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I'm a first-year MS student working as a part-time student researcher in a lab. Earlier this year, I received and accepted an internship offer as it was my top choice and my goal is to work in the industry. However, when I told my research manager about this during a meeting, it was not taken well at all ... nor was it taken well by the research director later on.

My role isn't a contract position and there are no written conditions that you have to be in this role for a set time. The expectations of me being here in the summer were never stated during the hiring process until now when I mentioned the internships.

I guess despite the prestige of the internship, how I gave them a heads-up about the summer role instead of waiting, and how I've taken on so many tasks/overworked myself as an assistant (and will be working harder to get more things done before I leave in the summer), I'm just surprised people are really unhappy with me. I know my team is in the process of hiring summer interns and the only issue I see is them having to spend time training them with equipment, and maybe they thought an internship meant I wouldn't be back in the fall; but I didn't expect this to go horribly even though I said I'd only be gone for three months.

This never happened with my undergraduate research position, so is this common or am I in the wrong? Just trying to get a clearer perspective on things.

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  • If you told them of the specific internship you were accepted into, my bet is one of the sour responses is because they were rejected for that internship or previously rejected. Did you announce the internships in a manner that could be construed as bragging or like you were better than them (even if you didn't do it intentionally)?
    – David S
    Mar 7, 2023 at 19:35

2 Answers 2

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You didn't do anything wrong. Some people are petty, and everyone has a chance to feel upset when their expectations are violated, whether it's reasonable or not.

Hopefully they won't take it too hard in the long run, but if you want to work in industry anyways their recommendations won't be as important as the relationships you build during your internship. Congratulations and good luck!

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You have the right to choose what you do and don't want to do with your social, professional and academic life. It's as simple as that. If you want to take a job, you can; if you don't then don't. If the hours from that conflict with some of your research, review any contracts you may have in place if need be, but ultimately: make your own decisions to put yourself in a place you'd like to be.

The reality is a lot of crucial decisions aren't easy and you can't keep everyone happy all of the time, but you should work towards making yourself happy and that's something you can control much more easily than someone else's happiness. Sure it might have inconvenienced your research team because they wanted to work with you more, but they should be happy with what your choices are and if they want to be unsupportive that's up to them.

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    And keeping everyone happy isn't your duty anyway. Keep #1 happy, that's you.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 7, 2023 at 11:52

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