What should I expect when I tell my adviser I'm leaving?
November 8, 2011 11:04 AM Subscribe
I'm about to tell my adviser I want to leave to program. What should I expect from the conversation? Will she cut my funding on the day-of and refuse to help me find work?
posted by anonymous to Education (9 answers total)
I'm about to tell my adviser I want to leave the PhD program. In the past, whenever the question of choice of career came up, my adviser has given me encouragement to keep with the program, and arguments for why this is the best thing for me. In theory, advisers have a responsibility to place the student's need first. In my case, I feel my adviser is first concerned with the continuation of her research program. If I leave, it will certainly put her in a pickle, which taints her advice.
There are a number of interlinked reasons why I want to leave.
-- My adviser insists on a thesis topic which appears (to me, 2 of my committee members, and the department chair) to be much larger than reasonable. I am looking at another 3 or 4 years of work before I can graduate. I have tried to negotiate this downwards for the last 10 months, with little gains.
-- A number of people who recently graduated with PhD degrees similar to mine have had a terrible time finding jobs. I heard from people inside the larger companies hiring us, and their experience do not encourage me to pursue these jobs any longer.
-- The skill set I am acquiring is very narrow, and marginally marketable outside of academia (which is unusual for my dicipline.) This does not correspond my adviser's promise to me, when she invited me to the program. I feel I would learn more, and grow more as an individual, if I had a real job.
-- Over the two years, I have not established much ties with the members of my extended research group. If I graduate and become a professor, I would be dependent on their good will for much of my research program. I don't see these relationships developing enough to get such support. I am not ready to gamble that they would.
-- A number of members of the group have rather grating personality. I have deal with the outbursts of two of my closest co-authors with some regularity. I don't need this in my life.
-- Over the two years, my interests have shifted somewhat, and I am now less interested in academia, and more interested in a different kind of work (sorry, I'm being vague.) For one, the people I meet in this new community are better company.
-- The work relationship with my adviser has degraded over the last six months. In part because, as a result of the factors I mentioned so far, it became difficult to find focus and motivation.
I have a master from a different university. I am two years into this program. We published 4 papers already, and received one 'best paper' award. I have completed all my coursework except for one course. I still need to propose and pass the comps exam. I don't have a next job lined up yet, but I have done a few interviews. I am an international student, so in addition to worrying about losing my funding suddenly, I also worry about losing my visa status.
What should I tell my adviser about my reasons for leaving, if anything? My goal is to encourage my adviser to shift her focus towards helping me find employment. If I cannot expect to actively help me, I would like at least a supporting letter of recommendation.
Are there any further diplomatic considerations I should keep in mind?