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I am a final year PhD student and given the competition and burden of finding a PostDoc position, I want to try to apply to some positions early on. At this stage I am satisfied with the group and would like to continue working here, unless, I get accepted at Harvard or MIT.

The constraints: (1) I want to continue in Academia and it is clear to me that research experience abroad (I am not in USA) is a must. (2) I did not have any conversation about the possibility of having a PostDoc position with my supervisor. I think it is too early for her to know if she will have the money in one year. So I did not ask, I focus on my performance. (3) The application for MIT is open and ends in about a month. It would be a dream come true if I can go there. (4) I would like to be a citizen of the country I am living in (in Europe) and by doing my PostDoc here I could achieve that. This conflicts with (3) and (1).

Given the above points, I would like to at least try to apply to MIT and see if they accept or reject, you never know until you try. But I prefer to not have my current supervisor think that my application at MIT (I need her L.O.R) means I am not interested in working here as PostDoc anymore and therefore not look for funds for me (which is significant work).

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  • Do you have a good enough relationship with your advisor to simply tell them all your considerations above? Advisors can be a huge help in finding postdocs (whether at your current institution or elsewhere)
    – user53923
    Sep 28 '21 at 12:25
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Unless you are at a rare institution where it is common and expected for recent graduates to stay on under a post-doc with their supervisor, I don't see any reason not to just ask. Surely your supervisor knows that you need to arrange your next career steps and will hopefully support you.

I have an opportunity to apply for a post-doc at MIT, but need your help in the application.

That is completely normal and doesn't actually telegraph anything other than that you need to move forward.

Perhaps, if the supervisor really (really) wants you to continue with them, it would result in an offer. Only then do you have any dilemma. And even in that case, unless you are at a rare institution ranked higher than MIT and Harvard, such a move would be a step up, which should be supported as it will reflect well on everyone.

But asking for a letter only means you are being diligent about managing your next steps.

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