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The only cases I know if are people coming and asking for an adjunct position paying about $ 10,000 to $15,000 a year. But I doubt you want that. Any permanent position at a US university (or almost) has to be advertised. You could also try to get a job at a writing clinic, but again, it is not an academic job in the traditional sense

SLAC Associate

It's quite possible for one to get an adjunct teaching gig or a job on the staff side of a college this way. It's generally not going to be possible to become full-time teaching faculty via this route (absent the remote possibility of some sort of superstar hiring).

UK Grad

One way to do this (especially in Europe) is to apply for external funding, for example a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship or (in the UK) a British Academy Fellowship. I haven't gone through this process myself, but as I understand it universities are usually happy to hire you if you have already acquired the money to pay for it.

Marie Curie Reviewer

I think it's important to expand a little on what UK Grad said.

First, with grants like the Marie Curie Individual Fellowship, one applies in concert with an institution, who have to indicate that they support the application and will hire the candidate if the funds are granted. In order to succeed in the selection process, which is becoming ever-more competitive, one also needs to demonstrate a good fit between project, candidate, and host institution. So it's not as simple as applying for funding and then taking that funding to whatever institution.

Secondly, things are changing somewhat for Marie Curie Individual Fellowship applications. Because there are so many applicants, and there are costs to supporting them (e.g. in terms of the time put into each application by the institution's research office), many institutions are becoming more selective in terms of who they put forward for these grants. This means that often there will be an internal selection procedure that one must pass in order to be supported in making an application. These internal procedures, and their deadlines, are highly non-uniform across institutions, so it's important to make oneself aware of what the procedures are at the different institutions which one might be interested in applying with, well in advance of those deadlines. Since MSCA-IF applications are generally due in September and open in April, internal deadlines are often in the spring.

There's a lot more to say on this subject, of course, but there's plenty of advice out there about applying for postdoctoral fellowships of various kinds in European countries. The main thing to bear in mind is that there are a lot of schemes and they're often quite different from one another in terms of eligibility criteria, duration, the format of the application, and so on. So it's a lot of work just to understand what one should apply for. Given this, it's very important to network effectively, so that there are people who might be willing to support an application and act as supervisor of the project, and who can point you in the right direction in terms of how to write a good application.

That being said, if one is successful in getting funding of this sort, then often opportunities can open up at an institution, at least in terms of further temporary positions, and in some cases even permanent ones. Just don't get your hopes up too much in that regard.


The Marie Curie Fellowship raises an important point: This is all about money and what you can do to help a university in a *material* sense. Unless a donor comes along and gives a university a few million for an endowed faculty position, universities almost never make hires for the sake of something abstract like improving their reputation or having a good philosopher around. They hire people because they have students paying money to sit in classes (and need someone to teach those classes), or because they have some other need (e.g., a grant funded project) that needs to be filled. Of course, universities want to make these hires in such a way that they increase their reputation and bring in good scholars and all that, but what drives the hiring is money.

Anyway, the point is that (of course!) if you somehow bring the university a tangible asset (e.g., cash money) they'll probably find some room for you somehow. Nobody's going to turn down, say, a million dollar grant. The fundamental problem is that there's almost no way for philosophers to bring these sorts of tangible assets with them. By and large, the monetary value of a philosopher consists in the courses they teach. It's different from, say, being an engineer or something. If I have a better algorithm that saves 5% on current costs, Google will be happy to hire me to reap those savings. But that's not the sort of thing that goes on in traditional academic settings.

Anyway, all this raises an important point that I think is little discussed: We philosophers and others in the university need to think more about how we can increase our utility. At bottom, the reason it's so hard to find a job is because there are so few people around (students, grant-giving institutions, private corporations, etc.) who are willing to fork over their hard-earned dollars for our services. I know, I know, few want to hear this sort of neoliberalism, but it's the harsh reality. Save for a massive shift in political will to funnel huge amounts of government cash into traditional humanities programs, if we want more jobs, we need to rethink the kinds of ventures we pursue and align them better with the market. I think philosophers' inability to just show up and get a job (per the OP's question) is a strong indication that philosophers bring very little of monetary value and are more-or-less teaching commodities.

Trystan Goetze

I've had some success with the strategy to approach institutions with the intent to apply for external funding. In addition to Marie Curie Reviewer's notes, which are spot-on, it's important to do some research on what the university/country in question has available, and the eligibility criteria. I have applied for a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (unsuccessful, but got a "Seal of Excellence" for whatever that's worth), a Government of Ireland postdoc (unsuccessful), a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoc (unsuccessful), a Banting postdoc (successful), and a Mitacs Accelerate postdoc (under review). Some of these were only for Canadian citizens, others were open to all.

Generally the process is: (1) Approach a faculty member whose research aligns with your proposed project and would be willing to be a supervisor/advisor, (2) Indicate to the department or relevant administrators that you intend to apply, (3) Develop the application with your proposed supervisor, (4) Complete any internal rounds of review before sending the application to the funding agency (these can be formal and selective, or as simple as the department chair signing off, depending on the competitiveness of the funding scheme), (5) Cross your fingers and wait.

So, it is rather protracted to get one of these applications completed, and most of them are highly competitive. (Mitacs, which is for Canadian researchers who are developing a project in collaboration with an external partner, is an exception, with 90% acceptance rates. But they require considerably more effort at the application stage since that external partner has to agree to provide matching funds.) Also important to note is that nearly every one of these kinds of grants is for early career researchers (ECRs) only, and for 1–3 years.

Compared to how things like this work in the private sector, it can sound like it's a lot more effort in our field. But I think the days of walking into an office, asking for work, and getting hired the same week are well behind us (and not just because of COVID). It takes a substantial amount of networking to get to the point where approaching a firm leads to work. All the leg-work involved in putting in an ECR fellowship application is just academic networking with formal processes tacked on.


It is important to note that, as well as EU funding, individual European countries often have very attractive schemes that have pathways specifically designed for international applicants. See the Humboldt Foundation in Germany (https://www.humboldt-foundation.de/en/apply/sponsorship-programmes/humboldt-research-fellowship) and the Lise Meitner programme offered by the FWF in Austria (https://www.fwf.ac.at/en/research-funding/fwf-programmes/meitner-programme). The process for applying for these is similar to the process for applying for EU funds, but the application process is a lot less onerous. Also worth noting, though, that no programme like this is likely to lead to anything else in itself. But it does mean that, at the end of it, you will likely satisfy the residency requirements for some of the very attractive schemes offered in Germany, Austria, and some other European countries.

Jonathan Ichikawa

This is not useful for most of us, but I can confirm that the "let it be known you're interested" strategy can work for bigwigs. If, say, Charles Mills wrote to some random department and said he wanted a job there, there's a good chance they'd look into ways to make it happen. This kind of thing happens not all that rarely. I recall 3–4 such conversations at the University of British Columbia over the past ten years. (Not all resulting in hires in the end.)

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