28

I'm a computer science Master student who is currently writing his thesis. I'm quite far in the process, most of the writing has been completed and initially I had to do some small parts before it is finished.

I received a full time job offer from a company and I've verbally accepted the offer last Friday, since I thought that I could finish my thesis at the end of this month. However, some unexpected complications took place with my research which means that I can no longer finish my thesis this month (To make it clear, I haven't signed on anything yet.)

I've asked the company before I took the offer if it was possible to start a month later, which sadly isn't the case. However, they give the option to work four days and then I could spend one day on my thesis. Although this sounds interesting, I think that one day a week would not be enough to finish my thesis. I'm afraid that it then would take way longer to finish my thesis than expected. Therefore, I've come to the conclusion to refuse the offer.

However, I do not know how I can professionally refuse this offer, especially since I've mentioned that I would not get any complications regarding my thesis. What is the best and most polite way to do this?

Lastly, I'm aware that this is not exactly good for my career and I feel bad that I have to take the step of refusing something after verbally accepting it. But I want to do this as soon as possible, so that the company is aware of it.

7
  • 9
    Would it be an option to work (for one month) 6 or even 7 days per week? So you may have 3 days for the thesis and 4 for the new job. But it depends on your point of view and how long each day would become. – Allerleirauh Dec 17 '20 at 10:52
  • Does this answer your question? Retracting acceptance of a Job Offer without burning bridges – gnat Dec 17 '20 at 13:27
  • 7
    Can you not just write up a paragraph or two about the complications and report it in a conclusion/future work section of your thesis? How much worse do you think your grade would be, and how would it affect your GPA? – Justin Dec 17 '20 at 20:12
  • This is specific to your country and legal system. Not the same in France, in Russia, and probably in California or in Texas.... (USA) – Basile Starynkevitch Dec 18 '20 at 20:24
  • 2
    A week has seven days in it, not five. What's the problem? – TonyK Dec 18 '20 at 22:17
88

they give the option to work 4 days and then I could spend 1 day on my thesis.

This is a very generous and reasonable offer from the company. That means it's a good company and hence you should really consider it thoroughly. It would be shame to let that one go,

Although this sounds interesting, I think that one day a week would not be enough to finish my thesis.

Are you sure? A thesis is just a thesis. Once it is done the vast majority of them are never ever looked at again or read. Other than a requirement for graduation, they tend to be completely inconsequential. Having good work experience is WAY more important than having a good thesis. Talk to your thesis supervisor and see what is the minimum you can get away with, how important that complication really is, and what are reasonable alternatives to finish it in the originally planned time. Once you have a job offer in hand many academic supervisors become more reasonable, because they lost on of their main leverages.

I'm afraid that it then would take way longer to finish my thesis than expected.

So what? You already have a job lined up and whether you graduate in 1 months or 6 months will make little or no practical difference. Is that worth letting a job at a good company go ?

15
  • 25
    +1 Talk to your prof. Most profs are pleased as punch if a master student directly gets a full position in a company. – Karl Dec 17 '20 at 19:54
  • 24
    +1 for negotiating the minimum amount of thesis revision. While a shining thesis might be nice/convenient for your advisor, it doesn't have the potential to impact their entire career -- whereas rejecting this job might for you. Consider also that in Covid economies, another offer might not be that quick in coming. – The Hagen Dec 17 '20 at 21:15
  • 2
    sorry, dv. a thesis can be very important, depending on what the OPs thesis is on, and what the OP might want to do in the future. A good degree helps you get into good universities later on in your career if you want to switch direction (or pursue further studies). – bharal Dec 18 '20 at 13:44
  • 3
    A thesis is just a thesis. Once it is done the vast majority of them are never ever looked at again or read. This is very important - plenty of masters-t-be see a thesis as some kind of achievement for humanity when one can be happy if the thesis director read it completely (at least in Europe). It does not mean anything, it is just some work others have done and repeated in some modified way, or some meaningless research (yes, there are exceptions). You will have a "master of science", not a "master of science following a the masterpiece "find the shortest path in Go"". Same goes for PhDs. – WoJ Dec 19 '20 at 17:58
  • 2
    @bharal: OP want to go to industry. Nobody cares about what is inside his thesis. – WoJ Dec 19 '20 at 17:59
31

Why are you jumping to conclusion before trying out all options? Explain the same scenario to the organization, and they still might want to accommodate you.

