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I'm a non-EU postdoctoral researcher in Europe who recently started looking for company jobs. I just informed my advisor that. He asked me where, and I said the name of the same city we are in, because that's my most preferred choice. Now, my postdoc is till the end of the year (if not renewed), and I know that I've the right to leave at any time I like with probably a one month's notice.

I initially intended to tell him only after getting an offer, but I felt he should know it in any case, because if I leave abruptly in a month, that'd be a sudden blow on him.

He didn't say much, except asking when I'm looking to join. I said I didn't get any offer yet, and plan to finish what I started, if the company allows that. My only fear is: can my postdoctoral advisor try to sack me because of this? Did I just make a mistake? Our relation is okay (not superb), and I report regularly to him.

What would you do if you were a postdoctoral advisor in this situation? Thanks a lot!

EDIT: Okay he had a small chat with me just now. He told me that if I find a job soon, he's okay if I start immediately, he'd not have anything against it. The reason being that he thinks the project might take longer than a year, and he himself isn't sure about the funding status for the next year yet.

So it seems not to be a bad sign yet.

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    The Workplace has a lot of question on this topic (or rather that you shouldn't have told him): "If my employer is planning a big project around me, should I tell them I'm looking for a new job?" – David K Feb 10 '17 at 20:00
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    Surprisingly (or maybe not), most answers here recommend be honest and tell in advance, while in the Workplace SE they usually advice to tell the company as late as possible and only when you have secured your new job. – Pere Feb 11 '17 at 10:47
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    @Pere may be that's the difference between industtry and academia? – Science Man Feb 11 '17 at 12:47
  • @ScienceMan For the part on my life that is in industry, I'd like to hope it isn't... Anyway, I suppose it could be different for every boss and every advisor. – Pere Feb 11 '17 at 13:35
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My feeling is that most supervisors/PIs are aware of the realities of being a postdoc, having been one themselves at one point. I suspect that he valued your honesty, and understands that most people would like a well paid job with stability.

Unless he's shown some signs of being an awful person, I would assume he was asking you out of personal interest, and so that he organise his grants and find a replacement if possible.

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Our postdocs are a bit our children as well, so we know that (i) they will eventually grow up and leave the nest, and (ii) we're proud if they find a good job. We hope that (iii) they stay in contact and that that maybe leads to future collaborations.

So your postdoc adviser was probably not surprised to see that you are applying for jobs, but may be sad to see you leave. That's at least how I feel about my postdocs, but then I also help them with their applications when they apply for jobs.

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I may be naive, since I had a way to good relation ship to my PhD supervisor. But I would assume that he only asked you where, to a) think about whether he knows someone he can refer you to, or b) to see whether he could create an industrial cooperation with your futur company, now that he might get a foot into the door.

At least that is what my supervisor would have done, I can not give you any information from the other side ;)

However, I think that it was definatly the right call of you to tell him, after all, one does not want to burn bridges. He will probably be thankful for the headsup, and if there is no other reason for bad blood, you are on the safe side this way!

  • Thank you for your answer, and I hope you're right! It's really not my intention to not care about his project with me that I'm paid for, but I had no other choice than to look in industry (irrelevant there). I hesitated a lot, but eventually told him today. I'd definitely like to finish his project if my next employer asks me to leave everything now. He's actually my postdoctoral supervisor, not Ph.D. supervisor. – Science Man Feb 10 '17 at 13:06
  • I don't know my post doctoral supervisor that well yet, so I thought I would rather tell you my experiences from my PhD supervisor instead. But also for my rather new post doctoral supervisor, I am quite sure that he has my best interest in mind (it may not be not as important to him as his own best interest, but still!). So I asume/hope that this is the general attitute of advisors ;) – Lot Feb 10 '17 at 13:25
  • Okay he had a small chat with me just now. He told me that if I find a job soon, he's okay if I start immediately, he'd not have anything against it. The reason being that he thinks the project might take longer than a year, and he himself isn't sure about the funding status yet. So it seems not to be a bad sign yet. – Science Man Feb 10 '17 at 13:28
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    Sounds like an honest conversation without any grudge on his side. I think you can relax and enjoy your final time in academia :) – Lot Feb 10 '17 at 13:45
  • @Lot - I'm confused why you started looking now, if you would be able to continue in your postdoc for another year. I feel like this information is there but somehow I'm missing something. – aparente001 Feb 11 '17 at 2:17
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A postdoc is not a permanent position and it partly has a training component, so it should be expected that you may be looking for other opportunities. I'd lean towards being honest and open. I think it's good to get an understanding up front: If I decide to look for a job, how should we handle that? How much notice should I give you? Do you have any concerns about this?

You want to remain friendly with your supervisor since you probably want letters of recommendation etc. Best to put yourself in his/her position: What would you want in a postdoc? Given that they are not slaves, how would you handle their career aspirations? You do want to leave them with something of value -- finish your code, get a patent, fulfill some item in the grant or something.

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