27 and a PhD

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Questions on leaving my current job

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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I had a friend email me to say hi and congrats on the last few cool things that have happened (engagement, new job, move out of NY). In addition she asked a couple of questions about leaving my current job. Below are her questions and my answers. If you have a different perspective or would like to share your own experience, please share in the comments. This is aimed at people transitioning from one staff scientist position to the next, but is perhaps useful when navigating job transitions in other areas of academia.

Q. How did you justify going/flying for an interview somewhere else?

A. I told my immediate supervisor the moment I was asked to go on an interview. I consider him a friend. He has kids and occasionally has to take afternoons off, or come in late in the morning, so it wasn’t hard to justify in that sense. In addition, he understands that opportunities like this don’t come about just every day, so he was very supportive in that sense. But even if I didn’t consider him a friend, I still get personal days off at work, so I would have just said that I needed to solve a personal matter and gone anyway. I’m surprised I didn’t spill the beans sooner on both the blog and Twitter, but I was so concerned about making sure that the whole new job thing happened, that I didn’t want to jinx it, or get excited for no reason. If you’re not sure of whether you can confide in people, or about the results of the interview/visit, then there’s no harm in keeping it on the down-low. I know that other people would say that you have to tell someone, but I’m more of, if I’m not sure about something working out, I’d rather keep it silent in case it doesn’t come true. I didn’t tell my boss, just my supervisor and fellow staff peeps because I trust them. I don’t know how differently I would navigate the situation should I work in a different place or with different peeps.

Q. How did you tell your boss and coworkers?

A. I told my immediate supervisor and my fellow staff members. I warned them that I wouldn’t come for 2 days so they knew how to do the bookings and tend to the users. I definitely didn’t book my usual users on those days and even had to turn people down. I didn’t tell my boss-boss. I waited until I came back from the interview with an offer to spill the beans to him. And I did tell him then because a) I was sure I was moving from NYC to new job city and b) people are a bit hard to come by when it comes for interviews at my current place of work. My boss is special when it comes to offering interviews to people, and people above him can be hard asses when it comes to approving job searches. I wanted to make sure he had time to go through the proper channels and could start advertising to replace me ASAP. I know what a nightmare it was just to have my supervisor and me handle a ton of users 2 years ago, and even though we have more people now, it still gets chaotic at times, so I wanted to be considerate towards them and ensure they’d have someone ASAP.

Q. Was it understood that you might be able to leave when you wanted (like a postdoc kinda)?

A. Sort of. When I first got my offer it was understood that they’d want me to try to stay for at least 2 years. I’m not under contract but I do have to give sufficient notice before leaving. I’ve been at work for 20 months, so close to the 2 year mark and in that sense I don’t feel guilty about it. And though I’ve had a great time at work, if I’d found something similar that paid more, I would have left before. I did apply for a job back home and almost got it at around the one year mark, so I would have considered leaving sooner. I guess it all depends on the terms of your hiring, if there’s a contract, if there isn’t, whatever expectations are set before you sign. I’d just make sure that you talk about this topic with any future/prospective employers, just for peace of mind. And most importantly, have it in writing, because you never know if HR or the dean or your boss will harp on it to hold on to you for a little longer. That is one thing I’ve learned at my current position, be vigilant, be a hawk and have everything in writing.

Do you have a different perspective to add? Do you think my answers are how you would conduct yourself or what would you do different?

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2 Comments

  1. Science Buddy says:

    I had to leave my previous job to take a postdoc position. My supervisor (not a laboratory setting) was upset and frustrated but he understood where I was coming from. This was after just about a year. My big question is, would you expect your old boss to hire you again if your job wouldnt have worked out as you expected? I am not sure mine would! 😀

  2. Dr. 27 says:

    I don’t think my postdoc mentor would hire be, nor would I apply to a job in his lab. At my current position, I honestly don’t know. My current boss is very matter of fact, so he wasn’t very surprised when I announced I was leaving. I would apply for a job later, should I ever come back to NYC. Maybe they’d hire me, maybe they won’t …. but at this point I leave with no bad blood (thankfully), so I think that’s a positive. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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