Five years on the academic job market (Jeremy Davis)




Jeremy Davis (Georgia) has a nice piece over on Substack detailing his five years on the academic job market in philosophy. It’s a very insightful read, and worth checking out by anyone currently on the market or due to head out on it in the future. A few excerpts:

[I]t 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.


I had one first-round interview for a VAP in ethics, which yielded a fly-out, which yielded an offer. This was for a 3-year position at West Point, which I accepted—though I only ended up staying for two years (which, of course, is normal and expected for these types of jobs).

I should note here, in case you’re reading this and don’t know me personally: I don’t have military experience; I’ve never even so much as held a gun. West Point hires civilian instructors regularly. (I find some people mistake my working at West Point as an indication that I’ve served, but I want to be clear that I haven’t.)

I asked (as one does) during my fly-out at West Point whether there were any concerns about my candidacy. I was told that there was some concern about my comparative lack of teaching experience. (Remember: I had taught two courses on my own, and had a wealth of TA experience at that point.) It obviously didn’t prevent me from getting the job, but in a different candidate pool, it could have been a significant barrier.

While in general I’ll play my rejection cards a bit closer to the vest, I think it will be important for me to be specific about these two particular TT fly-outs…

The reason I wanted to be specific here is that, obviously, both of these jobs are military-centered institutions. My being at West Point and my work on the ethics of war were obviously significant factors in my getting attention from these places. While you might look at this and say “Hey! Two fly-outs! That’s great” (and, yes, it was great), they were highly context-specific.

Put differently, after two years on the market, I had yet to have even so much as a first-round interview for an institution that wasn’t in some way related to the military. While being at West Point was—and I was told this explicitly—a point in favor of my candidacy at these two places, I can’t say for sure whether my being at West Point was a positive or a strike against me at other places. (I think people don’t often know what to do with philosophers who have somewhat non-traditional teaching or research experiences.)

For me, networking was essential to my success, especially early on. I knew two people (from conferences) on faculty at West Point when I interviewed there; I knew someone on faculty (from a conference) at NPS when I interviewed there; I knew people (from life) on faculty at UF when I interviewed there; I was able to begin doing consulting because of someone I met through the conference circuit (which opened doors); I am fairly sure I got my clinical ethics interviews (and ultimately, that postdoc offer) via academic connections. I could go on and on.

Again, none of this is intended as advice. But for me, I know that I didn’t always get attention based purely on the strength of my application. In many cases, knowing someone on the inside helped to at least make it past the initial cut. (Though this wasn’t the case at all at my current job, so it’s not so simple.)

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More