How can you stand out in the ed leadership job search?

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to rise above the competition and land multiple offers for your next-level instructional leadership role...so you can fulfill your professional calling and have a greater impact on student learning.

This Is Your Year

You've been preparing for this for your entire career. 

You've gained experience, education, degrees, and certifications. 

And you know you're ready for greater responsibility and impact

So now is the time to act. You've got this.

Too many people timidly submit a few applications every year, thinking "I hope they choose me. I hope this is my time."

Here's the secret: It's your time if you make it your time.

Leaders don't wait to be chosen.

Leaders rise up. Leaders emerge.

Leaders compete to win the right to lead.

So if you've been hanging back, waiting for someone to notice you—don't wait any longer.

No one is going to come looking for you and suddenly give you a new job. 

If you're ready to move to the next level, it's time to get serious about advocating for yourself. 

Students deserve champions—but before you can be a champion for students, you must become a champion for your own career, so you can win the right to lead.

Rise Above The Competition

The ed leadership job search may be the first true head-to-head competition you've faced in years.

Education is a collaborative profession, so the idea of "competing" against other candidates may feel strange.

But make no mistake: even if you never see your competition face-to-face...this is a winner-take-all tournament.

At The Principal Center, we believe students win when the best candidates win.

But too often, the best candidate for a job is also the "best kept secret."  Humility is a virtue, but the job search is no time to downplay your qualifications. 

If you don't shine when you're in the spotlight, those who boast the most will win. And we can't let that happen.

Rising above the competition isn't about bragging, boasting, or exaggerating. It's about making a clear, well-reasoned case that you're the ideal candidate for the job—even if you're not the most experienced or the best-connected. 

When you learn how to tell your story, you can rise above competitors with more experience—even if you're an outsider.

It's not about being the candidate with the longest résumé or the most friends on the interview team.

It's about showing that you're the kind of leader—and the kind of person—they're looking for.

Where Leaders Get Stuck in the Job Search

There are three main barriers to landing the leadership role of your dreams:

  1. Application screening
  2. Interviews
  3. Reference checks

Making it through each of these barriers is a competition—there are simply more candidates than available jobs. At every stage, schools must eliminate 50-80% of applicants.

Landing your next-level leadership role is a numbers game.

So if you've been a finalist but haven't landed the job, don't despair.


When you don't get the job, that's not a "sign from the universe" that you're not cut out for this. It's simply a mathematical reality.

No basketball player sinks every shot. No baseball player bats 1.000. 

You aren't hitting an impenetrable wall—you're just not making it through the gate in that wall yet. 

To make it through each "gate," it's essential to understand the nature of the competition you face at each gate:

  1. At the application screening stage, it's all about the quality of your application—NOT the facts on your résumé.

    Even the most experienced candidates can land in the "NO" pile if they send in a poor application.

    A strong application gives a sense of your trajectory as a rising leader.
  2. At the interview stage, it's all about communicating who you are.

    You'll answer questions, but it's more about conveying the kind of leader you are than your factual answers to the interview questions.

    An authentic leader will beat someone with mere "correct" answers every time.
  3. At the reference check stage, it's all about having advocates in your corner in advance.

    If you enlist their support early—instead of catching them off guard when they get a call—you'll be in great shape.

    Your references can start putting in a good word for you now—long before they get called for a reference check.

You can make it through each of these "gates"—if you follow a proven process. 

Your Path to Job Search Success

When you understand the nature of the hiring process, you can prepare yourself to succeed, no matter what obstacles you face.

Your journey as a competitor has five main stages:

You can set yourself up for success by focusing on these key steps:

1. Discover your leadership superpowers, so you can articulate how you'll meet the organization's needs.

You are more than your degrees—you have unique strengths that need to shine through in the hiring process.

2. Recruit your references, so they'll start drafting recommendation letters and putting in a good word for you.

Don't let a surprise reference check be the first they're hearing of your job search.

3. Craft your application argument, so you're not just sending in paperwork, but making a strong case that you're the best candidate for the role—even before your interview.

Your résumé and cover letter aren't just cold facts on paper—they're an impassioned argument for your candidacy.

4. Train for interview day, so you're ready for any question—cool, collected, and ready to use the stories you've prepared to illustrate why you're the right person for the job.

Most people are uncomfortable in interviews—including the hiring team! If you prepare the right way, you'll be at ease—and your interviewers will hang on every word you say.

5. Race to the finish line, so you get two or more job offers, and don't have to settle for waiting another year or taking a position you don't feel great about.

This is marathon, not a sprint. Success requires training and preparation for every stage of the hiring process. 

However, you won't always move linearly through these stages—as your job search unfolds, your situation can change rapidly.

