Take the job or leave it?
July 1, 2016 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm finishing up my PhD, planning a wedding, have a two week vacation coming up, and was accepted into a fellowship program. Do I have too much going on to accept a new job?

I'm a PhD student in a field where it's common to work while also going to school part time. I'm about 60% of the way through writing my dissertation and working full time in a grant-funded position that is related to my dissertation work but not linked to my student status. I plan to defend within 3-6 months and graduate next spring.

A few months ago, my boss expressed concern that they wouldn't have enough grant money to pay me through my expected graduation date, but for whatever reason, they were unable to tell me exactly how long I could expect to keep working. I started looking for a job right away and got an interview at a really great company. About a month later, my boss did the calculations and figured there was enough money left in the grant to keep paying me through my graduation. But in the meantime, I got a job offer!

This new job is in the same field I'm in now, but in industry rather than academia. It obviously pays a lot more than my current salary. The work is interesting and challenging, the people seem great, and management is more concerned about work getting done than hours spent in the office. While the position would be an adjustment, I also see it as a "soft" transition into industry because it seems to have a lot of similarities to academia. I don't see this job preventing me from going back to academia if I choose, or from delving deeper into industry in the future.

But! I'm hesitant to accept the new position because it is a busy time in my professional and private life:

(1) I'm still working on my dissertation and it's easier to get that work done where I'm working right now.

(2) I'm getting married in two months, so there's still a lot of planning on that end.

(3) I have a two-week international trip to visit my partner's family scheduled in the fall. The new company knows about this and is fine if I take a vacation early, but it would mean going two weeks without pay.

(4) I accepted an (unpaid, part-time) fellowship for the upcoming school year which requires attendance at monthly seminars and for me to TA a class in the spring semester. The new job is flexible enough to allow for a few hours every week to be spent TAing and/or at seminars, as long as I'm available for meetings and get my work done.

(5) I need to buy a car because it's the only way for me to (reasonably) commute to the new position. I'd also need to find a parking space to rent. I've owned a car and rented a spot in the past, and I've been meaning to get another one eventually, but it feels like a lot of pressure to find something asap.

If I were to have this opportunity 3-6 months from now, I would absolutely accept without reservations. But is there too much going on in the short term for it to be a viable option right now? I am afraid that with everything going on in these next few months, I will be overwhelmed and not put my best foot forward during the initial trial period. I am also worried that I will not have this great of an opportunity if I wait to find a job after I defend or graduate.

Should I take the job?
posted by stripesandplaid to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It does seem risky. Is there any way you could accept the job but defer starting? Sometimes companies are willing to do this for the right candidate.
posted by bleep at 11:13 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you bail on the unpaid fellowship? Teaching for free is a pretty crappy deal when you have so many other options available. In fact, teaching for free is always a bad idea.
posted by rockindata at 11:22 AM on July 1, 2016 [18 favorites]

Agreed with rockindata that unless you absolutely need the prestige of the paid internship, ditch it. Take up the job, negotiate maybe to have the 'trial' period extended? The job is probably going to be better for you in the long-term than the fellowship?
posted by the_wintry_mizzenmast at 11:26 AM on July 1, 2016

Life will never slow down again, each thing you mentioned will get replaced with something new of similar size. (have kids, buy a house, new job, move to a new town, etc.) Seems like you should have time to prepare for big events, but people do these things everyday with as much and more on their plates than you do at the moment.

If you want the job, take it...I assure you at some point in the future you will look back at this time and remember just how much extra time you had...
posted by NoDef at 11:31 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take the job. Take the job. Work on your diss at night and on weekends.
posted by k8t at 11:44 AM on July 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

You are fine. Your list of tasks are a large but completely manageable. Also, it's not particularly smart to prioritise your wedding (one day!) over a new job (at least several years if it works out!).

I would, however, negotiate a start date. Generally, companies are willing to defer for up to three months, especially for a professional, specialised job (which this sounds like it is, given that you are a PhD candidate!), where it can be hard to recruit a good candidate.
posted by moiraine at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would take the job and drop the fellowship in a hot second. Spend those flexible hours sorting out your dissertation instead.

