The APA approaches…

It’s the season when philosophers on the job market are getting phone calls and finding out whether they have interviews at the upcoming American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting, a.k.a. the jobs conference.  It’s an awful month, and the stresses abound (old philosophers can enjoy flashbacks and young philosophers can get an eyeful of the oozing stress here).  For feminist philosophers, this magical time of year is added to by the eternal question as to how feminist one can be at the APA.

My advice of the day: Do be yourself when it comes to your philosophy.  I’m not saying to be yourself in every respect, since job interviews are not the best place to moan over your aching feet, or complain about your lousy holiday party.  But in my limited experience, your feminism is probably somewhat evident from your application materials, which they’ve already read if they’re sitting in the ballroom with you.  Don’t worry about it, don’t try to hide it, and don’t overthink what you believe they want to hear.  They may have to live with you, and you with them, for years to come.  Best we all know each other now!

 Questions about the APA, the feminism, and the market? 

11 thoughts on “The APA approaches…

  1. Thanks profbigk,

    I just followed your links and saw a horrifying entry on questions interviewees might get about teaching. OK, the blogger was being funny, but still…

    There’s now a literature about teaching and a lot of common ‘knowledge.’ I’d suggest candidates look at at least a bit of it and think about it. Some is on the web; here’s a faculty development web site I just found that some might find useful:

    There are also lots of books at

  2. Really good idea to raise these issues, and well-timed. But I’d give a big additional caveat on the ‘be yourself’ advice. If you’re anything like me, yourself at the APA includes mountains of insecurity, a certainty of your incompetence, total boredom with your dissertation….I see this in grad students now as I give them practice interviews, and the first time through it tends to come through loud and clear. It sounds mighty cynical, but I really think it’s important to realise that some things– like confidence– you may just have to fake. And it’s really worth doing so. I’ve seen how much better interviews get when people start faking confidence. In fact, it can also be one of those nifty self-fulfilling things. You start to believe in yourself a bit more when you act as if you do. Sorry for the cynicism.

  3. Ditto what Jender said above about confidence. Maybe it’s best not to think of it as faking, but I would try to think about–and talk about/convey–whatever it is that most excites you about your work (both your research and your teaching).

    I still remember a conversation I had while on the job market (at the smoker) with one of my future colleagues. She said somethiing about how being on the market was one of the only times you get to talk all about yourself and everyone is interested in hearing about you. Although it was hard to think about the APA this way (it’s clearly very stressful), it was also useful to think about it like this. And to remember that the schools interviewing you are actually interested in you–that they chose you from a large batch of applicants (very large, in many cases).

    In any case, while you need to prepare to answer hard questions, you also need to pep yourself up to convey confidence in yourself and in your work.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I recall feeling like my best interviews were in the afternoon of the first day–I’d had one in the morning (my first), and by afternoon I was feeling excited and really good. By the next day, I was more tired and less nervous. Oddly, I think the nervous excitement I felt the first day worked in my favor.

  4. I’d also think a bit about how much of a feminist one can be. It might be useful to think of some of the anti-feminism in our profession as similar to homophobia or racism. Given how ‘liberal’ the professorite is, you won’t get fired for being gay or black, one hopes, BUT it might not be a hot idea to share many details in a job interview, unless they are really relevant.

  5. I’m leaning toward ProfBigK re mentioning feminism. Here’s the way my thoughts are going. In my experience, lots of departments are very happy about getting someone with enough knowledge of feminism to *teach* it. So mentioning competence in this area can be really good. The problems I’ve seen arise from departments not recognising the value of research in feminism. But if you’re doing research in feminism, there’s really no avoiding the topic. So either way, I think you’re talking about it. But perhaps it’s useful to bear in mind their likely total ignorance on the topic– explain it as you would to a sceptical undergrad, as that’s about where their knowledge is likely to be.

  6. Let me explain my comment; I think that putting in feminist philosophy as a competence is fine. But profbigk’s comment was about feminism, which is what raised my concerns. Recently I’ve been shocked to find seemingly unlikely guys say that an effort to get women on a program is discriminating against men, that feminism is hurting boys, and that feminism has a “bad name.” The second came after I had objected – I thought lightly – to the idea that in something like reality theater, if men play women’s roles then women are represented. I’ve also noticed that if I say something enthusiastic about how women are becoming more visible in some way, the looks on male faces around me do not reflect either my interest or my enthusiasm. There are exceptions, of course.

  7. Regarding confidence, I must reiterate some of the best advice I ever got, which I’ve been acting on and repeating for years. The somewhat odious dating book, _The Rules: Time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr. Right_, is awful for intimate relationships, but turns out to be an incredibly useful manual for formal relationships, and its chief recommendation is to practice being cheerful and relaxed, keeping busy and looking confident even if you’re not; i.e., fake it til you make it. I know how bizarre this sounds, but even as I used that book as a case study in a critical thinking class (which was tons of fun, all genders detested aspects of it in informative ways), I found myself reading it as advice for the job market. This has worked out unbelievably well for me.

  8. Faking confidence increases accuracy of women’s self image:

    Women’s professional competence is systematically undervalued by men and women. Women judge their own professional competence much more harshly than men judge their professional competence.

    So, if you are a woman job candidate, you are almost surely much better than you and everyone else thinks you are and much better than your CV demonstrates. The point is that by ‘faking’ more confidence than you actually have you are likely increasing the accuracy of your self representation.

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