Is It 2-Week or 2-Hour Notice? Telling the Boss You’re Leaving

Dear Dora: Telling the boss you're leavingDear Dora,

I’ve been a postdoc for 2.5 years and I’ve been casually looking for jobs on the side and a company just made an offer I really don’t think I can pass up, but they need me to start as soon as possible and there’s not much room for pushing the start date back. My PI has no idea. I know it’s going to be ugly – how should I tell the boss I’m leaving?

– Sneaky, Postdoc


Dear Sneaky,

You are not as sneaky as you might think. Postdocs are, by definition, temporary positions and it is normal (even expected) that postdocs keep an eye out for job openings. In most fields 2.5 years of post-doctoral fellowship is considered a long enough commitment, so your resume would not suggest that you jumped from place to place.

Many PI’s understand if a postdoc needs to leave due a job offer, but they might ask you to finish up certain projects or publications. This is the part where you will need to make decisions. It is common for former students and postdocs to work on publications for months after they have started their jobs, but it is much more challenging to do experiments. In the latter case, you will need to think about whether you can come in for weekends (obviously a no-go if you need to relocate), or give up on the project altogether. In any event it is important for you to keep a positive relationship with your PI because you might need his/her recommendation for future jobs. Therefore, make sure you have a meeting with your PI tbefore you leave to discuss how you can wrap up the unfinished pieces.


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


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  1. Reviewing Papers from Your Past- Is It Legal?

    wrote on April 8, 2011 at 5:35 am

    […] Is It 2-Hour or 2-Week Notice? Telling the Boss You’re Leaving […]

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