At this time, many leave replacement positions are available. Should you consider taking a leave replacement position? Like most other complex questions, the answer is, “It depends”. It depends on your set of circumstances. It depends on the conditions related to the leave.
What are your circumstances?
- Are you trying to start a new career as a teacher? 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 and getting all the experience of a teacher, and the pay is usually better.
- Are you currently dissatisfied with your teaching job and have not been successful in your new job search? Or are you currently teaching and unsuccessfully seeking a leadership job? 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 appear attractive.
- Are you currently unemployed, working outside of education, in the process of being laid off, were denied tenure, or ready to quit your present job? If you find yourself in any of these circumstances, then you have a lot more 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, or a different position opens up.
- Are you an external candidate and is the incumbent who is taking the leave expected to return and, if so, when will he or she return? Most leave replacements are due to maternity or sick leaves. Most of these folks do return to their jobs. You need to find out the reason for and the expected duration of the leave if that information is even available 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 and nerve-wracking situation. You will need to figure out if and when to initiate a new job search and if and when to inform your supervisor that you are seeking another job.
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 deciding. You should probably get sage advice from an experienced and knowledgeable mentor or coach.
It can be devastating to your career to be laid off, asked to resign your position, be denied tenure, or resign because you are very unhappy in your job. These events can be career ending. Leaving a job before getting tenure is a bright red flag on your resume. During every interview, you will have to answer the question, “I see you only worked in Happy Hollow for two years. Were you asked to leave? What is the story regarding your leaving?”
Assuming that you have not been involved in any serious wrong doing, you should be assured that the situation need not be hopeless. Once you clear your mind and harness your anxiety, then focus and plan your course of action. There are effective strategies available to you. However, let’s be clear that no matter how desperate you may feel, NEVER LIE. The field of education is small, especially throughout your region, and information about you may be on the internet. Sooner or later, a lie will be uncovered and you will be terminated for lying. That said, here are some suggestions:
- Get out in front—you may have some control over the timeline. If you are told that you’ll not be getting tenure, then you’re better off resigning. Do whatever you can to get assurances that a positive letter of recommendation will be forthcoming and good things will be said about you if someone calls for a reference check. In return, promise that you’ll submit a letter of resignation, and then do what you can to submit that letter as late as you can. Start applying as soon as you can. If you get interviews you can honestly say at that point in time, you have not resigned.
- What happens if you resign and you don’t have a job? You need to answer the question why you resigned without hesitation– you can’t appear as if you’re covering something up. You must tell the truth. Most leaders have been through their own career crises and can be very understanding. Just take a breath and briefly tell your story. Your narrative must be credible and evoke empathy. A good coach can help you craft your narrative. Never say anything critical of your present or past employers or supervisors. Always make a brief positive final statement beginning with: “I’d like to leave you with a final thought”. This will leave them with a powerful last impression. I suggest you say something like: “I just want to assure you that I have never done anything that I’m ashamed of. I am an honorable, hard working and sincere person who would never do anything that would discredit or embarrass me or my employer.”
- What if you are laid off because of budget cuts? You will be in a strong position to get excellent letters of recommendation and references. Your supervisors will undoubtedly be sincerely sorry to cut you lose. Don’t despair. You are now an experienced candidate looking to make a parallel move. Your potential new employer will have empathy for your plight. If you have a copy of a newspaper article that verifies that your position was lost based on budget cuts, then present it at your interview as documentation. It will immediately quell any doubts.
- What if you can’t find a comparable job? You still have options. If you are a supervisor, you can go back to the classroom. You can explore employment at a private school or a charter school. You can seek employment opportunities in a nearby big city. You can re-locate. In exploring these opportunities, you might find that you might move up the career ladder, from assistant principal to principal for example.
- What if you are accused of a serious infraction? If you have committed a serious infraction, then you should probably find a new line of work. If the charges are false, then find a good lawyer. Hopefully your union will provide you with one. Do everything you can to keep the situation confidential. Stay off social media. Do not respond publicly or in the media. In the interim, you should probably try to apply elsewhere.
As a final thought, you should remind yourself that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Going through a career crisis or transition can be growthful. You learn how to be more resilient, and you’ll find out who your real friends are and how supportive they can be.
Larry Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with clients preparing them for interviews and perfecting their resumes. Find out about Dr. Aronstein at www.larryaronstein.com