Since it is job market season in the academic world and particularly the philosophy world, I thought it would be good to bring this question to the floor here at ISW. Many new PhDs are justifiably concerned about finding gainful employment in philosophy, especially in a job market that includes not just new PhDs but people wanting to make lateral moves or "climb the ladder" in the discipline. The task can be daunting, and even haunting with the amount of uncertainty involved. First, some assumptions: I'm assuming there is a model of a good philosopher who doesn't want to devote all of his or her time to research. This is, of course, someone who does not hold research in disdain, but is comfortable with, say, 60%-90% of his or her time each week being devoted to preparing classes, teaching classes, and helping students. Second assumption: graduate students have a finite amount of time after completing coursework that they can spend writing their dissertations, publishing papers, or preparing courses and studying teaching. Third assumption: there are a good deal more jobs available that make teaching a priority in one's career over research (call these teaching-primary positions) and, with the first assumption, these positions can be fulfilling for good philosophers. Finally, fourth assumption: many teaching-primary positions are looking for good teachers first with supporting evidence of promising research.
Now I think it goes without saying that the best possible preparation one could have for the job market is to be as good of a teacher and as good of a researcher as one possibly can. But with the assumption of finite time, I think things get more interesting. One can choose to spend one's time eeking out another publication in a more research-oriented journal or polishing an article about one's teaching, compiling video, compiling other evidence, interacting with students, and so on in preparation for making the case on the job market. Given that many good philosophers could be happy in a teaching-primary job and there are more of them out there, and these departments are looking for people who have worked on honing their teaching, it seems that occasionally in the hectic life of a grad student in the later years, it can be more advantageous to work on one's teaching than reinforcing one's research. Perhaps it's even right to claim that the upper bound for how much good research can do for you on the job market as a whole is lower than the upper bound for how much work on your teaching can do for you. Dedicated teachers looking for a teaching-primary position would seem to have an easier time on the job market than dedicated researchers trying to hedge their bets by applying to teaching-primary positions as fallbacks. I wish I had facts and figures to support my hunches here, but I only have anecdotal evidence from my own graduate studies where the people who made teaching a primary focus rarely spent more than a year on the job market, compared to others who had more mixed success.
Some practical fallout after the break.
I think this kind of thing is important to start noticing more forthrightly because there is a certain kind of bias that must inevitably creep into graduate programs. After all, graduate programs are staffed by philosophers who are usually not in teaching-primary positions. So their natural inclination (and what they know) will be to train philosophers in a research-primary fashion to compete for research-primary jobs. But it's important to keep this bias in mind because one may be pushing students towards a path where they have less of a chance to compete for teaching-primary jobs, and thus less of a chance of having a potentially fulfilling career in philosophy. I've heard tell of graduate students who couldn't get letters for any school their advisor deemed "beneath" him/her.
The practical fallout is twofold. First, philosophy graduate programs should have at least some kind of real teacher training program, if not a whole teaching-track for graduate students (that, again, isn't treated with derision by people who view research-primary jobs as the sole destination for good philosophers). There are grad programs that do this (Syracuse is one I know of for sure, I'd be very happy to collect stories of others). Graduate programs should also hire with an eye towards finding at least some people who can meaningfully contribute to such a program. Second, prospective graduate students need to be better informed about which programs do and don't do a good job of supporting teaching development (perhaps we even need a separate kind of Gourmet Report; it would already be handy to have a ranking solely by placement given how many prospectives use the Report). Third, students who find themselves in a program without such an emphasis need to understand how to develop their teaching and "sell" their teaching on the job market. It can be the gateway to not only an easier time on the job market, but also a fulfilling position.