I’ve Found a Job – the Final Steps of Grad School

Final steps of graduate school(From the archives of an almost-real email correspondence…)

Dear Tim:

The Widget Company would like to inform you of the following job offer, as head of scientific development, working on the discovery of our next generation widgets….

The email then goes on to state your compensation and your start date. And that’s when the joy of your sweet new salary turns sour…

You become overwhelmed by all of the experiments and “fun” side projects that you still have to finish for your advisor.  Oh, and that little issue of setting a defense date…

I have had many colleagues ask for my advice on this seemingly tricky scenario.  Not to fret, I say in return, for some simple organizational strategies will aid you in this dilemma and let you return to dreaming about the big bucks you will soon be making.

The first step is to identify a realistic start date that is not too far away from the date listed in your offer package. By a realistic start date, I mean one that would allow you to at least harvest the last bits of data that you need in order to either finish your cap stone manuscript or the final chapter of your thesis. Propose this date to your advisor as well as the company – communication is key. Remember that you want to be as close as possible to a real date. Companies are willing to push this date back once, maybe even twice, but do not make a habit of changing it.

The second step is then to tie down your thesis defense date. While establishing a defense date pretty much requires an act of god and is exponentially complicated by the number of thesis committee members that you have, remember that if absolutely necessary, you can put this date off until after you have started work. While this makes your nights a bit tricky for the first few weeks of work, the approach should satiate both your advisor as well as your new employer. If you do follow this path, just make sure you have all of the data you need prior to starting your new job. Please note that no small percentage (~40%) of the people I have spoken with that landed jobs straight out of graduate school took this option. Of course, if you can get your defense out of the way prior to starting work, by all means do it.

The third step is, for those of you in PhD programs, to remember to get a signed form from your respective registrar’s office that states you have completed your PhD program. THIS IS ESSENTIAL FOR YOUR FIRST DAY OF WORK. I am not talking about your actual diploma, but a piece of paper with a raised seal that verifies completion of the doctorate program. Without this you will not be allowed to start work. Also keep in mind that there is a hill of paper work you have to knock out right at the end that is a prerequisite to getting this form. So a month or two before you defend, mosey on over to your graduate school office and get the ball rolling on this documentation.

You are moving on to your new digs soon and your advisor should be happy for you and want to help you finish up quickly. Of course, the world is not perfect and occasionally the stress of the situation will affect the boss as well. If you meet with a little resistance, try to err on the side of being respectful to your new company because you want to start your professional career off on the right foot.

Enjoy those brand new jobs!!!


Tim Maguire is currently pursing his passion for scientific gab, contributing to numerous scientific blogs. He is also engaged in setting up social network sites and integrative communities for both non-profit organizations as well as universities. In his day job, Tim is pursuing in vitro microfluidic systems incorporating human hepatocytes for toxicology and drug metabolism studies. You can find additional writings and commentary from Tim on his blog at ScienceUnveiled.

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  1. Career-related from Grad School to Job | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    […] I’ve Found a Job- Final Steps of Graduate School – getting a job seems like the end, but wait- there are a few things left to wrap up before you go […]

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