Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ask the readers: when should I tell my boss about a tentative offer?

From the comments, a pretty common question: 
I have a question to pose. I am currently a postdoc(6-12 months in), but would like to make the move to industry. I have a tentative offer right now, and am waiting on a firm offer. I wish I could of told my boss about the TO, but I was told not to tell anyone until I have the bird in hand. I may not be able to give two weeks notice due to the job being 12 hours away from my current position, and the start time being a little too soon(I need to look for a place to live, and then move my stuff there).  
I do not want to burn any bridges at my current job, but I feel that a postdoc is just a temporary job and I can't turn down this permanent offer. I have been reading the literature and seeing how people do postdoc, after postdoc, and then they want just any permanent job they can get. Like I said earlier in the post, I wish I could of told my boss about the TO, but no job is secure unless you get the firm offer. If you were my boss how would you feel if you only got a week or little over a week because of the circumstance? 
I would also like to add that I genuinely feel bad for not being able to give two weeks notice. I also want to add the postdoc I am in is not in an academic environment. Chances of getting hired on full time are about 10% or less.
I gotta say, Anon9:13a, take the job and R-U-N run. Readers, do you agree?  

29 comments:

  1. dude don't ever feel bad for furthering your career. be selfish in that regard. most of the people you meet in life aren't against you, they just don't care

    ReplyDelete
  2. Make the usual offers to help tie up any nearly finished papers over the next couple months. Any good PI would be happy to see their employees/students/PDFs successfully move into industry positions, even when the timing is painful.

    The exception to this is in certain adjunct gigs or fellowships where your boss would want to counter-offer.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Agreed with CJ, take the job. Keep in mind when you get a formal offer that you may be able to negotiate a delay on the start date or a few days of paid time off for house-hunting/moving (assuming no relocation assistance is offered). Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm definitely a fan of looking out for #1, but pissing off your PI (unless s/he is an a-hole) may not be in your best interest long term. To be clear, the PDF is just temporary, and you don't owe your PI anything (unless you explicitly said you'd stay for X time and were contractually assured employment for same). I would wait for the written offer and then approach the boss. I'd be cautious about a job that won't give you some slack, a week or two, in start date: if there's no flexibility here there won't be any down the road for other things like time off, raises, etc.

    Best case you get written offer with start date pushed out a week or two longer than that is unreasonable on PI side)to wrap things up ( nicely in current lab.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that we're into specific steps, I agree wholeheartedly with BT:

      1. Get the written offer first.
      2. Negotiate for some time before you sign on the dotted line. (your negotiating power with your new employer will never be higher than it is then.)
      3. Sign on the dotted line.
      4. Tell your current PI, and like A11:58 says, offer to help with tidying up (literally/figuratively).

      Cheers, CJ

      Delete
    2. I would add to this... PIs understand that this is a part of life in the academic research world. You bring in a post-doc and they leave when they have an offer. It's the normal cycle. Some might look down on you for going industry, but they understand that transitioning to the next career stage is a big part of your job.

      Delete
  5. What would make you think the PI doesn't already know about the offer? Especially if was they are used as a reference or listed on the resume (sing its a small world after all). I would have hoped a post-doc would be communicating regularly on job situation and prospects where can indeed plan wrap up or even extension of support if required. Although post-doc more like academic position than industrial job I feel certain courtesy applies and often less need for circumspect job hunt so does not have to hold notification till formal acceptance. Either way the new company should expect and allow transition and relocation time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with BT and CJ. Go for it, but don't burn your bridges in the process.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would wait until there is signed written offer, with salary and start date, I would accept the offer including the starting date. If I needed few extra weeks to wrap up and finish postdoc I would not tell my future employer but at the last moment I would apologize (something urgent personal happened etc etc) and postpone by 3 weeks. They will not cancel your offer (going through interviews again costs lots of time and energy, if they like you they can wait for you 3 weeks longer). With your current boss at postdoc I propose a similar attitude: All he owes you is fixed short-term employment for low pay and letters of recommendation if you have done the assignment well. What you owe him is doing good job and not leaving your project in a mess. So wait until you have received and accepted your new job offer. Then talk to your boss and figure out together how much more time you need to wrap up or transfer your research project to someone else. I bet it can be done within few weeks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Milkshake if you "would not tell my future employer but at the last moment I would apologize (something urgent personal happened etc etc) and postpone by 3 weeks" and I was your new employer and found out you played such a trick I would not trust you again and even consider dismal for cause action. Yes in today's world loyalty is not very strong at company or personal levels however there should be respect to others and unless there are know reasons to withhold info it is usually always better in the long run to be open and honest in situations.

