So I've just finished my Master's and my advisor has offered me a tentative position to work in his lab. I say tentative because it's dependent on if his project gets funding. He emailed me recently right before his leave that his project has been shortlisted and that they'll hopefully hear back by early Fall and that he'll keep me updated with regards to the position. This was last month and in the meantime i've been doing an internship to keep busy.

Recently however I've been thinking about applying to other jobs and PhD positions to keep my options open. However, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to ask my advisor if I can list him down as one of my reference and I don't want to blow my chances with him either. I drafted an email telling him that as his offer is not yet guaranteed I'm considering applying to various other positions and if he would be able to provide me a letter of recommendation. Yet I made it clear that I would still prefer to work with him. Is this fine? Or should I not ask him at all as he might then see me as a fickle candidate?


As you seem to have a good relationship with that professor, I think it is wise to ask for his recommendation. In some context, the absence of a recommendation from the former advisor could be frown upon.

I think any normal researcher will understand why you are applying to other positions, especially if you mention that his offer is your number 1 choice. In short, yes, ask!

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    In addition: If that professor does not respond well to your question, you may not want to have them as your PhD advisor.
    – shadow
    Aug 14 '19 at 7:06
  • But what if the professor gives a bad recommendation, so as to keep the person for him(her)self. This did happen with one of my friends when he left a project, where he wasn't happy, during his post doc and this is Cambridge I am talking about.
    – DumbCoder
    Aug 14 '19 at 10:56
  • @DumbCoder this is indeed a possibility, but I don't think it is that frequent. As I said any 'normal' (read: sane) researcher would understand the situation.
    – Emilie
    Aug 14 '19 at 12:35
  • But what if the professor gives a bad recommendation — If you don't trust them to write a good recommendation, then you definitely don't want them as your PhD advisor!
    – JeffE
    Aug 15 '19 at 12:21

Do ask for a recommendation. That does not mean, you are not interested in his position, but he knows all too well, that he can't guarantee that. So why shouldn't he recommend you? You are obviously good enough for him to consider hiring you.

On the other hand, it would be odd not to look around for other options. Especially in that situation.

So if he won't recommend you, he will not be a good supervisor, I would think. You can only win.

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