Job search etiquette

I’m finishing my student teaching and starting the process of applying for jobs in my area, and I’m encountering a problem.

There are two districts in my area. One of them pays better than the other, is closer to where I live, and has a demographic I like a little better. It also has fewer jobs available and begins the hiring process much later in the season.

The second district is already starting to hire for next school year. I stand a pretty good chance of getting an offer from one or more schools in this district.

My question is pretty simple. I’d like to accept a job from the second district as soon as it’s offered, but still be able to change my mind if, a couple months down the line, I’m offered a job in the first district (but before the school year begins). But I don’t want to do that if that’s considered beyond the pale or unethical.

What do folks think? I suspect that it’s trivially common to do what I’m talking about doing and that no HR person would think less of me for it, but I really don’t know how these things work. I’ve held a good handful of other jobs before, but I’ve never been in a situation where I was entertaining multiple offers, especially not for a job that I wouldn’t begin until several weeks after the offer.


Teaching is a unique situation as teachers are typically on contract. My sister is a teacher and it’s a difficult situation. The good schools typically take forever to make a decision - by then, many teachers have already signed a contract with another district, and even though she really wants job A, a teacher might sometimes has to take job B to not risk not having any job at all.

In the corporate world, it sucks for the company but if, you’re not on contract, you can legally take another job.

If you have to actually sign a contract for the first offer, then, yeah, you’ve made the commitment. If you don’t have to sign but just make a verbal commitment, it’s crappy to back out for the better job, since they’re counting on you to start and think they are all set.

But that’s an outsider’s opinion. Do you know enough people in the local field to find out whether it’s common practice for people to switch, and is therefore something the schools are used to?

Advice from my sister who’s a teacher in Wake County to my soon-to-be sister-in-law:

If you know any principals in your preferred districts, talk to them about teaching in their school. If you don’t know any principals, get to know them.

Do not be afraid to call up schools in your preferred district and inquire about any positions that may open up.

Regarding your specific question, I think it’s rude to decline a job you had just accepted. However, the end result is that you need to have a job that you enjoy.

True story: After my wife and I moved to Atlanta, and I was unemployed for eight months, I accepted the first job offer I received. Two days after I started, Bell South offered me a choice position near our apartment and at a significant bump in pay. Because I didn’t want to be rude, I ended up stuck at a shitty, little resell CLEC while my brain and skills atrophied.

Do those contracts include a trial period (whatever the name is)?

If they do, that period works both ways… you can back out, they can back out. Many of my employers have been surprised when I gave notice because they thought “that’s for when WE fire you!” Nope.

But there’s no trial period in the sense of on-the-job experience. The OP is talking about taking a job and then dropping it for another one before the school year has even started. There wouldn’t be any new information about how the first job would work out, just the second, better offer.

What state are you in? I’m in Texas, and my contract actually states up to what day I can back out. it’s like early June or something. After that, I have to be released–i.e., my principal has to agree with letting me go–and it’s my understanding that other schools won’t hire a teacher who broke a contract without being released. On the other hand, schools will almost always release you-they don’t want people who don’t want to be there, particularly.

And congrats on starting teaching. Right there at the end of student teaching you get really anxious to get paid for what you have been paying for the privledge to do!

gigi, what MandaJo said is what I was talking about. Apologies that my post wasn’t clear enough.

In Spain you’re supposed to get a contract for any job unless you’re self-employed, and every contract I’ve had indicates trial periods and notice times during and after the trial period. My current contract in Switzerland indicates a notice time before taking up the job, another during the first three months, another during the rest of the first year, and a fourth after that. And the contract is for five months, so I know they just copypasted the standard paragraph.

Thanks, everyone, for the replies! I’ll write to my advisor for help with this; the contract issue is a good one, and I hadn’t thought of that.