I am hoping to hear from my first choice school soon (an R1…big private university) and there's a chance they may offer me a position. If I do get an offer, my best case scenario would be to defer it for a year so I can finish my postdoc and my spouse can network in anticipation of a job-hunt in the city we'd be moving to. She is also 3 months pregnant which would have the baby coming right when I would start the job. It would be easier on both of us if we could put the move off for a year and have me wrap up my postdoc rather than start on the tenure track. I could use the extra year to apply for funding and get organized to set up my lab, etc. So here's my question: how and when can I broach the question of deferring the position, and how likely is this to be a roadblock for the department? I know anecdotally that they have had job candidates defer before, and this was quite common at my graduate institution (also a big R1). But I'm not sure what reasons to focus on (the fact that I have more time on the postdoc? the pregnancy? my spouses' job? do I want to give them more professional or more personal reasons or both?) and I am concerned about what to do if this is a dealbreaker for them. I would honestly take the job either way, but don't necessarily want to lead with that fact.
Date: 02 Feb 2012 21:12
Number of posts: 8
RSS: New posts
I am not sure how flexible the university might be about deferring. I would bring this up after you have received the offer and have gone into negotiations. When you bring it up, I would not focus on why this would be beneficial for you and your spouse but instead focus on why this would benefit them. They are unlikely to let you defer if there is nothing in it for them. You could bring up things like if you stay for another year to finish your postdoc you can gain new skills that will allow you to become a better researcher and conduct higher quality research once you are at their institution. Either way, you want to think up reasons for why this would be beneficial for them and what they can gain by allowing you to defer an extra year. However, keep in mind that if they have departmental needs that have to be filled immediately, even if you make a good case for why you would like to defer, they may be unable to offer you that option.
I agree with the above post. You also have to think about the long-term ramifications of how you are viewed in the department if they do allow you to defer. This is not just deferring a position at a grad program - which is no big deal - but a job that you applied to knowing you would start in August 2012. They wanted to hire you because you will fill a need the department has now. I know our department has allowed some professors to defer (usually only for a semester) but it does not always start them off on the best foot with others in the department. If you do decide to try to defer, only use professional reasons that will benefit the university.
Just to offer another perspective to consider with the other posts (which bring up great points)…. I honestly think that if you will have a newborn right when you start, that seems like a perfectly okay thing to bring up after you have an offer and are negotiating. It will directly affect them if you are absent right when starting your new job - even if you are only gone a week or two. Most schools have some kind of paternity leave and many (like the one I am at) give dads the same benefits as moms (i.e., a semester off teaching). Obviously, it depends on the baby-related benefits at that school (you should find out through their HR department or online if possible), but especially if they DO have paternity leave policies/benefits, then I actually think they might find it irritating if you just never mentioned this timing issue up front (i.e., if you showed up and then said 'guess what, i don't have to teach this fall!'). You never know - they might prefer that you start later when you will be 100% present. And, even if they say no to your request to defer, I can't imagine that they will not appreciate your up front honesty.
Also, if you do defer for professional reasons and never mention the personal reasons… then, when you get there they will know you have a new baby and realize that you were in fact NOT "learning a million new valuable skills at your postdoc" during that time (they are not idiots). Soooo, once you have an offer, why not just bring it up along with the professional reasons you want to defer. You are having a baby, not saying you want to backpack around Europe for three months. When I was negotiating a job offer a couple years ago, I told them that I was getting married in the fall (October/November) AND trying to finish up projects from my postdoc, and that it would be really beneficial to both my research productivity AND personal happiness to defer a semester and make the cross-country move after my wedding. They didn't mind at all and told me congratulations on my upcoming nuptials. Not all departments consist of rigid, unyielding robots with no compassion. It is not THAT novel of a concept to bring up these kinds of issues and just be honest. If they NEED you to teach starting in the fall, they will just tell you that and you can say "okay" and move on. I highly doubt they are all going to gossip about you and not like you for bringing up a 'personal issue'… that would be kind of ridiculous.
I am in the same position and found the most recent response to be very helpful.
Congratulations on the pregnancy and hopefully on the job offer!
I think that most R1s let people defer and don't have issues with it, so I wouldn't be too worried about that. They are hiring you to teach classes, but not many, and they can have adjuncts fill in in the meantime. They are hiring you to mentor grad students, but it's too late for students to apply to you specifically for next fall (they've already submitted applications), so you wouldn't get new ones until 2013 anyway (and next year, you can have a profile on the website for them to view even before you get there.)
Definitely wait for the job offer, but also do bring it up with them along with other negotiations. I think it's worth mentioning the advantages in terms of the science as well as the personal reason for asking for a deferral.
Top, private R1 schools usually have good parental leave policies (e.g. semester off, time off of the tenure clock), though a lot of the time these polices start after you've been there a year. Check into your school's policy ahead of time if you were thinking about using it. If they DO have a good policy that they let you use right away, then it's a win-win. Either they defer you, or you can take the leave immediately, and either way you have the semester off. You can even let them decide which they prefer. But my guess is that the leave policy won't let you leave as soon as you show up.
I agree with acn. Don't discuss deferring until you get an offer, then emphasize the positives of it… and be honest about the professional and personal reasons. The minute you get the offer, you are a potential colleague to those people and you want to start off positively (and honestly). I personally would never want to asks for a deferment and only discuss professional reasons, then show up with a new baby the following year and have them wondering if I was BSing about the professional reasons.
I would definitely emphasize the personal reasons rather than the professional reasons, because I think the former are more persuasive and justifiable. You could also ask to just defer the offer by one semester rather than a whole year. Or, alternatively, you could officially be an employee starting in the Fall but take paternity leave if they offer it.