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« Job-market discussion thread (2023-24 season) | Main | Applications open: Cultivating Underrepresented Students in Philosophy (Penn State) »

08/16/2023

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TT

In relation to BigBen's question, what about the case of TT jobs as well? Is it acceptable (or even legal) to turn down an accepted job for another better one before even starting the first?

Job

As Marcus notes, this is a job market. You have to act in your self-interest. But do nto expect your former employer - the post-doc position you are leaving - to support you in the future. S/he may feel you have let them down, or they cannot count on you. But that might matter little, if the other job is so much better.

anon

Absolutely go with the better one, if you must choose.

(I say "if" because I know of some cases of people holding multiple post-docs at the same time.)

Bill Vanderburgh

Leaving a job you have accepted, even started, is an inconvenience to the hiring department. But it is your life, career, and happiness.

In a purely utilitarian calculation, the answer is obvious.

Construed as a conflict of duties, your duty to maximize your own self-development, promote your own flourishing and fulfillment, even your duty to make your career as good as it can be for the sake of the profession, etc., clearly trumps the duty to avoid inconveniences for others, especially for large organizations that don't particularly care for their individual members, especially very junior ones. (You could construe accepting a job as making a promise, but I don't think that is the right framing. Employment contracts are generally only valid until one party backs out.)

Give as much notice as you can, be polite and perhaps apologetic to avoid burning bridges, but no one owns your labor. You could also share the conditions of the second appointment that make it preferable for you--that might show the first hiring department that they are not offering a market-competitive package.

Postdoc with only one offer

In contrast to the above I think that this might depend somewhat on how much better the second position is. Leaving a postdoc for a TT, no one will blame you. Leaving a VAP for a 2 year postdoc, no one will blame you. Leaving a 2 year postdoc for a 5 year postdoc, no one will blame you. Leaving a 2 year postdoc for a 3 year one, probably no one will blame you. Leaving one 2 year postdoc for another 2 year postdoc with slightly better conditions (workshop and travel funding only?) might not be perceived so favourably.

Sure you should be a utilitarian here. But the inconvenience/cost to the first employer is not zero, so if the benefit to you is very small you maybe you should stay. Of course if the benefit to you is large enough then you should move, but I don't think you should entirely ignore the inconvenience/costs to the other parties (or how they might feel about you later).

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