As a faculty member going on the market this year, when should I tell my graduate students about this? I certainly don't want to cause undue concern, since the most likely scenario is that I remain at my current institution. However, I also don't want to feel like I am lying to them, which seems like the only way to avoid this conversation if I need to travel for multiple days on interviews.
Date: 20 Oct 2011 00:28
Number of posts: 6
RSS: New posts
My advisor did this during my second year of graduate school, and did not inform me until he received an offer. I wish he had informed me sooner, but only because I missed the deadline at the new institution for a large fellowship. If you plan to take your students with you (or at least give them that option), you might be conscientious about the steps your students will need to take to transfer, and note any important deadlines. Otherwise I don't see any need to worry (or excite) them prematurely.
Best of luck in your search!
Don't tell them. I was a student who ended up moving with my mentor after he changed institutions. I remember vividly the emotional trauma I received when he told me he was moving. But I have no grudges about the situation. Graduate students can't be trusted to not tell other grad students, and other faculty members, and in general, people who don't need to know your business yet. They'll be stressed when they find out, but there are usually options for students like staying a year and then moving (to account for the fellowship deadline getting missed if it's a big deal), etc. I'd wait until you know you're leaving to arouse any distress.
I was on the market last year (and got an offer that I ultimately turned down because it was a bad fit) and I never told my graduate student… I am on the market again and I still plan not to tell him (although to be fair, he knew there was a chance I wouldn't stay at this university when he decided to come here, so it wouldn't come as a complete surprise to him). I'm trying to do things now that will help him later in the event that I do leave. For example, I've been encouraging him to work in other faculty labs now, and working with multiple people is already a good thing for students to do in general, and in his case it will hopefully make it easy to find a new advisor if/when I leave. But until I leave, I see no reason to freak him out or make our relationship awkward. Perhaps it is unfair to him, but my own situation (that is compelling me to leave) is stressful enough that I selfishly cannot take on the extra burden of an anxious student. And like socialite said, if you do tell your graduate student, they may talk and share that information when it's better kept private.
I worked with a faculty member who was on the market and he told us and told us to keep mum. He did not end up moving in the end. I appreciated being told. It helped me plan to work with other people, which ended up being beneficial to me anyway. I needed to seriously consider several options for transferring, too, just in case (which I did not end up doing).
Graduate students are people, too, and they sometimes have spouses and lives (so even if you could take them with you, they'd need to know ahead of time to plan the rest of their lives to make that decision) so I think they deserve to know. But only tell them if they can be trusted not to tell a soul. There were four of us and we did not spill the beans. I guess we had each other to talk about it with. I told my spouse but he knew it was a secret and so I don't really think that counts (he was not affiliated with the school or field.) If a grad student cannot be trusted it isn't worth the risk, but if you trust your students then I think they should know.
Geez, this is a tough one. Here's my take-
Say Nothing: If you have no interest in taking the student with you, then I say don't mention anything until you have an offer. Waiting until you have an offer seems fair, waiting until everything is signed and you're packing up your office seems a little inconsiderate.
Exception: If even the suspicion that you're on the market could be disastrous to your career at your institution, say nothing. It isn't worth the risk and the student should be able to understand that once it all comes out.
Warning: If you choose not to say anything, you better cover your tracks… and do it well. Being gone for days at a time would arouse suspicion in any grad student that gets the whole job market concept (1st years… probably not so aware). Be prepared to lie. Also, many institutions will put an announcement on their department web page about your talk (or sometimes the institution itself does this). I've even seen cases where they put the person's vita online. If your student stumbles upon this without knowing beforehand… who knows what could happen. —side note: I once found out where my advisor was interviewing via Google. I knew my advisor was on the market, but my advisor wouldn't specify where the interview was. Heh… I found out anyway.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda: If I were you I would have had a conversation very early on (say… in the student's 1st year) asking whether the student would be willing to move to a new institution should you ever decide to leave. This plants the idea in the student's mind that a move is possible, and when phrased like this (and early on) it shouldn't be such a shocking notion (you should always know that a faculty member could change institutions, especially if the faculty member is an assistant professor or a superstar at any level). Depending on the student's response you could have decided how to proceed. For example, if the student said s/he would want to go… you might be more willing to tell him/her as soon as you have an interview (the ideal situation, IMO). If the student plans to follow you anywhere, then you're sorta in it together, and hopefully the student wouldn't want people to know that s/he is thinking about defecting to another program. If the student doesn't want to leave, then don't say anything. Do what you can behind the scenes to find your student an advisor for when you're gone, but it isn't going to do the student any good to know you're looking around if they are adamant about not leaving. Sure, telling them would have given them an opportunity to find someone to work with… but in my opinion, that's something the advisor should do, not the student.