PMP320: Tips for Seeking an New Education Position With Jen Schwanke (Part 2)

This week, Will and Jen discuss six more tips and practical ways to plan for a job transition.

Last week we introduced the topic of tips for seeking a new education position, and Will and Jen shared four of ten tips, they included:

  1. Update your resume.
  2. Talk to your leadership at the appropriate time.
  3. Connect with your network.
  4. Research your prospects.

This week, you will find six more tips and some practical ways to plan in advance for transitions. Here are the remaining 6 tips:

  1. Demonstrate your excellence.

This should go without saying, but you should be good at your present job. In fact, you should be performing with excellence if you plan to be considered to lead others at a greater capacity. Promotions should not be an advancement out of something you’re not good; instead, promotions should be an acknowledgement of the capacity you’ve developed for doing more.

For instance, if you’re currently an assistant principal looking for a principal position, continue being a great assistant principal. Hit your goals for managing and improving student behavior. Ask for opportunities to take on othe responsibilities in instructional leadership. Be involved in civic and community organizations. In doing so, you are modeling the kind of leadership that demonstrates your excellence and gives us other reasons to recommend you for future openings.

  1. Make introductory calls/emails.

Leaders are people just like you. We remember people who take time to introduce themselves, not the ones who don’t. A short introduction with an attached resume is a great way to let others know you are available when a new position may be opening. I have observed leaders who have not voiced interest in openings being passed over when they assumed the others must instinctively know they are qualified and ready for a promotion. Don’t make this mistake. It is our own responsibility to communicate the goals, dreams or aspirations we have. No one else should be expected to guess or discern that on your behalf. Keep your communication short and professional. Rehearse it ahead of time if you want to avoid miscommunication.

  1. Subscribe to a variety of updates.

Many state and national associations for leaders have places on their websites where you can subscribe for job openings. 

In Will’s state, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association provides a place on its website for leaders to post openings.

You can also use free services like LinkedIn Career Searches,, or Zip Recruiter as sites where you can enter keywords that provide updates on current positions being posted by location or region.

  1. Create a backward timeline.

Let be really practical here. If you’re looking for a move in a certain position by the end of a calendar year or the end of a school year, then start with the end date in mind, and work your way backwards to the present. Make a list of all the steps, conversations, and deadlines that would need to be met in order to see this move happen. Create a calendar outlining each of those benchmarks. Include the present responsibilities you also manage along that timeline to see where conflicts or other priorities may require you to reconsider due dates. All this backward mapping allows you to begin to realistically move toward the goals you are wanting to reach in pursing a new opportunity.

  1. Adapt an ‘Odyssey’ plan with options.

The earliest reference to the ‘Odyssey Plan’ framework appears to be in the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Of course, I taught the classic mythology story by Homer of the Odyssey, but this application is a current twist on planning out your future journey. 

Here’s the basic idea: Without a plan, we do not reach goals. A plan needs to include a road map of what targets you’d like to reach on the way to a final destination. One way to apply this is by creating three possible pathways for reaching destinations. 

Plan A should be a pathway toward a desired goal based on staying in the place you are currently serving but making it better. 

Plan B is a pathway toward a desired goal that would require a major move or change of current position or location. 

Plan C is your dream pathway where you would ultimately like to see yourself if failure were not an option. 

As you workout the details for all three pathways, you can begin to see what actions, additional training, networking, etc. will be needed for each. Doing an ‘Odyssey’ plan helps you design possible pathways so that you can see in writing the possibilities often trapped in your thinking. For one example of how to do an Odyssey Plan, see this video from Bill Burnett with the Stanford Life Design Lab.

I (Will) began doing this before I ever heard the term ‘Odyssey Plan’ and I’ve found it beneficial for working out contingencies and identifying obstacles before actually experiencing them.

  1. Celebrate success along the way.

Practicing gratitude for where you are and highlighting success and celebrations of those whom you are serving act as a good reminder on two fronts. One, it helps keep in mind that your present work is meaningful or should have meaning each day. Two, it helps you look for successes of those around you so that others recognize the meaning and value of the work you’re collectively doing together. If you have nothing to celebrate then you probably are not doing meaningful work or not looking closely enough.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Whether you are considering a move or advancement within your current organization or you are dreaming of something completely new, then take time move your thoughts into actions. Update your resume. Talk to your leadership. Network with others. Research prospects. Demonstrate your excellence. Make introductory calls. Subscribe to job searches. Create a backward timeline. Adapt an ‘Odyssey’ plan. And celebrate success along the way. As you do so, you may see more doors open for opportunities or at least gain some clarity on what steps may be most helpful in moving ahead.

Have other questions or interested in coaching on transitions, job interviews or problem-solving? Reach out to discuss options available at

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker