As consumers, we all have our favorite brands—from restaurants and designer clothes to footwear and vehicles. We understand product brands and even celebrity brands. But how do you brand yourself as an educator and set your skills, experience, and influence apart from others in the competitive field of educational leadership and administration (ELA)?
It’s never too early to begin the process of branding yourself as a top candidate for key leadership positions such as assistant principal, principal, or administrator, says Gloria Kumagai, PhD, specialization coordinator at Walden University for the online leadership degree programs EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) and MS in Education with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation). As lead faculty member, Dr. Kumagai teaches courses and supervises the field experiences of ELA graduate students at participating schools. The EdS program for principal licensure preparation requires 320 hours, and the master’s program requires 240 hours.
“Field experiences are ideal opportunities for networking and building your brand,” Dr. Kumagai says. “Our students work alongside assistant principals, principals, and administrators. They have opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in their programs. They meet actual ELA leaders who often become their mentors throughout their careers.”
Following their field experience placements, students are sometimes hired for non-licensure positions such as instructional coach, dean of students, or master teacher.
Dr. Kumagai hosts a webinar for her students on how to brand themselves as ELA leaders. She offers the following important tips:
Successful branding begins with an honest appraisal of your situation. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- What is your competitive edge (the very essence of establishing a brand)?
- What are your unique strengths, accomplishments, and experiences?
- How can you set yourself apart from other educators or administrators?
- How do other professionals perceive you?
Once you’ve identified your strengths and accomplishments, summarize them by writing an “elevator pitch”—a quick description that lasts 20–30 seconds, as if you had to explain yourself to a stranger during an elevator ride. Brief and persuasive, the speech should point out the unique professional value of your qualifications in educational leadership and administration. Practice it in a variety of ways until it becomes effortless. Instead of fumbling for words the next time someone in a professional or social setting asks what you do, reply eloquently and succinctly with your elevator pitch.
Don’t wait until you graduate from an online leadership degree program to join local or national organizations. Attend functions as often as you can. Get actively involved, and volunteer for committees and special events, so that you’ll have multiple opportunities to network with fellow members and establish camaraderie. As an active member, you’ll enjoy the special benefits of being an insider:
- Make invaluable contacts.
- Exchange information and ideas.
- Learn about hot topics and trends in education.
- Gain information about potential employers and about opportunities before positions are advertised.
- Impress a potential employer in a non-interview context.
A Strong Résumé
Applying for an educational leadership and administration job online is easy: Write a résumé, upload it to a specific company or job site, and click “submit.” The hard part is getting noticed, being perceived as stronger than other candidates, and being invited to an interview.
Dr. Kumagai offers recommendations for résumé writing:
- Illustrate what you achieved in each role by writing an accomplishment-focused résumé rather than a traditional task-focused résumé. Show activities that demonstrate your leadership assets, even as a volunteer.
- Customize your résumé for each job application. Never send out a generic résumé to all companies, unless you’re uploading it to a job bank site like Monster, Glassdoor, or others. Recruiters and human resources professionals tend to discard résumés that don’t appear to be tailored to the job description. “If you are truly interested in a position,” Dr. Kumagai explains, “take the time to learn more about the organization. When you understand their mission and vision, you can speak to the actual context of the position. Your extra effort will be noticed.”
- Communicate your unique ELA brand on all your job application materials, not just on your résumé. Remember, if you were applying for a position in the business world, writing a 1- to 2-page résumé would be sufficient. However, when you’re job hunting as an educator, you will make a better impression by submitting supporting materials that tell your leadership story more completely.
And don’t forget: Take advantage of the wisdom, experience, and resources available through your university’s online career services center.
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Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements.
Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to www.WaldenU.edu/educlicensure.
Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or www.alsde.edu to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.
Prospective Washington state students are advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 1-360-725-6275 or email@example.com to determine whether Walden’s programs in the field of education are approved for teacher certification or endorsements in Washington state. Additionally, teachers are advised to contact their individual school district as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.