Earlier, when you asked for the delayed joining, it might have appeared that you want to have some time off between finishing your thesis and joining the job - which they were not ready to accept. They have also suggested that 4-vs-1 day option but that does not work for you. Now that you know what your options are (i.e., it's either the extension or rejection), you can tell them that without that extension you'll not be able to complete the thesis on time (and 1 day / week is not going to cut it), they might just consider that.

Two things here:

  • In case they're not OK with that approach, they'll rescind the offer (which is almost same as you rejecting at this stage). Don't forget to thank them, and move on. Concentrate on your thesis completion, and who knows at a later stage, you might be having another opportunity with them again.
  • If they agree, you need to ensure there's no further delay. Courtesy extension can be done once, but usually not repeated.
2
  • 9
    Or you could propose some solution that does work for you, instead of being purely reactive. – mxyzplk Dec 17 '20 at 17:02
  • what @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil says: propose one (or better 2 different) ideas that could work for you (e.g. 3 days thesis 2 days work for X weeks then 2/3, then 4/1), or similar. That shows you really care about their offer. And if you cant find common ground, just be polite about it, thank them for their considerations and end with something like you look forward to maybe meeting them under better conditions or something like that – Hobbamok Dec 18 '20 at 11:29
7

Lots of people start jobs with not-quite-complete theses and still manage to finish the degree. I finished my PhD thesis working nights and weekends after my full-time job--a four-day work week would have been a huge help.

Yes, your progress will be slowed. Are you in a situation where you are in danger of losing course credits due to recency-of-credit requirements? Does it really matter whether you finish in January or in June?

Is just pushing through with the thesis in the time you have (including the one free day a week from your new employer) really going to be that much worse than starting the job search all over again when you are finally finished?

If you answer "yes" to these questions and you can financially afford it, then follow the advice already given to delay or cancel the start of your new job.

2
  • 1
    Also, lots of people start jobs and never finish their degree, and afterwards think that they could have waited a bit longer, finish their degree and only then start working life. Compare the answers here with these: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/160140/… – eis Dec 19 '20 at 13:47
  • @eis According to this question, OP expects to finish the thesis within a month of when the new job would start. In the other question the OP had several years remaining in a PhD. We don't know what complication delayed the thesis. Perhaps the complication requires essentially starting over and being at the university during working hours for many days to do the work. My questions were not rhetorical; they were meant to be tools for making a decision where the answer might be "yes" or "no". – David K Dec 19 '20 at 15:31
6

Therefore, I've come to the conclusion to refuse the offer.

However, I do not know how I can professionally refuse this offer, especially since I've mentioned that I would not get any complications regarding my thesis. What is the best and most polite way to do this?

Once you have concluded that you no longer want to honor your acceptance (for whatever reason), the professional and most polite thing to do is to let them know immediately, so that they can move on and make other plans.

Just call today. Give them the news. Thank them for the offer. Explain that right now finishing your thesis is of primary importance and that it unfortunately conflicts with working.

These things happen. While they won't be happy, they will understand. Perhaps they will even offer a position once you eventually complete your research and thesis.

1
  • 1
    I am thankful for this answer as it is the only one that actually answers the question. I am university prof - believe me, it does happen that students completely misjudge how much more work there is to do before a thesis becomes acceptable, and taking a close-to-FT job in this phase more often than not means that the student gives up on his studies a few weeks before graduation (we have 1-3 such cases every year). If that's true or not for OP is impossible to judge, but it's definitely not an impossibility. – xLeitix Dec 18 '20 at 8:31
5

I have been in your shoes, those !@#$! theses can take forever to finish, and a lot of counselors seem to have little to no understanding for the fact that at one point you just want to go on with your life. And not put all your time and energy in something probably few if any people will actually read or use.

Maybe if you take the offer from the company to work 4 days and spent one day on your thesis might put some pressure on the study counselors. Who knows what other kind of complications they will come up with if they know you have 40 hours a week available to sort them out.

4

If you really decide to refuse the offer, then explain the situation like you did here, tell them you wish to refuse the office and thank them for the opportunity. No bridges burnt probably, unexpected things can happen. Ask if you can contact them again once you're finished to see if there are any opportunities then.

But I would suggest not blatantly refusing, but just explain the situation and tell them that you cannot start on the agreed date, and that working one day a week is not possible. Suggest (again) the alternative of starting a month later, and if they say that's not possible, see if they come up with an alternative. They hired you, so they already invested in you, they will try to work with you. If it is really not possible, they will let you know. And then again thank them for the opportunity and see if you can contact them at a later stage.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .