I was recently visiting a secondary campus where the principal asked me to meet with one of his assistant principles who was beginning to get disgruntled due to his lack of success at securing his next job. I agreed. When I met with the AP, I asked him what he was thought set him apart from other applicants. He shared his background, which was solid, and he had some professional experiences that were valuable and unique. As his principal had attested, he was (and is) a viable principal candidate.
I then asked him what in his experience was hurting him in the selection process. He said that in his district a lot of informal hiring power belonged to a specific Assistant Superintendent and his lack of a relationship with that person meant that lesser qualified candidates were being hired instead of him. This may be an honest assessment, but it was something that I had no knowledge of, so I asked him what about in other districts? And there was the rub.
The Assistant Principal told me that he had not applied in other districts and would not be doing so. In fact he had an extensive list of “not’s.” He would not move; he would not consider an elementary principalship; he would not transfer his children to a different school in a different district; and he would not entertain the pay cut that would come with a job at a smaller campus/district.
I looked at him and told him that obviously he did not want to be a Principal. Regardless of how he believed the World should work, here is how it actually works. There are three ways to get a principalship.
1. Be in the right place at the right time. This is the Assistant Principal at a campus who inherits the job when the sitting principal leaves. Though this is not a rare occurrence, you should never plan on this happening. I suspect it happens less than 15% of the time.
2. Know the right person. This is the Assistant Principal that has a relationship with someone who has an impact on the hiring decision. This too is not a rare occurrence, but it is not as prevalent as many AP’s believe. My guess is that this type of hire occurs about 20% to 25% of the time.
So one could postulate that 25% to 40% of principal hires are because of timing and/or connections. Thin odds for an aspiring leader. Which brings us to…
3. Play the numbers game. Long time blog readers will be familiar with this rule. Plan on sending out 100 applications, to get 10 interviews, to get 1 job. Which means if you can expand the geographic territory you would be willing to move to you have a greater pool of jobs to apply for.
Work of all three avenues concurrently and your chances greatly improve. Purposefully limit your options and the typical result will be that your first principalship is much further off than you want it to be.
Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…
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