I've already spent some months in a multi-year post-doc in Europe, doing clinical research. However, neither the project nor the life outside the lab seem good enough for my interests, and I'm planning on moving forward.

I'd like go for either an industry job (1st choice) or another postdoc (2nd option). I have a few questions about this:

  1. Should I immediately tell my supervisor, or might I just give her a short notice?

  2. Regarding the next move (either industry or other postdoc): will it be hard to get a new position if I don't manage to get a recommendation letter from my current supervisor? I guess I may have to ask for recommendation letters to my PhD references. If this could be a problem, how to avoid/minimize it?

  3. ...And any general advice/experience about the topic would likewise be appreciated.


  • 3
    First off, since you do not already have another job opportunity simply waiting for you, I suggest you tread very lightly in this situation. Have you addressed your concerns (project/life outside of lab not what you expected) with your current boss? In addition, why do you believe that simply changing to some hypothetical 'different job' will address these concerns? Jun 22, 2016 at 21:20
  • 1
    In most places in the South of Europe, immediately telling your supervisor means your supervisor immediately posting and ad for the position (takes a while finding someone capable of doing the work and willing to do it for little money) and your yearly contract (in best cases) not being renewed at the end of the year. AFAIK, recommendation letters are becoming less and less common. IMHO, they should disappear, as there is a clear conflict of interest. Shortly: people prefer to lose their worst subordinates, not their best, and IMHO better make as few assumptions on ethics as possible. YMMV.
    – Trylks
    Jun 22, 2016 at 21:35
  • This is a good point. I haven't discussed this with my current boss --probably she would respond positively/helpful, but I think she would not be 'super happy' about me leaving soon. I'm guessing that, at the end of the day, I would end up moving.
    – Elabore
    Jun 22, 2016 at 21:37
  • The answer to this question depends a lot on the legal nature of your employment- do you have a multi-year or annual employment contract? Are you a regular employee? In the US, many research post-docs are treated as employees (no contract, and they can give two weeks notice and leave) but other positions (particularly positions with titles like "visiting assistant professor") are on contracts like faculty (typically for a year at a time, each year you sign an agreement to work for the next academic year.) Jun 22, 2016 at 22:21
  • @BrianBorchers This is a multi-year contract (starting from 2, and can be extended), as a regular employee. I'm not quite familiar with the US system, but I'd say that this contract is a bit like the "faculty" position you mention.
    – Elabore
    Jun 22, 2016 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


If you have a good relationship with your advisor, consider informing him or her early in a very respectful way. He or she will appreciate you took the time. Why give them a reason to (potentially) write a less than stellar letter?

If you do NOT get a letter from your current advisor and go for another post doc, yes it will absolutely raise a flag. You could expect the topic to come up, or the interviewer make even contact your advisor directly. However, if it really only has been a few months, simply stating the environment/locale/work/etc wasn't matched may be sufficient.

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