In the comments section responding to a recent reader query on cover letters, an anonymous reader asks:
So given the new extended structure of the job market, many jobs are doing flyouts before another position has even done first round interviews. It is a very real possibility that an individual might be offered one job before they know if they will be offered another preferable job. I might be in a situation like this. It seems that in this job market the only logical choice is to take a position if offered.
So suppose one takes a position but then is offered a much preferable position? My adviser actually told me it is no big deal and just to go back on my contract. This seems horrible for a number of reasons. First, it just seems unethical. The school who offered you a job might be a small school who will be in a rough spot if you go back on your word. Second, you could make enemies.
On the other hand, choosing a job is a huge life decision. Job seekers are clearly in a desperate position. There also seems something wrong with refusing to take a better position which would clearly lead to a better life for you and your family.
Can someone please advise on this situation? I would like to know what someone should do and how they should handle it. If it is right to go back on your deal, how should one do that? If you have to turn down the preferable position, how should you do that?
Great questions - what do you all think?