Am I trying to keep too many toes warm?
December 2, 2014 5:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering leaving a research academic career for a largely unrelated industry, and so I'm intending to go back to re-educate myself. How do I deal with reference letters in relation to current job applications?

I'm currently on the track to being a professor... somewhere... in mathematics---I'm in my second post-doc, applying for tenure track jobs, the whole 9 yards. However, lately I've been considering seriously leaving the academic track to consider trying to get into aerospace, basically because space is awesome.

I haven't completely decided, and so for now my plan is to see how my applications go this year; if they work out, then cool! I'll have a job at a university that interests me. If not, then I'm planning on applying to graduate programs that would let me build up skills towards being an aerospace engineer of some kind.

The issue is that I need reference letters to get into the graduate program that I'm considering. Since I've spent the past 10 years building research-oriented references, it seems that I don't have much of a choice but to ask the same people to write references for me to get back into graduate school. As a whole, this should be fine.

The snag is that I'm applying for some jobs at the universities where these referees work. I want to be considered honestly for these positions, but I worry that if I ask them to write me reference letters for me to possibly be jumping ship, then this will basically kill any chance that I have of getting these particular jobs.

How can I approach this in a way that won't hurt my chances of getting the jobs I've applied for, or do I just have to make a choice between the two options now?
posted by vernondalhart to Education (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We're missing a timeline. Is there any reason you can't go through the academic hiring cycle over the next 6 months or so (that's usually spring, right?), and then if that doesn't pan out, contact your references in late summer/early fall to talk about grad programs with fall/winter 2015 application due dates?
posted by deludingmyself at 8:47 AM on December 2, 2014

Response by poster: Fair enough---the timeline in this question is that the application deadline for the program in question is in the middle of January, i.e. right in the middle of the academic hiring cycle. So I would need to ask my references for letters, well, pretty much now.

In particular, since my current position ends in the middle of this coming summer, I sort of need something for the coming fall---if not job is there, I would like to be able to start my new program.
posted by vernondalhart at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2014

If you mean you want to have reference letters from mathematicians, I think you have to choose between the two (at least for now). I certainly wouldn't seriously consider your application for a tenure track position if I knew you were considering jumping ship for something totally different. It's not like there is a shortage of applicants.
posted by ktkt at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any chance you could transition into the aerospace field utilizing your mathematics skills rather than going back to grad school? I'd go for that.
posted by emd3737 at 4:52 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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