Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Preparing a CV

Your curriculum vitae (or CV) is your academic resume.

Format. If your CV doesn’t look like everyone else’s—for instance, if it’s got colors on it, or an unusual font, or a list of your hobbies and non-academic summer jobs—it will make you look out of touch with the profession. Go to the PhilJobs appointment page (, download the CVs of some successful job-seekers, choose one, and use it as the model for your CV. You should also make sure the CV is easy on the eyes.

Length. There’s nothing wrong with a short, crisp CV. Resist the urge to list every little detail about the conferences you attended—the exact date of the talk, the city, your commentator and chair, your abstract, etc. This will just look like an attempt to fatten up your CV and will annoy search committee members. I would again recommend consulting the CVs of a handful of successful job seekers to get a sense of what a CV ought to look like.

AOS. Your AOSs are your areas of specialization. These are areas in which you are actively researching and expect to be able to publish. It’s common to list two, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing to list only one. Don’t list more than two. And flip through the PhilJobs postings to make sure the AOSs you list match the AOSs that departments advertise for: for example, departments advertise for positions in ethics, not Kantian ethics; metaphysics, not metaphysics of modality; and 19th and 20th century continental, not Sartre.

AOC. Your AOCs are your areas of competence. On one common understanding, listing something as an AOC means that you’re able to teach an advanced undergrad course on the topic with a moderate amount of preparation. If you’ve TA’d for early modern once or twice and/or taken a couple courses in it, that’s arguably enough for an AOC. Others have a more demanding conception on which an AOC must either be a serious secondary research interest or something you’ve actually taught as the sole instructor. More here on what an AOC is:
Some AOS/AOC combinations probably won’t help you at all on the market: you almost never see ads for positions in philosophy of language that want an AOC in political philosophy (or vice versa). Departments are often looking for AOCs connected to courses that they have to offer frequently: ancient, early modern, ethics, and logic. That said, certain AOCs that are less commonly advertised—Asian philosophy, feminism, environmental ethics, business ethics, philosophy of race—might open doors for you since fewer candidates will be a good fit for those jobs.

Works in Progress. Have a “works in progress” section on your CV where you list the titles of papers you’re working on. If one of them is under review at a journal, write “(under review)” after the title. Don’t list where a paper is under review on your CV (except perhaps if it’s been given a “revise and resubmit”). Bear in mind that schools that are considering hiring you will sometimes ask to look at some of these papers, so list something as a work in progress only if you have (or are close to having) a draft that you could circulate. Finally, don’t list works in progress and papers currently under review under Publications. (As I once heard it put, that’s like listing jobs you’ve applied for under Employment.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Getting a Job at a Community College

Here's what I learned at a recent panel at the APA on getting a tenure-track job at a community college. (Apparently it's fairly easy to get an adjunct job -- just send in a CV at cover letter.)

One of the main themes was “teaching first”. In your cover letter, lead with something about your teaching experience or your teaching philosophy. You can talk about your research, but only a little and at the very end of the letter. Your CV should start with which courses you’ve taught, then which classroom technologies you have experience with, then where you’ve taught, then service and leadership experience, and *then* any publications or conferencing. Unless they ask for a writing sample in the ad, don’t send one: it makes it look like (i) you haven’t tailored your application to their job and (ii) your real focus is on research, in which case you’re not a good fit for a CC. And if your letters of recommendation only talk about your research and say nothing about your teaching (which is the case for most letters), then they’re pretty much useless. If your usual letter writers can’t speak to your teaching abilities, find someone who can.

More on the cover letter. Service is a large part of the job at CCs, so you should talk about any service you’ve done in your own department, leadership positions you’ve had, and any other life experiences that demonstrate that you’re a team player and/or a leader. You should also speak to how your approach to teaching fits with the mission of the university, and your experience with diverse student bodies (more on this below). And make sure your cover letters are addressed to the right school. Apparently (and amazingly) this is a common mistake.

In your statement of teaching philosophy, here are two main things to hit on. (1) Engaging students: What do you do to get students interested in the topic? (2) “Assessment”. This is a big buzz word at CCs. The question is: what do you do to check whether they’re learning and whether your teaching style is effective. And in both cases, make sure to use lots of concrete examples.

CCs often don’t advertise in the usual places (PhilJobs, Chronicle, etc.). It’s not uncommon for them to advertise only on their own website, and for the ad to be short-lived (just a couple weeks). So, if there are some CCs you’d particularly like to work at, check their websites regularly. The folks on the panel seemed very receptive to candidates showing up in person to drop off their CV, because it shows a genuine interest in the job.

On which courses it would be especially good to have experience teaching: world religions, applied ethics, biomedical ethics, critical thinking, logic, and any online courses.

They’ll want evidence of experience working with a “diverse” student body. There are all sorts of diversity: diversity in ability, in preparedness, in learning styles, in life situation (some students are coming back to school after 20 years, some are veterans), racial and ethnic diversity. You can also talk about diversity on your syllabus, for instance, that you teach (or plan to teach) a unit on Eastern philosophy in your intro class.

For the teaching demonstration, pick something simple (e.g., utilitarianism), as opposed to something complicated drawn from your research. In all likelihood, it’ll just be the hiring committee in the room, but you should pretend that they’re students (you can even call on them to answer questions). Use “active learning” and use technology. Finally: make sure to practice your teaching demo before the real thing!