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how to answer questions on why you've left your last position?


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#1 vetticus3

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 07:14 AM

Hi,

 

I trying to figure out a nice way to explain why I've left my last position.  Is it alright to say that I spent years setting up the system, buying the equipment, creating and testing the protocols, putting in all the work that happens when a new system is being made, and now that it is ready for the big time...  it was given to a new postdoc because my contract finished.  The boss had hired someone else and let me go because... i don't know.

 

I don't want to lie and I don't want to badmouth my boss, but really, I don't know why I was not carried on with the project.  This is something that has happened to a few people in the lab.  They were just let go.  Technically, I will still be working on aspects of the project as a "guest".  Heaps of people are asking why I'm no longer there, as they don't know (or like) the person who replaced me.  Quite a few people who I worked with know about the situation (and are upset about it, as it brings their own future into quesiton), so I have no problem discussing it with them.  But for interviews?  I can't bad mouth the boss, and yet I put in all the work to get everything started and published etc.  From the outside perspective - it looks a bit suspect.

 

Is it alright to say that I've decided that it is not the direction I want to go in my career and my current employer has no opportunities in the direction I'd like to head?  Something else?

 

Any advice would be appreciated.



#2 pito

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 07:38 AM

Hi,

 

I trying to figure out a nice way to explain why I've left my last position.  Is it alright to say that I spent years setting up the system, buying the equipment, creating and testing the protocols, putting in all the work that happens when a new system is being made, and now that it is ready for the big time...  it was given to a new postdoc because my contract finished.  The boss had hired someone else and let me go because... i don't know.

 

I don't want to lie and I don't want to badmouth my boss, but really, I don't know why I was not carried on with the project.  This is something that has happened to a few people in the lab.  They were just let go.  Technically, I will still be working on aspects of the project as a "guest".  Heaps of people are asking why I'm no longer there, as they don't know (or like) the person who replaced me.  Quite a few people who I worked with know about the situation (and are upset about it, as it brings their own future into quesiton), so I have no problem discussing it with them.  But for interviews?  I can't bad mouth the boss, and yet I put in all the work to get everything started and published etc.  From the outside perspective - it looks a bit suspect.

 

Is it alright to say that I've decided that it is not the direction I want to go in my career and my current employer has no opportunities in the direction I'd like to head?  Something else?

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

Whats the reason your boss gave you ?

 

 

And: stating it was not the direction you wanted to do...its risky.. it can backfire... especially if you state that you prepared everything, optimalised everything etc.. then leaving with that reason, seems a bit weird and some people might think you are not the kind of person that finishes up.


If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#3 vetticus3

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 08:16 AM

I was not given a reason. 

I was told that the work I've done in fanstastic and all of that, but your contract is finishing and have you found a new position yet?

 

What can I say?



#4 pito

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 08:23 AM

I was not given a reason. 

I was told that the work I've done in fanstastic and all of that, but your contract is finishing and have you found a new position yet?

 

What can I say?

You need to get a reply from your boss, you need to know why!

This is the first thing you should ask.

I find it strange you did not ask for this.

 

I have the idea that you are not assertive enough sometimes, based on your posts. I might be wrong of course.

 

I think its important for you to find out why (it could be something stupid like: too expensive , a younger one is cheaper..)

 

I also should use the fact that your boss stated you did a good job! Let him write this down in a letter of recommendation! This is good for you to show to oithers.. And let hem include the reason why you are not there anymore (if its a "good" reason, like for example: the lab wanted to keep you, but could not afford it anymore.. something you can use in your benefit).

 

its also important to be sure you will still be on papers if they publih things that are based on your work. YOu state you still help them? guide them? This is an advantage (or you can use it as an advantage). It proves they still trust you and do find you good as a scientist.. So you can also use this.


If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#5 hobglobin

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 09:12 AM

did you ask for a prolongation when you talked with them? perhaps they waited for that.

If the contact to your (former) boss was good and s/he is affable enough you can even explain your situation now, i.e. that it's difficult to find something new without "having finished that".

If it's not possible I'd emphasise your texts differently, i.e. not that you did everything as you described it and then you were out, but that you seek something new (new techniques, countries, teams), that it was only a temporary employment anyway and that you still cooperate with them as they need your help.


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...except casandra's that belong to the funniest, most interesting and imaginative (or over-imaginative?) ones, I suppose.

That is....if she posts at all.