      Delete
    2. How would they find out - unless you tell them? You need to make up a convincing excuse obviously (just tell them you had a DUI and a dumb judge ordered you taking mandatory drug sobriety tests, and you cannot transfer across the country until you are finished, which will be in few weeks).

      Delete
    3. I would NOT tell a potential employer that you can't start when previously agreed upon because of a DUI offense. This is the perfect way for them to rescind your offer without any explanation.

      Like CJ said above, don't be afraid to negotiate the start date back a week or two while you have the opportunity to do so.

      Delete
    4. Silly advice. Take the higher paying job as soon as you can and leave the post-doc behind. If your PI is like most, they won't respect you anymore for giving two weeks notice. Regardless of what you do, you were cheap labor at the mercy of a letter of recommendation. Just tell your PI the offer came up and the company isn't allowing enough time to get a two week notice. He will have another slave to take your place in no time.

      Delete
  8. My advice summarizes with this quote "it is better to say sorry than ask for permission". So as CJ said, please wait for the formal letter hopefully involves some relocation help or at least some time to move. Then sign, and let your PI know after that the exact date you are leaving, even if it is only 2 weeks from when you tell him. Who cares about making him happy it's YOUR career and everyone knows that a postdoc is temporary. At the end someone else will finish your research. Your PI will understand and forgive you at some point and probably you won't need his recommendation letter anyways. So don't worry about your PI and worry about the moving and all that, you could start writing reports or putting things in order, but don't worry for the experiments you didn't finish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. Don't play games, but negotiate start date when you get the offer, and spin it all as wanting to give two week notice to current boss/move/find place to live. You will be perfectly reasonable to do so and the new company will realize that, even if they're not happy about it. The faster they need you to start, the more they need to help out (with moving services, temporary housing, etc.) and the faster they need to get the offer letter to you. If they don't want to spend the money, then they need to give you some more time to get your ducks in order. I know it's a crappy job market, but to give you less than two weeks and expect you to pack up all your stuff and drive it 12 hours, and then find a place to live is pretty shitty unless they're sending a moving van and putting you up in corporate housing once you get there.

      Delete
    2. OB makes an *excellent* point. Giving a candidate enough time to sort out the projects at their last job is the decent thing to do; if your new employer is absolutely unwilling to do that, you've learned something about your prospective employer. (Something you might have spent a lot of time learning the hard way, otherwise.)

      Delete
  9. Something I learned the hard way: most/many PIs DO NOT have your best interests in mind. They most certainly have their *own* best interests in mind, and if this happens to somewhat align with yours, then great.

    Your PI or boss is not your friend- so absolutely no matter what get a signed offer first. Make some polite noises to allow a smooth transition, but then just go!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Don't worry about the PI. They likely have a very nice position, and post-docs are generally underpaid. Later in life you will look back and realize how crazy the post-doc system is and how selfish PI's are.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 1. If you signed a contract.. then at least you have to follow the stipulations of the contract. That might mean some notice of termination (2 weeks?.
    2. If you have a truly confirmed offer...then you need to negotiate for a reasonable delay to permit finishing up what you started. Many of the comments seem to think that the PIs are asocial people who care not at all for their staff. I know that such people exist. But from their perspective.. they also went through the pain of hiring and chose you and to that degree depended upon you to fulfill your obligations. They have budgets and commitments to fulfill and your leaving hardly makes things easy for them, so put yourself in their shoes. I think most will see the utility of easing your departure and will try to work it out. They too were fellows once.
    3. Your career is written one decision at a time and your leaving prematurely certainly does not look good on your CV, if you leave with out trying to make it work. Do it once and maybe its OK... do it twice and you have a reputation. I wonder how may of those that advocate jumping ship mindlessly are actually successful PIs themselves. If they are then that is a person for whom I would not care to work. I believe that prudence and taking the high road pays off in the long run.
    FYI, I was a fellow myself, and since over the years, I make the above statements based on my observations having mentored over 150 fellows and have seen all types... but fair dealing and transparency most often wins out over obfuscation and subtrifuge. I hope that I have been beneficial in the evolution of their careers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon 11:03 thanks for being a voice of reason in a group that mostly seems to be OK with half-truths or out right lies. I recognize such is against the tide of modern views but integrity counts in the long road especially when it come to maintaining your own self respect.

      Delete
  12. I think the fact that Anon is working for an industrial PI has been lost in this conversation. I suspect the influence/longevity of the relationship is smaller/shorter than that of an academic PI.

    Either way, I believe that it is best to 1) look out for #1 here, and 2) bend over backwards to ensure a clean and tidy exit to the benefit of all parties.

    ReplyDelete
  13. All things are negotiable.

