I am currently a postdoc in a Computer Science discipline. By some odd artifact of the way our university handles postdoc contracts, we are given fixed-duration (1 year) contracts with no exit clause. The only way to amend the contract (i.e. end it early) is through a mutual agreement with the advisor. (Side note: this came as a nasty surprise to me when I started looking for jobs.)

I have found a job that is a great career opportunity for me, and I intend to take it as I believe it's acceptable to leave my postdoc early. The job is in industry (again, my choice), and while I would much prefer to not burn any bridges I understand this is a lot to ask of my boss.

I am personally aiming for the smoothest transition possible, with a reasonable notice period (1.5 months) and a plan for transitioning my duties, but obviously this mutual agreement issue is a big sticking point.

I am looking for good arguments to help my case, ideally focusing on the positive (it's great for them), for example:

  • it looks good on their "CV" to have lab members go to great places
  • This increases their visibility in the community
  • people are defined by where they've worked previously, this can increase the reputation of the lab

What arguments can I use to convince my postdoc advisor that we should end the contract early? I realize there are many "legal" reasons why I can/should be allowed to leave, and I would have posted on workplace.sx to look for those. My hope here is to look for some of the often-intangible "academic" benefits, and take a step in the direction of a win-win compromise.

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    This may be location dependent - where are you located? Have you discussed this with your advisor? I find it highly unlikely that your advisor would make you stay against your wishes (but stranger things have happened).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 15:46
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    As I understand it, everyone knows that a post-doc job is a stepping stone to a career and they shouldn't be expected to turn down career opportunities for the meager pay that post-doc life provides. My guess is this 'no exit' clause isn't enforceable. No job can 'make' you work for them. You can choose to leave but it sounds like it might burn a bridge as you say, since you did sign a document saying you would commit to some given time period.
    – WaterGeek
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 22:32
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    Do you mean there is a "no exit" clause, or do you mean that and exit clause is lacking. I suspect the latter, which would normally (not a lawyer, don't even know where you are) mean the relevant employment law is your only guide.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 9:09
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    The reason none of us are suggesting "academic" benefits is that at least to me (and I would guess to many other posters) this is just the wrong framing. I would simply tell your supervisor that you're leaving; if they're a reasonable person, they'll support your decision, and you can ask them to sign whatever documents you need. If they're not reasonable, then reasoning won't be very productive, and the bridge is burned. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 1:23
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    It's a fact of working life that people leave jobs for better opportunities. It's likely that your adviser has done it himself. Any reasonable person will understand. Tell them as soon as possible that you intend to leave so they can make any necessary arrangements and ask them what you can do to smooth the transition.
    – user9482
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


Just explain your situation to your advisor.

Say that you are sorry to leave and explain why the new opportunity is great for you.

You do not need to come up with reasons why you leaving early is great for your advisor. (It isn't, but they will understand.)

Advisors worry about your future.

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