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I have an offer of a good postdoc that I have until the end of tomorrow to accept or decline. It's a 2 year post at a decent UK institution, working on interesting applied interdisciplinary work. I know some people involved -- the PI and people they've worked with, and the previous research fellow who had the job is a friend (and I'd be working a % with them).

On the other hand, I have applied for another postdoc at a more exciting EU institution, doing more exciting theoretical work that is a very natural extension of my PhD. The PI there has commended my work, added an article of mine to the project's pre-launch bibliography, and said in a phonecall that I could be optimistic of my chances, based on my application. They also asked me not to accept the other one(!). The deadline for this is end October, so interviews would only take place in November. I also don't have any personal connections with the PI or other researchers (although I know the literature of course). The project starts next year, so the group is being built from scratch.

My dilemma is this: do I take the safe, good option, which is guaranteed but which involves an overlap with the PhD timeline, or do I risk "reaching for the stars" with the more exciting option which, because of its high profile, is likely to attract applications that may in the end be better than mine? If I decline the first one, but the applications for the second are stellar, I might end up with nothing.

My gut tells me to reach for the stars. But my wallet, in the months since my scholarship ended, says otherwise. I'm really torn!

Edit: some more detail -- the UK position is in a generic English midlands city that I am not inspired by at all, while the EU position is in a capital (indeed, the capital), and has a lot of draw because of that. I can't deny that the location is a big factor for me, not least because of Brexit.

Outcome: In the end I declined it to go with my gut instinct, which is to try for the other one. Time will tell if that was the right choice -- I may come out with neither, but for whatever reason that prospect doesn't frighten me (I will find something ultimately).

Outcome v2: I was offered the more exciting postdoc and will start there in 2019, so my instinct was correct 😎

closed as off-topic by Buffy, user68958, Jon Custer, Buzz, scaaahu Dec 4 '18 at 2:14

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" – Buffy, Community, Jon Custer, Buzz, scaaahu
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  • I should clarify -- the suggestion was for me not to accept yet, i.e. delay my response so I can interview for the second one, although in reality it seems unlikely an institution would realistically wait a period of a month for my answer. So perhaps they're in effect the same thing! – melat0nin Oct 21 '18 at 17:50
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    "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" so take your decision and live with it... – Solar Mike Oct 21 '18 at 18:56
  • You may ask if you can defer the offer for one year, if the postdoc offer is an one year offer. That's common in us – Arctic Char Oct 21 '18 at 21:03
  • When does the offered postdoc start? – user2768 Oct 26 '18 at 9:02
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Accept the "good postdoc" position, get paid whilst you finish your PhD (during evenings/at weekends) and benefit from the position. Apply for the "reaching for the stars" postdoc. Should you be successful, quit the "good postdoc," optionally after negotiating a delayed start date to allow more time in that position.


The OP has declined their other, so this answer is for other readers.

  • I'm not sure that taking the first position as a stop-gap is the right choice. Aside from the moral aspects, the OP would also be potentially burning bridges with people in their field. – James Wilson Nov 2 '18 at 10:44
  • @JamesWilson Why do you think that? – user2768 Nov 2 '18 at 13:27

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