The doctoral journey is a long and arduous. It certainly isn’t for the faint at heart and it requires tremendous dedication and discipline. I am happy to be nearing the completion of this journey and am now in search of a J-O-B. Today’s academic job market strongly encourages new PhD graduates to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship. For those who can “afford”, yes, afford, to do so-that’s great. A postdoc fellowship protects your time as a new researcher and gives you more time to work on publications, additional training that wasn’t obtained as a predoctoral fellow, and gives you more time to work with a mentor in your field. But, here’s the harsh reality…The average postdoc fellowship salary is about $42K per year. Some universities pay more and I have seen some salaries as high as $60K. That might be okay for some, but not a single mom with two kids. No, I need a job with benefits. Currently I am paying slightly over $500 per month out of pocket for dental and medical insurance for my children. Add to that the $800/month daycare bill and it becomes VERY apparent why a postdoc salary will not suffice for me. Before I starting thinking deeply about the salaries, benefits and work restrictions of a postdoc (yes-some postdocs will not allow you to work more than 25% outside of your academic studies), I had an informal phone interview with a University for a postdoc fellowship position. Several months passed between the phone interview and the invitation to participate in a face-to-face interview. During those months I endured significant financial strain and began to rethink the feasibility of living on a postdoc salary. After giving it some thought and talking it over with my mentor, I decided to decline the offer for a face-to-face interview. It was a hard email to write, but I got through it. My biggest fear was burning a potential bridge, but I felt that being transparent about my situation was the best approach. There’s no easy way to say, “Hey, thanks, but no thanks”, however, I feel that I put together a well-written and professional notice. I’ve provided an example, just in the event that one of my readers needs guidance on a similar letter in the future.
Thank you very much for inviting me to interview for “x” position at [insert the company’s name]. It is with some regret that I must decline the offer for a face-to-face interview at this time. [I opted to provide an explanation, but this isn’t necessary] Since we last spoke, there have been some changes in my personal life that will no longer allow me to relocate with my family. I was genuinely looking forward to meeting you and other members of “x”, but want to honor your time and [insert company’s name] resources by not interviewing for a position that I will not be able to accept if an offer were made. I remain impressed [here I opted to affirm and acknowledge the company’s strengths] by “x’s” commitment to [here I opted to highlight what I liked about the company] diversity and inclusion, ….
Please accept this email as a personal thank you for your time and consideration. I wish you all the best in your continued search for applications and look forward to another opportunity to meet you in the future.