So I have been in touch with a prof for a few months about being a postdoc in his group. He promised (verbally) one year of funding saying he was not sure if his grant proposal for my second year of funding would be successful. After being in touch with him over six months, he let me know that he the proposal has been successful and he now has funding for my second year. In the mean time, my opinion about being a postdoc and going the academic route have changed quite a bit due to family and other personal circumstances and I want to move into the industry [I have an offer in hand too]. My question is, how bad would it be, in terms of loss of face, if I said no to being a postdoc with the prof? I haven't signed a contract with him or anything and all communication between us has been informal. How do I even begin to explain things to him? I haven't even given a hint to him so far.

  • This isn't a question about academia. From an academic point of view, the damage would obviously be zero, since you want to leave academia. – user9646 Apr 9 '18 at 10:07
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    @NajibIdrissi the damage being "obviously be[ing] zero," surely depends on whether the OP will remain in academic circles. (Many industrial researchers collaborate with academia and publish results at academic conferences, for instance.) Nonetheless, the OP should prioritise for their needs, not the professor's, and the professor should respect that. (The question is perhaps answered elsewhere, e.g., academia.stackexchange.com/search?q=decline+offer ) – user2768 Apr 9 '18 at 10:32
  • It is very unpleasant for the prof, there is no way around this. However, there are priorities in life. Do you leave academia for good? Then try to make an as apologetic, regretful and good-willed statement as you can, and move on. No he won't be happy, but that's the way it is. If you want to return to academia (do you?), it's harder. The prof, even if they rationally understand you, is unlikely to wish to work with you or support you again (sunk costs, even if we ignore emotion). – Captain Emacs Apr 9 '18 at 10:59
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    Dude, take your industry offer and don't even worry about it. These things happen. Just tell him honestly what happened. It's ok. – littleO Apr 9 '18 at 11:06
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    It's no big deal. You have competing offers. This happens in life. You can only work one job. – guest Apr 9 '18 at 18:48

Since you haven't agreed to take the job, there's no damage being done at all. Being offered a job does not put you under any obligation to take it, in academia or otherwise. You shouldn't feel embarrassed or awkward. If you're sure about your decision, then it's helpful to tell the professor now.


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