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Sorry but do you have the option of not graduating until you have pubs? This may seem really biased, but I went on the market with 2 very good pubs and still had no luck until I had 4. I did something that's basically a VAP, and that experience still has tolls on me (recently continuing in UK): I had absolutely no time doing research. I still had pubs, but they all came from submissions before I started the VAP, squeezing as much as I could from my dissertation. I am now burning my health and everything else I cherish just to pick up the research time I missed out because of the VAP.

R1 Prof

One data point: at my institution, one-year VAPs (they're not called that, buy they're full-time, not adjunct) can be hired solely at the chair's discretion. Usually there is someone who has taught here before, a former grad student, etc., but in some cases they may be desperate. So, it may be worth a shot!

my story

I kind of understand where the supervisor is coming from. I went on the market in the late 1990s - it was certainly fine to do that then. The thing is departments are often scrambling in the last minute to find someone. Now, the market has evolved since then, and HR departments call a lot of the shots. So Department Chairs have less discretion. But the supervisor is right to tell the OP that they should be concerned that the market has closed for the year. I defended my PhD in April ... and I was offered my first position (a two year sessional lectureship position/like a VAP), on July 1. I do not think the department did a separate search. I was an applicant for a TT position for which I was not hired ... but they extended an offer of a sessional lectureship (these are salaried but non-permanent positions in Canada).


I think that you can basically follow a modified version of your supervisor's advice: just email the chairs asking for information about work opportunities. They'll tell you if the upcoming work might be course by course, or might be a larger contract which is VAP or VAP-adjacent.

This will make your email not hinge on institutional variations when it comes to how various sorts of work gets advertised, whether it does, and so forth.

One year I was in a lurch and sent some of these emails. I didn't get anything out of it, but the chairs sent kind responses. I've heard of others getting something out of it. For instance, especially in smaller places without a big community of underemployed PhDs around, a chair's awareness of who is around could play a role in what they think is worth even advertising.

The Real SLAC Prof

At my institution we can hire visitors without doing a national search, and this was also the case at my previous institution. When I need to hire visitors, I reach out to Chairs/DGSs at geographically proximate universities.

I do occasionally get emails like the one OP's advisor suggests writing. So far, I don't think this has resulted in a hire, but that's simply due to timing issues. From my perspective, there is nothing at all odd or annoying about receiving such a message, and I might even welcome it if the timing is right and it would save me the hassle of even a limited search.

assc prof

I'm tenured now, but my first job was an unadvertised VAP. A local university had a faculty member leave and they contacted my grad department to see if we had anyone who could fill the role. There was a phone call at one point, but it was pretty perfunctory rather than an interview. This isn't a case of cold-calling, but it does confirm that VAPs can develop outside the ad + interview channel. I'd probably be out of the field if not for this opportunity, so I wouldn't dismiss the idea.

Bill Vanderburgh

We couldn't hire someone into an unadvertised VAP in the Cal State system, but departments are constantly taking applications for the adjunct instructor pool. One might only get one or two courses at first, but since we are unionized there are good rules in place and adjuncts, just by teaching, acquire "entitlements" which give them a pecking order of dibs on future courses. We have a stable of full time adjuncts (aka, temporary lecturers, who eventually get on 1- and 3-year FT contracts) and a few folks in permanent (non-TT) lecturer positions.

All that to say, it does make sense to contact chairs with a brief cv and summary of your teaching experience, and ask about opportunities to teach. If you ask about a VAP, I suspect you are likely to hear 'no' almost always. But if you are just asking about teaching opportunities, you'll much more often get a 'yes' or at least 'we'll let you know if something comes up.'

Former VAP

I was formerly a VAP on a year-to-year contract at a large state school. It's important to note that, usually, such positions are considered full-time academic employment with salary, benefits, etc. I think reaching out to chairs might make sense, but I doubt that a VAP position would materialize from that; adjunct work seems like the more realistic possibility here.


OP here-- lots of helpful advice, thanks everyone! I like the idea of asking about work/teaching opportunities more generally.

@delaying, ideally I will land a dissertation completion fellowship from my university for the fall, so that instead of jumping into full-time teaching I can hopefully get at least one publication and have a stronger application for the 2025 market. But in the meantime I'm pursuing all my options!

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