Fresh Meat

December 27, 2009

I’ve just finished the first evening of the APA. So far it’s been a fun little venture, hanging out with friends from years past. As an exercise in commisery, I’ve been conducting an informal poll of those on the market. Given my deeply scientific sample, I think that I can finally lay the “fresh meat” hypothesis to rest.

The “fresh meat” hypothesis, as I understand it, is that newbies on the philosophy job market have a leg up on the dried and stagnant meat on the market. The governing thought is that being mysterious works in one’s favor, where having a tried and tested track record can actually count against a candidate. Most philosophers like a healthy enigma or two, so I suppose that such a hypothesis may actually carry some weight in a less anomalous market than this one.

Having spoken now to twenty some odd job candidates, it appears that those with the most publications and those who are the furthest away from the PhD are faring far better than those who are either newly minted or are still ABD.

Again, this is hardly a scientific sample, and maybe the dynamics work differently for those in different areas of specializations, or for those with maybe a different pedigree, but the hypothesis that I think is governing this market is the “shark hypothesis.”

These are nasty employment waters, by every account, so it makes sense for all comers to hire those who might be snatched up in an otherwise more robust market. I suspect that search committees are instead seeking out well-established academics, looking to purchase those who might not be available in less competitive years. Not that other years are all that much less competitive, mind you, just that in a “normal” year, there are reasons for search committees to hire according to fit.

At any rate, take heart newbies. It’s a bad year for you. I think market dynamics are pushing search committees to act opportunistically and to take advantage of those with extremely long CVs.

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