#6 vetticus3

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 09:16 AM

Oh, you think I have a boss that is logical that I can just ask questions...

 

Someone else in my lab was let go because she had an argument with a student and caused that student not to stay in the lab.  But, the student had left 3 months prior to this person even working here.  They had never met.  There was no argument.  This was all in the boss's mind.

 

We had an excellent technician who was let go because he couldn't repeat the results carried out by some postdocs.  The postdocs who had constant cell contamination, lost results, and really dodgy work.  The dodgy postdocs remain, the excellent technician was let go.  No reason given to the technician - just rumours going around that he was a "project killer".

 

I was given a cold shoulder for months because the boss thought I was arguing with a technician - who I never see and was not having an argument with because he works in a different facility and I never see him.  I haven't had arguments with anyone in the lab.

 

Or the time a postdoc was told they could submitt a grant, spent weeks working on it, and was told the day before it was going to submitted not to submitt because (and this is true) she might take the money and move to another lab.

 

Or the time one postdoc was not allowed to buy any compounds or antibodies (not official, just when ever she placed an order it was never ordered), so she had to ask other people to order for her.  This was not a question of budget, just something to annoy her.

 

Another postdoc quit because he couldn't stand working for such a PI.  All together, we've had 4 postdocs quit due to office politics.  And another 2 are having their contracts fade out.

 

I was happy that my contract ended there... it's been a nightmare.  Talking with my boss is like walking around landmines.  When I was assertive I was put in the "naughty" group and ignored (no meetings for months, no email replies etc).  You never knew when things were going to go badly - because there was often no basis for being treated that way.  I am not going to ask him why I was let go.  Nope, never, not on your life.

 

But, I can't say that to a prospective employer. 

 

I had my contract extended once, and was told that this was highly unusual.  Now I wonder if it is unusual because the boss doesn't like people hanging around for long, or because no one asks for their contract to be extended.



#7 pito

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 11:36 AM

Very strange situation...

 

I guess its important for you now to keep the boss on your good side so he can give you a positive evaluation.

But do you have a letter or recommendation from him?


If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#8 vetticus3

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 12:04 PM

Well, I did ask for a reference letter and he said he would give it to me... waiting.  If I send him an email to remind him, I don't know if he will send it or get annoyed and not send ever.  He did sit on a manuscript for over 6 months because... I have no idea.

 

It has been a really strange situation - which is really hard to describe.  I was used to an open, honest, lab - but this has been something else entirely.

 

Still, thanks to everyone for the advice on how to explain leaving.  My goal was to set things up, and they are set up.  Excellent.  Time to move on.



#9 pito

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 09:53 PM

Well, I did ask for a reference letter and he said he would give it to me... waiting.  If I send him an email to remind him, I don't know if he will send it or get annoyed and not send ever.  He did sit on a manuscript for over 6 months because... I have no idea.

 

It has been a really strange situation - which is really hard to describe.  I was used to an open, honest, lab - but this has been something else entirely.

 

Still, thanks to everyone for the advice on how to explain leaving.  My goal was to set things up, and they are set up.  Excellent.  Time to move on.

Well, if you are ever again at the lab.. go see the boss and "force" him to make it. Or email the boss again and state that you really need to reference  because you are at the point of getting a new job and need the paper.

 

 

And yes: you might use that argument as a reason why you left: that you were hired to set everything up and then leave to another job.. but make sure that you say it right, because otherwise they might think you are the kind of person that never stays long and just does a few things and then gets bored and leaves...


If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#10 mdfenko

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 03:47 AM

i would just say that the contract expired.


talent does what it can
genius does what it must
i do what i get paid to do

#11 pito

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 03:53 AM

i would just say that the contract expired.

Seems normal, but many of them than ask: and how come you did not get a renewal? You didnt want to stay? They didnt want you ....?

YOu need to be sure to cover all the bases.

Especially if you, also said that you liked the worked, did build out al the basics for further research etc...


If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#12 mdfenko

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 04:01 AM

she did get an extension. that should be evidence enough that her work was more than acceptable.

 

normal labs (and i know that they are becoming scarcer) want their post docs to move on (hopefully to a permanent position, but, at least, to another post doc that will allow them to continue to grow).


talent does what it can
genius does what it must
i do what i get paid to do

#13 OA17

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 04:57 AM

You can say that when your contract expired you managed to get an extension, but the current economical situation in your lab does not allow you to continue. This is a real and very common situation at least in my country...

 

Good luck!






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