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Evening the playing field

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In the comments section of Helen's recent post in praise of ordinary academics, Derek Bowman wrote: The problem is that even positions like these now require one to be - or at least to present oneself as - exceptional. How many of the many job market threads here at the Cocoon are about how to *stand out* rather than simply how to be a good teacher or a good philosopher? NK then added: To add to Derek's comment: It's long bothered me that so much of the discussion here is about how to stand out. To an extent, I get it. But telling everyone how to stand out arguably just intensifies the competition (and reinforces the background assumption of meritocracy) that's already making so many of us so miserable. I'm actually inclined to think that giving job-seekers advice about how to get a job is a lot like encouraging athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs (setting aside the fact that the latter are against the rules): if you give the advice to a few, and they take it, it will likely help them; but if you give it to everyone, and most of them take it, the result is that everyone is working harder (suffering, or taking the risk of suffering, the side-effects of the drugs) for basically the same chances of success. So the whole exercise seems pointless (irrational, even). Helen then responded by saying, "The way I see my mission on The Cocoon and other forums is to help level the playing field...[by providing] free information...[that] helps to make it clearer what [kind of] candidate you are." However, NK wasn't persuaded that what we do helps to level the playing field. Because these kinds of concerns have come up before (and I do understand where they are coming from) I'd like to try to clarify why I am still hopeful that the tips and information we've provided may help to level the playing field in good ways. Allow me to begin with a true story. A number of years ago (before beginning our first job-market boot camp. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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