When I was close to finishing my PhD thesis people made comments about it being almost over and back to normal life. But there is no normal, or rather that level of chaos and mess is how life works. So yeah, there will never be a perfect time to do this so just do it. You'll make it work just like you made everything work to get this far in the PhD process. Making life work under suboptimal conditions is what you've been training for all this time. And it sounds like a great job. There are very few of those around post-PhD these days, don't let it slip away.
posted by shelleycat at 12:16 PM on July 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

I was going to say that working full time while finishing your dissertation sounded miserable, but it sounds like that is going to be the case no matter what (you'll either be working full time at your current job, or full time at the new job). The new job may be higher stress but you're working full time regardless, so I'd say go for it! I would 100% drop the fellowship -- you've got the job, so the fellowship on your CV matters less, and trying to do a full time job + TA + write your dissertation is a great recipe for never finishing your dissertation. Since the job is for spring semester, there is plenty of time for them to find a substitute TA -- you will not be leaving them in the lurch.

As far as the trip, you mention it would mean 2 weeks without pay but also that the new job pays "a lot more." You might want to do the math and see if 2 weeks of zero pay but a much higher overall salary will work out in your favor -- it depends on the numbers, but I'd be surprised if you come out that much behind (and maybe it will even come out in your favor).
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:29 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

4) why are you planning on acting as a TA but without pay? I would recommend you not do that, independent of the other stuff.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:44 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Honestly I would probably just stay where you are, unless the additional money is a major game changer.

And if the pay increase is of game-changing significance, it seems like the unpaid vacation and need to buy a car probably isn't a huge deal.

I think the wedding stuff is a non-issue unless you were planning to quit this job to plan your wedding full time. Which is silly, anyway, since honestly planning a wedding isn't that much work in labor terms. Most people work full time and also plan weddings, and it sounds like that's what you intended to do before this job offer, anyway.

What are your post-grad prospects? If you don't jump on this job now, are you going to have a hard time getting a position like this later?
posted by Sara C. at 12:48 PM on July 1, 2016

Take the job and release yourself from departmental/university commitments that are unpaid or not absolutely necessary. You were told that your funding may be gone, so you went and found a new job, which pays well and will help you advance professionally. It's not your fault that you were told you may be SOL when it came to your grant-funded position and that wasn't cleared up until you did all the footwork of snagging a great, new job. Be kind and diplomatic while extracting yourself from the university commitments, then focus on your dissertation and new job. It does seem like a cluster of activity that is associated with high-stress situations (weddings, starting a new job, finishing and defending your dissertation), so your concerns are understandable. I think it is manageable, however, as long as you give yourself permission to say no to things that aren't truly beneficial to you and plan your time smartly. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by katemcd at 12:53 PM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Unless you are in a field where it will be easy to get a job once you finish your PhD and you are sure you will get a job afterwards, take the job!!!!!!!
posted by ChuraChura at 1:28 PM on July 1, 2016 [10 favorites]

That they "found the money" now does not mean they could not "lose" it in the future.

Take the job, push back your start date post wedding and get your trip in the fall worked in. You might not have vacation days to cover it, but if you are making more at the new job, just save that amount to cover.

The only reason not to is because you think the politics of ditching would mean defending would be harder. Talk to your advisor on that one.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:56 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take the job, I beg you. If you think another good job like this sounds will come along in a hurry again, you are probably mistaken unless you work in the hottest of hot hot fields. Screw the fellowship; they are a dime a dozen. Take the job!

I was training someone who works in a call centre last week; they had a masters. Take the job.
posted by smoke at 7:50 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take the job.

Having a steady source of income that is more than a grad student stipend makes everything less stressful. Plus, actual jobs tend to have much clearer deadlines and targets, compared to grad school, and that feels very good and gratifying, IMO.

I just (two weeks ago) passed in my final Master's thesis (with defense to go) after starting a full-time job three months ago, TAing a class with weekly short essays, finding and moving into a new apartment, and a international conference trip with a new presentation. I'll be honest, the last month has really, really sucked and I got very little sleep, but it was worth it and I used my time far more productively because I had so little of it.

I would check in with your partner, and have a conversation about how you're going to be very busy and not fun for this time. Can your partner take over most of the trip planning stuff, and do extra wedding stuff? My boyfriend made it much, much better because he took over grocery shopping, almost all the apartment hunting details, and lots of housework stuff, and ran interference with people who thought I should be able to make time for fun stuff when I really couldn't.
posted by raeka at 3:27 PM on July 3, 2016

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