presented as well as possible. This includes in particular: making sure that your reference letters are ready in time, advice on which letters to include, making sure your CV looks right, giving advice on where to apply, and getting your dossier sent to the right places in time. It is the job of you and your advisor to pick and polish a writing sample, prepare a dissertation abstract, and solicit letters of reference.   

The CV

The following is of course not an exhaustive list, but at least this much should be on there, and in roughly that order. You should start compiling a CV early on and keep it up to date throughout your graduate career.

  1. Your name at the top, centered (you don't need to write "Curriculum vitae", that's obvious)
  2. Your contact info, both at school and at home, including phone and fax numbers, email address, webpage (if you have one).
  3. Education history: degrees, school, field(s), year received or expected (in that order)
  4. Area(s) of specialization (aka, AOS). Those are the areas you work in. Pick 1 or 2 areas you are really strong in.
  5. Areas of competence (aka, AOC). These are areas you'd be comfortable teaching introductory undergrad classes in. Consult with your advisor and/or the Placement Director what you should put down there.
  6. Other teaching/research interests (optional). Areas you've always wanted to go into, but never had the time, but would like to start teaching in a few years down the road. For all the above, you typically list the broad area (eg, "Metaphysics, Philosophy of Law") but you might wish to add parenthetical remarks to make it more specific, e.g., "Philosophy of Mind (esp. mental causation)".
  7. Dissertation title and committee members.
  8. Academic appointments (if applicable).
  9. Honors and awards.
  10. Publications (full bibliographical references)
  11. Talks given (title, occasion/location, date-year only is fine)
  12. Teaching experience (school, course, instructor if as TA, term/year)
  13. Courses prepared to teach (optional; perhaps divide into introductory, undergraduate, graduate)
  14. Service: university service (if you've been a rep to a committee or some such thing), service to the profession (if you've been involved in a conference or a society), community service (if you've volunteered and it had something to do with philosophy and/or teaching)
  15. Languages (other than English): which ones and how well (eg, "German (read), French (fluent)")
  16. References: list your letter writers, with affiliations and phone numbers/email addresses
  17. Dissertation abstract: one-page summary of what you're doing in your dissertation. This is not the kind of thing that goes in the front of the library copy of your thesis, but advertising copy. Make it exciting. Say what you're doing, but pay special attention to making clear why what you're doing is novel and important.

A sample CV in pdf format is here.

Letters of Reference

You will need at least 3, preferable 4 or 5 letters of reference. Typically, these will come from the members of your committee. It is a good idea to have other people to ask as well; so you should try to cultivate contacts with professional philosophers throughout your career. Keep in touch with the teachers at your undergraduate or first graduate institution. If you have a nice paper (from a seminar, from a prelim, part of your dissertation), send it out to a couple of people at other schools. Don't be shy! If you write a good paper on a famous philosopher, send it to them. Ask for comments. If you get a positive response you may later on write to these people, remind them of the contact you had in the past, send some new work and a CV along, and ask them for a letter.

Another thing to keep in mind is that at least one of the letter writers should be able to comment on your teaching. Ideally, you would have served as TA under them, and they will have observed you in tutorial. If no-one on your committee can comment on your teaching, ask someone who you've taught with for a letter. Again, keep this in mind throughout your career. Ask the instructors you teach for to observe you in class and give you written feedback on your teaching; when the time comes for a letter, they'll have something to go by.

The Writing Sample

The writing sample is supposed to be an example of your best philosophical writing. You and your advisors will be best qualified to select a good writing sample. It must be self-contained. Just remember: if you make it too long, people (a) won't read it and (b) will get annoyed. 30 pages is the absolute maximum; 20-25 pages is typical. Some places limit the writing sample to as little as 20 pages.

Some Links

Getting a Job in Philosophy: A Guide for Graduate Students:

General links on academic jobs:

Berkeley's resource page on academic job search:

ANU's Philosophy Jobs Page:

SSHRC Postdocs:

Canadian jobs from University Affairs:

Jobs from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Jobs in Philosophy Website



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