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I'm in STEM grad school, and applying for jobs for after graduation in May. I'm also applying for a postdoc position. A number of months ago, I promised my thesis advisor I wouldn't take another job until I knew whether I got the postdoc, which I'll learn in January. (This probably wasn't a wise promise to make, but it's done.)

Do I need to tell the other employers I interview with that I couldn't take any offer until January? Specifically, I'm in the running for a very competitive job, involving several rounds of interviews, etc. Offers for this will probably be made next month. I'm very interested in this job, so I don't want to weaken my application, but I also don't want to waste people's time and/or potentially annoy them with the fact that they didn't know about this earlier.

This job is geared toward new graduates. The company only interviews once a year for it, so now is my only chance to apply. It is early, but the job application cycle for PhD students seems to be set up this way. The employer already knows I couldn't start until May (at the earliest), and I'm not sure which position I'd prefer, in the very unlikely event that I were offered both.

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    Part of the interview process is usually "When can you start". They didnt ask that? – JasonJ Sep 21 '16 at 12:54
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    Ignoring the promise you made to your adviser, if you were offered both the job and the postdoc, which would you take? And it is allowed to accept an offer and then turn it down later. That might burn some bridges, but if you don't plan to return to the company it is an option. – David K Sep 21 '16 at 12:54
  • Sorry what? you are doing applications half a year before you can actually start? No even better they have a Position in 6 months. Sure are early. I don't see the Problem on their side if you answered them before April, but that could be me. I wouldve started in January with looking for Jobs since in January you know what you have to offer. – Raoul Mensink Sep 21 '16 at 12:55
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    It is early, but the job application cycle for PhD students seems to be set up this way. The employer already knows I couldn't start until May (at the earliest), since I'll be in school until then. I'm not sure which offer I'd prefer, in the very unlikely event that I got both. – ec92 Sep 21 '16 at 13:04
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    Your adviser should support you with whatever better for you. My adviser allowed me to miss sessions / classes / meetings because I got a job, and it was not a fancy job. But he said "this job will help you with your career more than some sessions and couple meetings, go and focus on it". Respect to that adviser. – Khalil Khalaf Sep 21 '16 at 13:09
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You have a couple options, but those options don't include simply witholding the fact that you can't accept an offer for several months. Employers are interviewing you in good faith; you need to show that same good faith to them.

Your best options are:

  1. Keep your promise and tell prospective employers that you can't make a decision until January.
  2. Break your promise; don't wait until January to make a decision, and if you get an offer for a job that you are really excited about, take it.

Option 1 will likely disqualify you from many positions. Employers often have several candidates for a position, and they can't string those candidates along for months while waiting for you to make a decision. On the other hand, it won't disqualify you for the "best" type of job, by which I mean a position for which you are far-and-away the best candidate. If this is the case, a prospective employer will be willing to wait; furthermore, if you're such a great fit, it's probably a job (and an employer) that you'd be really happy with. This option is also of course the only one that gives you a chance of getting a postdoc.

Option 2, while it involves breaking a promise, is also a decent option. I understand your hesitation about breaking a promise, but this is your career and your future. Nobody, including your advisor, will fault you for taking a really great position that happened to come along. And until January, you can turn down any offers (and thereby still keep your promise) for any jobs that aren't really exciting.

I'm not sure which position I'd prefer, in the very unlikely event that I were offered both.

To me, that's the key to your decision. If you were interviewing for a position that would be much better than any postdoc you're likely to get, I'd go with option 2 and take it if offered. But since you're not sure, I think I'd go with option 1 and tell employers that you can't decide until January. The risks are greater, but so are the rewards.

Ultimately, of course, it's your career, so the most important thing is to go with your own gut feelings. The only thing I'd really make sure of is to be honest and act in good faith.

  • Thanks. I decided to tell them now -- I may lose out on the job, but my conscience will be clear! – ec92 Sep 23 '16 at 2:43

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