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getting job reference NOT from own advisor, but from a secondary advisor?

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A former member of my group informed me that our advisor (Dr. A) is known to provide bad references. I've been very productive in the last several months, and I'd like to think that I'm on good rapport with him, but you never know. He's like a bitchy cat, kind of hard to please, has certain pet peeves, etc...

on the other hand, there's another almost retired professor (Dr. B ) who's not really in our group, but provides advice in our group meetings. he's the one who's been editing my manuscripts. he's also very accomplished, like has his own wikipedia page and a picture of him shaking hands with the president of the United States type of accomplished. however, he's also very old (mid 80s), and will likely ask me to write my own reference to be sent to him. in this sense, my official advisor is more of a figurehead, very hands off, knows relatively little about our field, mostly hangs out on gmail more than literature.

now that I'm looking for a job, people are going to want referrals. I will touch base with Dr. A to get a gauge of his opinion of me. However, I'm more inclined to just put Dr. B as my primary reference for graduate school. I have a couple of other good references that I can put down from previous experience. OTOH, I'm worried that not putting down Dr. A as my main reference might raise a red flag.



Edited by spectastic
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When I reach this point I will not be using my primary advisor as a reference.  I have compiled several others that will actually say positive things about my abilities, whereas my primary advisor won't do that.  Sure some potential employers may find this odd and may reach out to my primary advisor on their own which I can't prevent.  If my primary advisor chooses to be negative that will seem odd stacked against several positive references from others who worked closely with me.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you are looking for academic employment, most employers are actually going to want more than one reference letter. You can, of course, opt not to use your primary advisor as a reference letter writer. It will look a little bit odd, and many departments may wonder why you chose not to. But I think this situation is common enough, and if you have glowing references from three other writers who know you well, that will mitigate the issue. (And yes, some departments will reach out to your primary advisor regardless of what letters you provide.)

For non-academic employers, this is less weird.

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