The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil – Gaining Administrative Experience

ExperienceBy Ryan Krienke — It’s the question that all of us face whenever we are looking for a job outside of our current role.

How do I get experience without having experience?

Especially in school administrative positions, districts and school leaders seem very apprehensive about hiring someone to lead their schools unless you can show that you have successfully done it before.  At some point, someone had to give everyone a chance, right?  The key is to create your own opportunity.  If you are currently a teacher looking to break into school administration (i.e. the principalship), you cannot simply hope a pastor or superintendent will take a chance on you.  Rather, show them that you already have what they are looking for.

First, it is important that you differentiate between being a teacher who goes above and beyond in their duties from quality administrative experience.  Staying late to work on signs for a school fundraiser shows your commitment to your school, but it isn’t enough to show the person hiring their future principal that you are prepared to lead a school community.  Instead, find ways to lead school initiatives like organizing a system of peer observations among teachers where formal feedback is given between colleagues.  When you propose an idea such as this to your principal, also be sure to volunteer to execute the project and present it to your colleagues.  Principals in all school districts, in all settings are spread very thin.  Teacher leaders are integral in making a school successful.  As a strong teacher with an eye on a future administrative job, you should be thinking constantly about ways you can be a leader in your school and take some of responsibilities from your principal.

Second, step up to the plate and engage yourself in your school’s learning support teams, faith formation committees, etc.  Typically these groups meet before or after school for planning and this may lengthen your work day.  However, the work you accomplish with these groups will assist in building your resume of administrative experiences.

Third, be transparent with your principal and other school leaders. Tell them of your aspirations. They will help you.  Principals know they needed help along the way in order to gain experience and prepare for their first principalship.  Sharing your career goals with these folks is likely to get them thinking about ways you can gain administrative skills within your current school and who knows they may even do some networking for you!

Lastly, don’t leave your principal search to chance.  Only part of the job search is about the actual application. If you’re like me you can’t remember the last time you got a job without knowing someone or being privy to the unpublished details of the position.  Information is power, so conduct informational meetings to learn more about administrative roles in various settings and the skills you’ll need to succeed. It’s amazing what you can learn in 30 minutes over a cup of coffee.  Plus at the end of the interview if things went well you might be able to get one or two more contacts.  If you think about it, after a few successful informational interviews you might have people telling those doing the hiring about you. After all, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil!

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