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I am a fresh masters graduate (graduated Dec 2018) who’s in the midst of a job hunt. My supervisor at the university asked me to extend my thesis research and publish another paper after my graduation. However, this was a unpaid offer and the professor only offered to covered my transportation once a week (I worked remotely and went on Thursdays for a weekly meeting).

I accepted given that I don’t have a job offer yet and didn’t plan to do a PhD. I was re-admitted as a business visitor end of Jan 2019. Last Thursday I got job offer from a company I was awaiting and they asked me to start first week of March. I have accepted the offer today and am worried as to how to communicate this to my supervisor. I’m writing an email given that I can’t meet him except on Thursdays and the next meeting is my last meeting.

I have not finished the paper we’re working on and I feel it’s a critical time to leave, but I have to. What should I include in my email? I’m thinking of sending all the related up-to-date materials and mention that I can’t continue the project as I got an offer and am expected to join immediately. Also, I’ll mention that I’ll be at the university on Thursday to return my ID and meet the group for the last time.

What are your thoughts on this? I want end on a high note with my professor.

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    never do unpaid work! – Daniel Feb 26 at 9:21
  • @Daniel wasn’t a full time job; just an opportunity to publish while looking for jobs. – Lod Feb 26 at 9:28
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    Oh, in that case: Never do unpaid work! – Daniel Feb 26 at 9:32
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    @Daniel: so you are strongly against volunteering and charity?! I mean, if you don't do it, why not let others do it?! You are so quick to generalize and miss the big picture, IMHO. – virolino Feb 26 at 11:56
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    @virolino: Charity is another thing. But this is "the workplace". May get a different answer on academia, but then, the world is full of PhD Taxi drivers who need to make a living somehow. Save for any charitable non-profit work, I think doing unpaid work is deeply unsocial to anyone who can´t afford to give his time away for free! – Daniel Feb 26 at 12:19
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While it is a little tricky, you should not worry too much, even if you have some bad emotions about it - any honorable person would feel "bad".

You just contact the supervisor / professor and explain to him that you accepted to continue the project as you were not employed. But now things are different, and employment is much more important that any pro-bono activity.

At the same time, depending on your time, feelings, availability, interest in the project, you may suggest to the professor to reorganize the project / schedule in order to fit to your current reality - an employee at another institution / business.

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Chances are slim that your supervisor will be happy to see you going in the middle of your project. Never mind your unpaid offer.

I would highly recommend not burning your bridges. Find some middle path.

If you cannot complete the whole project, do something that would add value to your work like code some modules on weekends as in work from home when you have joined your new company since you work remotely it shouldn't be that troublesome.

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    Make sure that the contract with the new company allows such side development. – Jonast92 Feb 26 at 14:16
  • @Jonast92 How does "contract with the new company" comes into picture here?. I can do my personal projects. How is it relevant to company's contract? – Gabrielle Feb 26 at 14:23
  • In some (most?) countries your employer can forbid you to work on personal projects without their permission. Especially if working for someone else than yourself. Just make sure you know what you're allowed to do in your spare time so the company doesn't claim ownership or sue you for violating the contract with them. – Jonast92 Feb 26 at 14:59
  • @Jonast92 I never knew of this. Thanks for sharing – Gabrielle Feb 26 at 15:35
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As this is Workplace, I'll give a generic Workplace answer.

This is 100% your current employers problem. You have no notice period, no contract, and therefore they have no right to assume you'll be working for them at any specific time or date.

If they don't have plans in place to deal with the contingency that you leave without notice, then they should have asked you to agree a notice period (and probably paid you!)

If you want to be generous, Ask them how you can help them with their problem. If they come up with some ideas that are acceptable to you, accept if you wish.

  • This is the professional answer. +1 – Daniel Feb 26 at 13:40
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I will suggest not leaving the project as is. Explain to your professor that the project now will be delayed as you found a job. Offer yourself to do some work on your own time, and ask if someone in the group can continue with the project under your advice. Or even better, you can find someone to take your place.

I was in a similar, but not identical situation. After I finished my BSc I started my job hunting but in the meantime, I accepted an offer from a Masters student to help her in some coding and programming. Once I was contacted by a company, I started involving a friend on the project and the code. I told her about the new job and also told her about my friend, she was ok with that. Once I started the new job, I worked during 1-2 weeks with them in my free time, and then just gave my friend kind of support on the code I wrote. Everyone was happy.

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As a full-time worker who is also doing a Ph.D. I'd suggest you try to keep up with both things, provided you have the time and the energy. As @Gabrielle points out, there is no need to burn any bridges; and in my opinion this is also true from your supervisor's perspective. So, my approach would be to find a way that you can still work on that paper. I'd go something like this:

Hey supervisor: I accepted a job position starting in March. Still, I am very interested in the on-going project we have at hand, so I was wondering how could we make ends meet in order to complete it while I also comply with my responsibilities at my new workplace. Can we have a meeting to discuss it?

It is in your best interest, both academic and carrer-wise, to have as many (non-rubbish) papers published as you can, and it is also in your supervisor's best interest to mentor as many good-research-producing people as he/she can, so I really see no reasonable scenario where he/she does not find a way to fit you into the project regardless of your current or future circumstances. Actually, I'd say that this is also part of his/her duties as a research manager of sorts.

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