Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Turning down a tenure-track offer

Yes, it is official. I have turned down the only tenure-track offer I had on the table. Yes, it might come as a surprise to many and deep in my heart I am not happy either. But the decision was based on rational thought and nothing to do with my heart ( sort of ).

I see that there are only four possibilities when an offer is made:
1) Bad Place, Bad Offer
2) Bad Place, Good Offer
3) Good Place, Bad Offer
4) Good Place, Good Offer

Certainly good place and bad place are very subjective terms; depending on your personal preferences ( e.g. the kind of people you would like to work with etc.), research interests, and teaching loads etc.

Good offer and bad offer depends mostly on the compensations, startups, and benefits.

For me, the offer made belonged to the first category. It was a bad place for me because I couldn't see my research thriving there, the teaching load was way more than I expect for me to be a productive researcher, and the institutional research profile was mediocre at best. The offer was mediocre at best ( mediocre compensation, almost no startup, and shared research space).

Although it was clear to me that the offer on the table belonged to the first category, I still consulted all of my mentors for deblirations. All of them offered the same advice that I had in mind. So I think I made an informed decision to turn down the offer.

The other interviews that I went to ( 4 in total) didn't put an offer on the table. I am hoping that future will tell that I made the right decision !


  1. First of all, congrats on the offer!

    You made the right choice (says a random person on the internet). Seriously, a bad tenure track job at a bad place is really just a bad job at a bad place. Just because it's a professorship doesn't mean it's unicorns or whatever.
    Think of it this way -- you now know you can actually get a TT offer. That should make you feel good. Now as the next step think of getting an offer that actually excites you. Professorship is a big commitment, often lifelong, so choosing the right place is paramount. You wouldn't marry a girl you don't like just because she asked, right? Same with TT.

    1. Thanks GMP. Your wise words make sense :)

      Love your musing on your blog btw.

  2. I can feel your pain in making the decision, as I had to do the same!

    My first serious tenure-track application run netted me two interviews and an offer (R2 institution, I would say). However, while the offer itself was sort of OK the place was quite isolated and, most important of all, they had nothing at all for my wife (who was already a professor). It was painful to reject the offer, but the family implications (we have one child) were too bad to contemplate.

    The following year there were several openings near the city where we were living (including a couple in the same city!), and I ended up having three interviews, and an offer in the same city which I promptly accepted (in a better place than the one I initially turned down). So while turning down the first offer was difficult, everything turned out very well for us. I can't tell you how lucky I feel! :-)

  3. I forgot to add the moral of the story: Rejecting an offer does not entail the end of the world, you can still have a happy ending.

    1. I hope so !
      Especially with a brand new kid of mine, I have to get more focused.

  4. I am curious! Did you find the position after-all?