I've been offered a post that my friend really wanted. Feeling guilty.

posted
04-Nov-16, 12:27
edited about 4 minutes later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 4 years ago
Hey everyone,

I'm in an awkward situation and I'm not sure what to do, if anything. I’ve given minimal background to avoid a wall of text but feel free to ask for more details.

My friend (Adam), who is a first-year PhD student and has the same supervisor as me, just finished a two-year unfunded MPhil at the same uni and got really high exam results. He was really disappointed to then not get any funding for PhD living expenses but did get his tuition covered. I’m a fourth-year, hoping to submit early next year.

When speaking a few weeks ago, Adam told me that our sup had won a big grant and was looking for a research assistant from early next year, and that he hoped he’d get the post since he desperately needed the extra money (our sup knows this). I assumed he would get the post, and kinda forgot about our conversation.

Today my sup informally asks me whether I’m available/willing for the post (I am). He said I’m qualified and already know the necessary material. Nothing’s set in stone but it looks unlikely that Adam will get offered the post.

I feel really guilty. I don’t need the money as much as Adam. I am very lucky to have had full funding and also other sources of income. However, my field is very niche and the experience will be great for my CV especially as I’m hoping to take the following year out for maternity leave (if my body cooperates…)

I guess my question is…should I do or say anything? Is it better for Adam to hear the decision from our sup? Should I apologise? We’re quite close and I don’t have many friends in academia. I know he’s going to be really upset when he hears the news even if he acts happy for me.

Thanks for your help!

EDIT: maybe relevant? Adam mentioned that our sup advised him against applying for a PhD.
posted
04-Nov-16, 13:20
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
Hi, I think the post was more likely to have gone to you rather than Adam because you have finished your PhD. It doesn't make much sense for Adam to do a PhD alongside a RA post, unless he drops to part-time on the PhD or if the RA work could be submitted for a PhD.

I wouldn't feel guilty about this. You've done nothing wrong. Your supervisor obviously sees your potential and maybe doesn't see Adam's quite so much.

This seems like a great opportunity for you, so take it. I would probably tell Adam yourself as I expect if you don't, he will feel upset that you didn't and he had to hear it from your supervisor.
posted
04-Nov-16, 14:57
edited about 19 seconds later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 4 years ago
Hi TreeofLife,

Thanks for your response. I agree that I would make a more likely candidate due to my experience, and that I will hopefully have more time as I'll have handed in my thesis. But, I know that Adam had his heart set on the post, whether or not that was practical.

My supervisor is quite socially-aware and we get on very well, so I wonder whether I should make him aware of the situation. Perhaps he already has some inkling of it.
posted
04-Nov-16, 23:33
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for DrJeckyll
posted about 4 years ago
am I the only one asking the obvious. The position should be advertised, and the successful candidate should be selected from a pool of diverse people. Adam would be an unlikely candidate without a PhD in any case.

Some departments tend to hire the internals in position after position. This is not beneficial neither for the group that is inbreeding stagnant in the same ideas, neither for the young academic that stays in their comfort zone never exposed to new challenges and expertise.

Bottom line, I left my group of 6 years to join a new group. Terrifying, but worth it. I really progressed as a researcher in a way I wouldn't have otherwise. My advice is probably meaningless, as I wouldn't have even believed myself from the future.

Good luck
posted
05-Nov-16, 09:21
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From DrJeckyll:
am I the only one asking the obvious. The position should be advertised, and the successful candidate should be selected from a pool of diverse people. Adam would be an unlikely candidate without a PhD in any case.

Some departments tend to hire the internals in position after position. This is not beneficial neither for the group that is inbreeding stagnant in the same ideas, neither for the young academic that stays in their comfort zone never exposed to new challenges and expertise.

Bottom line, I left my group of 6 years to join a new group. Terrifying, but worth it. I really progressed as a researcher in a way I wouldn't have otherwise. My advice is probably meaningless, as I wouldn't have even believed myself from the future.

Good luck


Wow what helpful advice...

For a start the OP hasn't said they've been offered the post, they would still need to apply. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with hiring internals. The job market as it is, often the best thing for graduates is for supervisors to give them an opportunity to start them
Off.The job is temporary, and it'll look good for future applications that the uni liked them enough to want them to stick around.
posted
05-Nov-16, 11:31
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Nesrine87:
Hey everyone,

I'm in an awkward situation and I'm not sure what to do, if anything. I’ve given minimal background to avoid a wall of text but feel free to ask for more details.

My friend (Adam), who is a first-year PhD student and has the same supervisor as me, just finished a two-year unfunded MPhil at the same uni and got really high exam results. He was really disappointed to then not get any funding for PhD living expenses but did get his tuition covered. I’m a fourth-year, hoping to submit early next year.

When speaking a few weeks ago, Adam told me that our sup had won a big grant and was looking for a research assistant from early next year, and that he hoped he’d get the post since he desperately needed the extra money (our sup knows this). I assumed he would get the post, and kinda forgot about our conversation.

Today my sup informally asks me whether I’m available/willing for the post (I am). He said I’m qualified and already know the necessary material. Nothing’s set in stone but it looks unlikely that Adam will get offered the post.

I feel really guilty. I don’t need the money as much as Adam. I am very lucky to have had full funding and also other sources of income. However, my field is very niche and the experience will be great for my CV especially as I’m hoping to take the following year out for maternity leave (if my body cooperates…)

I guess my question is…should I do or say anything? Is it better for Adam to hear the decision from our sup? Should I apologise? We’re quite close and I don’t have many friends in academia. I know he’s going to be really upset when he hears the news even if he acts happy for me.

Thanks for your help!

EDIT: maybe relevant? Adam mentioned that our sup advised him against applying for a PhD.


What Adam wants is utterly irrelevant.
You should take the job if that is what you want and feel no guilt. I would however talk to Adam first before accepting it.
If he is as good a friend as you think he is, he will understand. If he doesnt understand then he isnt a friend and not worth worrying about. My career is more important to me than friends so my viewpoint is probably more ruthless than most.
posted
05-Nov-16, 11:39
edited about 2 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From DrJeckyll:
am I the only one asking the obvious. The position should be advertised, and the successful candidate should be selected from a pool of diverse people. Adam would be an unlikely candidate without a PhD in any case.

Some departments tend to hire the internals in position after position. This is not beneficial neither for the group that is inbreeding stagnant in the same ideas, neither for the young academic that stays in their comfort zone never exposed to new challenges and expertise.

Bottom line, I left my group of 6 years to join a new group. Terrifying, but worth it. I really progressed as a researcher in a way I wouldn't have otherwise. My advice is probably meaningless, as I wouldn't have even believed myself from the future.

Good luck


Firstly, in the real world, people buy people. If I have a person who I know I can trust I will hire them. End of story. You can make me advertise all you like but I will pick whoever I like. That is as true in industry as it is in academia. Who you know matters.
Secondly, staying in the same group doesnt automatically make you or your group stagnant. That is just nonsense. Why would forcing someone to move away from family and friends be a good thing if it ruins their quality of life? Advising such things in the manner you have done is appalling advice. In fairness it is advice which is very common in academia but then academia is stuck in the 1930's. Ironic that new academic staff quickly learn how to spout the stagnant advice of previous generations. Times have changed and it would be nice if academics could start playing a different tune in terms of their thinking when it comes to career paths.

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