Should you consider taking a leave replacement position? Like most other complex questions, the answer is, “It depends”. It depends on your specific set of circumstances. It depends on the conditions surrounding the leave.
What are your circumstances?
• Are you starting a new career as a teacher or seeking your next leadership job? If you have been unsuccessfully seeking a position in teaching, then a leave replacement makes sense. A leave replacement is a far better alternative than substitute teaching or being a teaching assistant; you will be fulfilling all the responsibilities of a teacher, and the pay is better.
• Are you currently teaching or serving in a leadership job, and have you been unsuccessfully seeking a new leadership position? Resigning a secure position in order to take a leave replacement job is a high risk move. Getting your first leadership job can be a career breakthrough. Leaving a job in which you are unhappy, can be attractive.
• Are you currently unemployed, working outside of education, in the process of being laid off, being denied tenure, or ready to quit your present job? If you find yourself in any of these circumstances, then you have little to lose and a lot to gain.
What are the conditions of the leave replacement position?
• Are you an internal candidate for the position and will you be able to return to your present position if and when the incumbent returns or things don’t work out for you? As an internal person who can return to your job, there is little downside and lots of pluses. You will gain experience and acquire new skills, and positively position yourself should the incumbent not return.
• Are you an external candidate and is the incumbent expected to return and, if so, when? Most leave replacements are due to maternity or sick leaves. Most of these folks return to their jobs. You need to find out the reason for and the duration of the leave before accepting the job. If the job does become open, you will have had an opportunity to prove yourself and forge relationships. You will be in a very strong position to get the job.
• Is the incumbent ambivalent about returning? In most cases incumbents do not announce their intention to return until the contractual deadline. This uncertainty leaves the replacement in a difficult situation. You will need to decide if and when to initiate a new job search.
What are the consequences, positive and negative, of taking a leave replacement position? The most dire consequence is winding up on the unemployment line. Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to revitalize a career with a gap in your employment record. Any gap or step backward on your resume will be viewed as red flag and invite interviewers to closely question you about the circumstances of your employment timeline. On the positive side, if things work out, you can propel your career ahead. Taking a leave replacement position needs to be carefully considered before making a decision.