Transferring Skills in Post-Principal Roles
By Valda Valbrun
Recently, I had a conversation that made me think about the different paths one might take after having been a principal. I thought about all the transferable skills one acquires in that role and how they can be useful in professions within both traditional and nontraditional education settings.
As the principal, you develop leadership skills. You learn to lead people and lead projects. You lead the learning of others and design the systems and processes to help facilitate their success. You select staff to match your needs, you determine your goals and develop the plan and strategies to help reach them, and you solve millions of other problems along the way.
In doing so, you hone your interpersonal, organizational, and transformational skills; develop effective communication skills; and stay current in understanding and implementing policy and best practices.
Traditionally, post-principal roles include the central office hierarchy that leads to specialists, directors, and all the way up to superintendent. But there are other uses for these skills that may be less traditional but are equally as important.
Professional Development and Consulting: As an instructional leader, you often provide professional learning and expertise for your staff, giving quality feedback for teacher improvement and modeling best instructional practice. You develop content-specific expertise and know and understand what good teaching looks like. These are all skills that are needed to develop and coach other aspiring school leaders and teachers, and there are many opportunities to consult with districts and organizations and provide high-quality professional development to their staff.
Instructional Design and Delivery: As an instructional expert, school leaders have the skills to develop and design curriculum and training resources to solve problems and address gaps. You understand delivery of information and how to design instructional materials. The content knowledge you have is useful in developing educational software and online resources for both student and adult learners.
Educational Management Organizations: Many for-profit and nonprofit educational management organizations (or EMOs) and foundations are run by or staffed with educators. This growing industry of private organizations manages charter schools and provides funding to help address the challenges in public schools. Some organizations focus on helping schools do turnaround work, and they need the expertise of proven, effective school leaders. The top-ranked education nonprofits are all run by or staffed with educators as well.
Organizational Management: Running a school is not that different from running an organization. Planning for and making systemic change and helping others to manage those changes are important skills that are useful across several industries.
Human Resource Management: Selection, development, and retention of high-quality staff is important to the success of any organization, much like the single most important resource in the classroom is the human resource—the quality teacher. Principals learn to recruit, select, and grow the best teachers for their schools and, in doing so, learn so much about people that is useful when staffing for large projects and companies.
My point is this: principals are instructional experts who know about school reform, advocacy, training, data, programming for students, parental involvement, policy, and workforce development, and you have an endless array of skills that you can transfer to help make other schools, school districts, education organizations, and other industries even better.
What skills have you used the most in your post-principal role and where have you applied them?