    W/r/t your postdoc supervisor - He or she can rest assured that, in addition to furthering the career of a promising researcher, you will continue to correspond with them for 4-6 months and finish up any unwritten manuscripts, documentation, etc. However, I tend to agree with Anon11:03; if you have something in writing saying you need to give two weeks, then that's the best way to play it.

    W/r/t your future boss, they should be willing to have some degree of flexibility - paying moving expenses, or perhaps granting you an extra week to close up shop - to accommodate your career change. In my experience, the best decisions are those beneficial to all parties, even if one side has to slightly relax their position.

    In any case, I agree with (most) of the previous commenters - this should be done as openly as possible once you have the offer. The truth will out.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for all of the helpful tips by everyone. I should of posted this as well in my original post that I am non-traditional postdoc in a non-academic environment. I have my age to contend with as well, that is another reason why I want to jump start my career. My postdoc adviser is a non-traditional adviser, in the fact that the adviser does not have a PhD but just a bachelors degree, and gained his/her current job through experience. Which I see nothing wrong with that. I was also told that it was nice to have me since I was "cheap" compared to the full time staff scientists(that kind of bugged me at first but I was able to get over it pretty fast). Although I am not very far into my postdoc, I am starting to make excellent progress as of late. To finish my current project would probably take another 2-3 months realistically. I have already asked for an extension on my new job from March 7th to March 21st. This was done two weeks ago. I was hoping to receive the firm offer last week, that way I would of been able to give a two week notice. As of right now I do not have the firm offer and am still waiting on it. The job comes with no relocation benefits but it is a job I can't turn down. The job comes with a 401k plan, plus a pension, and annual raises every year(industrial/government job). In some ways I wish my current boss would of offered me a full time position, or at least made mention of the possibility of full time employment from the get-go but I was never told this. I was told to just publish papers so that I would be more "hireable".

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous, I think you have gotten good advice so far but I am very confused about one thing. How are you already talking about "extensions" on the start date for your new job when you don't have a firm offer in hand? I'd be clear with your new employers that your availability begins "two weeks after you receive a written offer". I'm worried that by not asking for these things, you seem naive and too pliable to your new employer.

    I wouldn't worry about finishing your project. Many commenters here have a very dim view of PIs, one that is unfair and that I do not share. But the fact is that you don't owe the PI any more than what the contract you signed says. When I was a post-doc, my initial contract was for one year (not guaranteed of course -- subject to good performance and to the whim of my employer). My postdoc adviser told me that she "asks and expects that people will stay for at least two years," but I couldn't help but think that if that were really the bargain, it would be in the contract. (And I say that having loved my post-doc and been really fortunate to have had the opportunity that I did.)

    If you think it would help keep relations with your (soon-to-be-ex) boss smooth, you could tell them that you would absolutely prefer to stay in your present role if he could match your other offer. (Don't say this unless it is true however.)

    Curt F.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know that people have dim views of PIs as much as they dislike the imbalance of power. I also had a great postdoc experience and a really great adviser. I signed a 1-year contract that was later extended to a second year. But when funding got thin that second full-year contract magically evaporated and I got released early. My PI gave me advance warning and helped me prepare my resume and research summary, which I appreciated a lot. But it doesn't change the fact that the contract I signed was made null and void at the employer's convenience. It's not at all unfair for postdocs to move on from their contracts in the same way; at their convenience.

      Delete
  16. Take the job! Explain to your current boss that 'for your situation, you can't turn it down.' If he truly respects you, he'll understand and be available for a reference if ever needed. If he's unreasonable, count yourself lucky you got an offer without him. Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
  17. If it comes to it I would just take the job while trying to be diplomatic about things, making every effort to not leave the current mentor SOL.

    However, as a current postdoc, I talk to my mentor pretty regularly about job openings that I'm looking at and applying for. My mentor has been in the same place I am in now, and understands that postdocs are temporary, are going to be looking at jobs, and those openings might not match up perfectly with the end of my contract. I do this because I respect her opinion and want to see what she thinks about some of the jobs and how they match with me personally, but also I do this to avoid a situation like the person mentioned in the original post. Not to mention that being open about my job search has gotten her to ask her own contacts about potential openings for me.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Everyone here has been so polite! OK, I'll be 'that' guy: hey, OP, the correct formulation is "should have" and "could have", as opposed to "should of" or "could of". We are scientists, so science comes first, this language pedantry is not that important - but having said that, it's a bit like letting you know that you have spinach in your teeth or that your fly is open. No big deal, but I'd want to know and I would rather hear it from a friend. I wish you well in your new job. Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that is what happens when (self-centered?) managers try to straight-jacket a direct-style person (that is I) into a political workplace. My self-control is either on (vide supra) or off. When it is off everyone is fully aware of what I think.

      In both modes I am completely responsible for what I say and do, whether I am right or not :).

      Delete