I plan on leaving my current postdoc at the end of the first year to go to industry. My question is two fold:

Is 3 months a good length of notice to give?

When should I begin applying for positions in industry?

With regards to the first, there are already plenty of answers saying the more the notice the better, however I do not want to give too much in case I am replaced before the end of the year. I would ideally like to begin a post in industry (computer science) at the beginning of 2020. It may be too early to begin applying now but I'm not sure about the interview timeline etc.

Thanks in advance.

6 Answers 6

  1. You should always be applying. Postdocs are short term positions. It is understood.

  2. Give notice after you get AND have accepted a firm written job offer.

You really don't owe any more than that.

  • This answer could be ethically questionable in some situations. Don't leave others hanging because you cause disruption in a project by giving late notice.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 18:50
  • 4
    Totally disagree. People leave corporate jobs all the time with extremely low notice. And those are situations with much more investment in the employee than a postdoc. He needs to be continuously interviewing as it is hard to get a job. Giving pre-emptive notice on the assumption you will get something is a bad idea. Power to the people.
    – guest
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 19:06
  • It certainly depends upon the investment made in you by the lab. That said, this answer is a good baseline. Some don't want it to be true, but those are seldom the people changing the culture of postdoctoral positions. The lab can drop you overnight in most contracts. Don't forget that. Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 21:38

Is 3 months a good length of notice to give?

Sure, but more importantly check what is the legal requirement for resigning from your position. For me it's 1 month, so I don't need to give any more heads-up, but it's surely appreciated. Consider that they will need to replace you with someone, which takes time to arrange.

When should I begin applying for positions in industry?

Today! Right this second.. No but seriously, depending on the type of job you are looking for, a good fit might not come around whenever. Keep an eye out there, have some job alerts for your favorite companies. Talk to people, reach out into your network.

A word of advice though, if you do reach out to your network and these people know your current employer, you want to make sure that your boss is aware you are looking for something. You don't want to leave the impression of going behind someones back.

I plan on leaving my current postdoc at the end of the first year to go to industry.

1 year as a postdoc is hardly worth it though, the idea is to learn something new, to publish some articles, overall develop your skills. So, unless you are really tired of what you are doing I am not sure if a planned end by the first year makes any sense.

  • 3
    "1 year as a postdoc is hardly worth it though" - and yet there are 1-year positions for post-docs. To use the words of a famous genius: Sad.
    – M. Stern
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:08

I think three month notice is a good length. You can ask your HR department to make sure it is appropriate at your institution. Your supervisor already knows that you will leave at some point, so don't worry about that. Also don't worry too much about unfinished projects: There are always projects going on. Your colleagues will manage.

You can talk to people in your research group about it before you sign a new contract, but it doesn't really make sense before you start actually applying for jobs. You work in computer science, so you shouldn't have difficulties finding suitable positions, and once you sent out several applications things can evolve really quickly!

I think you should start thinking about your next position yesterday and apply as soon as you see something that sparks your interest (but probably no later than six month before the end of contract). Now that you seem to be clear about your goals focus on your future. Good luck!


Apply everywhere as soon as possible. Do not give notice before you have accepted something.

However, if (and only if) you have been treated well, and your present employer has earned it, do tell them as soon as you have decent chances of getting a position. Do try to leave in a clean manner, with as much done as possible and other things documented. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. If you have been treated well, returning the favour is a good thing to do. The world is a better place when people treat each other well. This has served me fine thus far in the academia.
  2. If you ever decide to return, or are in a position to co-operate with the academic world, or need some kind of reference or favour from academia, then having left on good terms makes everything smoother.

Also read your work contract with some care. It might tell how it takes you to formally design after you have declared it.

Personally, I have told my mentors as soon as I have started looking for jobs and as soon as it started getting serious. I have been blessed with fine mentors, who have been supportive, and nothing ill has come out of this practice of openness, as far as I know.

However, if you have been mistreated, little of this applies.


Lots of these answers give the usual "HR is not your friend" talk. But things can be a bit different in Academia. Given that:

Is 3 months a good length of notice to give?

It's the right order of magnitude, but I would try to avoid setting a firm, arbitrary date, especially one months in the future.

Assuming you and your supervisor are on reasonably good terms, and you are committed to leaving, there is no reason not to tell your supervisor that you are applying to industry jobs and anticipate leaving in the next six months:

  • This will allow you some flexibility: it is simple enough to keep your supervisor in the loop as to your progress on the job hunt, and confirm that you are leaving once you accept a job. Your supervisor should be happy for you.
  • Finding a replacement will take some time, and your supervisor can likely support two of you for a brief period, so you're unlikely to find yourself out in the cold.

  • Moreover, being transparent will maximize the chances of remaining on good terms, which could be important if there is an opportunity for collaboration later.

If you and your supervisor are not on good terms, then giving a few weeks notice (enough time to wrap up your current commitments) is perfectly professional.

I would follow the advice about "give 2 weeks' notice after you have a job" only if your supervisor is terrible and would be so offended by your decision to leave that he is likely to fire you immediately.

When should I begin applying for positions in industry?

Now. For computer science positions in the US, I would expect it to take 4-6 weeks to find a job if you are willing to cast a wide net, and maybe twice that if you have relatively narrow requirements. But there is no benefit to you for remaining in your post-doc a few more months (seriously!), and many benefits to starting on your "real career," so you should leave as soon as is reasonable.

  • 1
    Just a remark: In most countries you cannot be fired immediately, and certainly not without good reason. Not sure about the US (and whether OP lives there).
    – M. Stern
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:19

There’s a tradeoff here and I think you need to bear this in mind. On one hand a postdoc is a job and you have legal rights to terminate that position as stipulated on your contract. On the other hand, you’ve committed to a long-term project and your goal is a publication. Other people involved in the project deserve notice. Overall I think clear honest communication is key to an exit without burning bridges. You may need a strong character reference later in your career for example.

It’s a job. A postdoc is a fixed-term position so it’s expected that you will be jobhunting to secure income after that period (whether advancing in an academic career or seeking other work). Leaving early should you find a desirable job opportunity is completely understandable. It’s your legal right to terminate your contract as long as you give minimum notice required by law in the country you’re working in. Typically the legal requirement is 2 weeks (14 days) notice but it’s generally considerate to give at least a months notice. Please check you comply with any conditions you agreed to in your contract. This is the minimum you are required to do. Of course it’s advisable not to give formal notice until you have accepted a job offer elsewhere or signed a contract.

Don’t burn bridges. Remaining on good terms with a former supervisor can help you throughout your career. Be respectful to them and anyone else who has invested their time in your project. You are not legally obliged to work without pay or publish any unfinished work. Clear communication about your career plans and the possibility that you may leave will enable your supervisor to support your best with the time remaining. It’s unlikely you will be replaced as you’re still the most qualified person to continue your project. Giving enough notice will also help give enough time to hand over the reins if someone else is available to continue the project or to re-evaluate plans and publish as smaller scale paper while you are still there. Of course with limited time you will not be able to publish everything that has initially been planned but making a sincere effort and acknowledging that it was a valuable experience for you will make a good impression. Unfortunately it is not always possible to leave on good terms with a supervisor but where you still have a good working relationship, you should try not to tarnish that but leaving abruptly.

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