I got a PhD in mathematics three years ago, and am currently a post-doc. My appointment is due to finish this August, so I am now looking for a new job.
My dream job would be a permanent faculty position in my home country. The problem is that in my home country, the recruitment calendar is considerably later than the international average: if an offer comes, it could be in mid- to late May (most likely) or possibly even June (if I have to wait for people above me in the shortlist to step aside). Also, the competition is very tough; even though my CV (as far as I can judge) seems fairly good, there is a real possibility that I will not get any such position this year.
If I cannot get a permanent position, I would like to do a second post-doc (somewhere in Europe). But the calendar for post-docs, on the other hand, is much earlier: based on my experience so far, it seems that the vast majority of offers that I could get would have a reply deadline somewhere in February.
All of this puts me in a tight spot:
- either I could sit idle until the permanent position interviews; and only if I fail all of them, start looking for a post-doc. But the chances of finding, in June, a post-doc to start in September seem fairly slim. If I did this, I am genuinely scared I would end up as a high-school teacher.
- or I could apply to post-docs now, and accept one of the offers without telling them anything; then quietly go to the permanent position interviews, and if I pass one of them, renege on the post-doc I had already accepted and take the permanent position instead. But this raises obvious ethical issues.
Of course backing out of a commitment on a job A to take a better offer B is usually frowned upon. However I think I heard people saying that the case when A is a post-doc and B is a permanent position is exceptional, and that in this case such behaviour can be forgiven. Still, I would feel more comfortable if I had more opinions about this. If you were in this situation, what would you do?
Anticipating some objections:
- Applying to post-docs now, all while being upfront with them about my parallel permanent position search, seems more or less equivalent to not applying at all. In fact there is already a post-doc position that I failed to get for this very reason (this position actually was in my home country, so I could not hide anything from them).
- From what I have heard, requests to postpone the permanent position's starting date by a year so that I could do my post-doc are usually not granted (since they need someone to teach their classes).
(This question: Accepted post-doc and have subsequently received offers for full time faculty position - quandary is similar, but their exact situation seems somewhat different.)