New positions open all the time, and you'll suddenly get called to interview for jobs you'd already forgotten about.

That's why it's essential to prepare—and be ready to adapt the moment you see a new position or get called in for an interview.

I got my Principal role after your Ascend trainings and reworking my résumé. It was a turnaround situation and my Dream principal job! I should also add that I knew no one in the organization!

—C., Principal

Train Like An Athlete

If you're ready to move into your next-level instructional leadership role, and you're tired of waiting to be noticed...

It's time to train with the seriousness of a championship athlete. 

This is your year, if you're committed to making it your year.

If not, that's fine.

Plenty of people are content to keep waiting, and hoping, and doubting themselves, and waiting—forever.

But you seem different—because you've read this far, and you've made the decision not to hang back any longer.

Your hard-earned admin degree is worth putting to good use, impacting the lives of teachers and students. 

So there's just one question to ask yourself:

Are you ready to ascend?

If so, then you're invited to apply for the Ascend Masterclass, and join the cohort of leaders who are making the decision to lead at the next level.

Introducing the Ascend Masterclass

Expert Guidance from Dr. Justin Baeder

In the Ascend Masterclass, you'll benefit directly from Dr. Justin Baeder's years of experience helping candidates land their next-level instructional leadership roles. 

Dr. Baeder is Director of The Principal Center, and has been a full-time author and consultant since 2012.

His videos and trainings on the admin job search have been viewed more than 500,000 times, and have helped thousands of leaders land their current roles—from dean of students to superintendent.

“Prior to Justin’s coaching, I was frustrated and discouraged by the highly competitive application and interview process for building leaders. Justin’s direct and supportive coaching helped me land a dream job as an assistant principal.” 

—N., Assistant Principal

What's Included & How You'll Win

Stage 1: Discover Your Leadership Superpowers

  • Discover what makes you shine in Instructional Leadership Superpowers Interviews
  • Document your experience with the Ascend Leadership Journal
  • Craft your Leadership Trajectory Narrative, so your résumé and cover letter are more than just dates and titles

Stage 2: Recruit Your References

  • Discover how to build the relationships you need to get the mentoring and advocacy that will propel you forward
  • Brainstorm your reference list, so you have a small army of colleagues advocating for you
  • Get draft recommendation letters from your references, screen them for red flags, and get the revisions you need
  • Gain the support of—or work around—a boss who finds you useful in your current role, but doesn't see your leadership potential

Stage 3: Craft Your Application Argument

  • Learn how to separate yourself from the pack when applying for highly competitive positions
  • Write a Professional Objective that clearly identifies your Perfect Fit Role and lets the hiring team know exactly what you're looking for
  • Draft, revise, and proof your Perfect Fit Argument Cover Letter™
  • Craft your Experience Matrix Résumé™ so your strongest qualifications leap off the page
  • Craft your Recommendation Letter Triangulation Plan, so your references are reinforcing the argument you're making in your cover letter and résumé

Stage 4: Train For Interview Day

  • Mine your experience for stories using the Ascend Leadership Journal, so your daily experience isn't just water under the bridge
  • Develop your mental "Raconteur's Portfolio," so you're ready to tell a well-honed story any time you need to in an interview
  • Craft well-rounded answers to practice interview questions, so you're ready to go deep on any ed leadership topic 
  • Learn how to avoid the mistakes that will keep you from advancing to the next round of interviews

Stage 5: Race To The Finish Line

  • Start getting interviews when nobody seems to be giving you the opportunity to lead at the next level
  • Apply for enough of the jobs to win the numbers game—without spreading yourself too thin
  • Keep moving when you face rejection, and find other paths up the mountain
  • Develop the Champion’s Mindset—play to win, and race to the finish line

I GOT THE JOB. I'm now a first year A.P. and loving my job!

—Robin, Assistant Principal

Get Started Quickly

As soon as you register, you'll immediately receive a username and password so you can log in to the Ascend Masterclass Dashboard, where you'll find all Ascend Masterclass training materials.

I am so thankful for your advice! It took many interviews, but I found the perfect fit for my family and I. 
You helped me prepare and feel confident in my interviews. 
I had 9 interviews last spring, which I was very thankful for, but that was a lot of 'no's and hurt my pride. That last interview was perfect, and I'm so happy that everything fell into place!

—Ben, Assistant Principal

I interviewed at a school where I already worked, and my principal was amazed at the confidence I projected during my interview, especially since it was my first admin interview. I did get the job, by the way. I also used what I learned to interview for my first principal job, and I got that job too.

—Jennifer,  Principal

Just got hired as an elementary principal in a 4-6 grade elementary. Thank you for your help and support over these last years. It's been a slog but I've finally landed my first principal position!

—Jennifer, Elementary Principal