Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here or leave a comment below.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Lucie lives through those ages, so she asks:
My PhD supervisor refuses to write a letter of recommendation for a looming job opportunity. What shall I do?
That seems quite harsh. Is it really a blunt refusal, or is your supervisor simply a little in dubio? I would suggest to really get to the bottom of this. Let’s play detective. In my view there are three ‘persons of interest’ in this inquiry; you, your supervisor and the new job. Is it possible to identify a sole culprit, or is your denial to a glowing recommendation letter a team effort?
First, let’s focus on the final option: the new job opportunity. Have you stopped to consider that this may actually not be such a great opportunity you first deemed it was? It appears you seek to take advantage of every and any opportunity to leave that horrid environment of unsupportive supervision. At least that is how a bad choice for future employment is perceived by any kind-hearted supervisor. Generally speaking, every and any opportunity is not the way to go forward in building a sustainable career. If your supervisor has already questioned whether you are really certain this is the way forward, this may be their intrepid way of holding you back. Back from future deception, that is.
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. Do you know what drives them in refusing to write a letter of recommendation? Are they simply hesitant because they themselves are insecure. Or are they doing this out of self-interest, i.e., is this ‘positive’ personal interest; they want to keep you close, all for themselves? Of course, it could also be ‘negative’ personal interest; you’ve been a complete mess, not keeping true to appointments and agreements made in good faith. In can fathom why someone would not want to dump such a personality on top of an unsuspecting colleague they want to call colleague still in a few years. A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self. Just waste one on yourself. A little critical self-reflection never hurt anyone.
Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule. Bad blood between you and your supervisor for many years to come is not advisable. Through all your efforts in completing a PhD study and seeking solace in academia, you must remember that nothing that we do, is done in vain. Just like the rest of us, you’ll get there. But no taking jobs beneath you!
The Sassy Scientist
PS: This post was written with some quotes from Charles Dickens’, A Tale Of Two Cities, 1859. Did you find them all?