I am midway through the third year of a five year graduate program. Grad school has been fine and I am not struggling academically but there is a full-time job offering in my city (in a field related to my program) that is very interesting to me. If I take this job, I will leave my graduate program. I am not considering leaving my program for any other jobs.

What is the best way to go about applying for this job? The application requires two references and I will have a challenging time finding references that are not professors in my program. I would prefer that these professors not know that I am considering leaving the program, as I would like to stay in school if I am not offered the job or if I decide that it is not for me after all.

  • The question is not very clear, you said "I am not considering leaving my program for any other jobs." but then "What is the best way to go about applying for this job?" If this job works out are you leaving the program? Nov 13, 2018 at 21:27
  • Yes, I will leave my program if I take this job. Question slightly edited for clarity. Nov 13, 2018 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


Sorry, but your problem is overconstrained. If you need two references, and all your potential references are professors, well, obviously at least two of your professors will know about your application. You could ask them not to tell others, but that's about it. In case you don't get the job you'd have to rely on them being professional about it. I'd generally expect them to be, but you know your professors better than we do.

Basically, you'll have to decide what you want the most - the job or no one to know that you're interested in the job. Alternatively, see if one or two constraints can be relaxed, including the constraints you haven't mentioned explicitly. For example, would the company be interested in waiting to hire you after graduation? Can you graduate earlier than planned? The latter is done every now and then when people are leaving for postdocs, so it's not out of the question.


I'll assume that you have a great relationship with your professor. Otherwise this would be riskier. Just tell him that an "interesting offer" came up that you think would be worth exploring, though it might require dropping out of the program. I assume that he will have advice for you, which would be good to follow in general. But if you present it in such a way, he and others may be happy to help you with your "exploration".

If you have obligations (family, etc) that make employment rather than continuing more desirable, you could mention that, of course.

But it would be a mistake to telegraph that you are tentative about the degree. People have the right to explore their options. Other people generally recognize that right.

But if your relationship with your advisor or other professors is, in any way, tenuous, you should probably seek recommendations elsewhere.

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