Are you finding that you have re-written your resume and cover letter multiple times over the last year and you applied for every leadership job for which you’re qualified within 40 miles…but still very few interviews? Do the interviews you do get never go beyond a screening? What’s wrong? Is it your resume? Do only internal candidates get interviews? Is nepotism at work? Is it that you aren’t well qualified? As a candidate, your goal is to stand out from the rest of the field and be seen as more qualified and desirable. You need to present yourself as a solid professional with valuable knowledge and experience to offer in your role as a leader. How do you distinguish yourself?
When you apply for a supervisory job such as an assistant principal, principal, or a department chairperson, you need to demonstrate the following four criteria: (1) significant professional accomplishments; (2) a unique or well-developed skill set and/or knowledge base in line with the qualifications for the position; (3) evidence of leadership potential; and (4) evidence of being highly motivated.
Significant Professional Accomplishments
In your present position, be on the lookout for unique and interesting opportunities. Examples of such opportunities might be piloting a new curriculum, serving on a high profile committee, making a presentation to the Board of Education, field-testing new technologies, participating in a research study, publishing a manuscript in a recognized professional periodical, working in a summer internship or national institute, presenting a paper at a regional or state conference, being recognized and/or honored by a professional educational organization, writing a report, or helping to develop and write a plan to improve school safety or student achievement.
Unique or Well-Developed Skills and Knowledge
The goal is not to have lots of bullets on your resume. The goal is to develop valuable skills and knowledge and present them in the best light on your resume and during your interview. Your prospective principal could always use help in scheduling—master schedule, testing schedules, schedules of professional development activities, and schedules of school-community events. So, take workshops to learn how to use proven technologies and practices in scheduling.
Another key function is student discipline. To learn how experienced professionals handle discipline, volunteer to shadow an administrator. Find an administrator who will allow you to be an unofficial “dean,” and who will supervise you, assign you to routine disciplinary cases, and permit you to assist in supervising lunchrooms and bus duties.
You should consider filling semi-administrative roles such as serving as an administrator in summer school, night school, or alternative school; you will learn supervisory skills and be noticed by your school leaders. Another way to stand out as a leader is by serving on committees. Volunteer to play leadership roles on committees in order to have an impact and get noticed. Volunteer to serve as a committee chairperson, write portions of plans and reports, and present at school board and faculty meetings.
Motivation and Agility
Being an inside candidate is the best and fastest path to becoming a school leader. Do what you can within your school and district to be visible, cooperative, and useful. Voluntarily moving to another grade level and/or school demonstrates your flexibility and cooperation and increases your scope of experience. You will also be seen as a team player.
Another avenue for demonstrating your motivation is to take charge of school and community events such as assembly programs, field trips, community service projects, PTA programs, and professional development programs.
Finally, do not be a spectator who stands on the sidelines and expects to be noticed. Be an active presence, make yourself useful, learn all you can, and enhance your skills and knowledge. Get into the game!