Education Recruiter Trey Wright on Shifting Career Trends

The old saying that you’ll never work a day in your life if you do something you love fuels many education careers. But being passionate about education and getting excited about looking for a new job are distinct pursuits.

Planning career pathways in educational leadership is shifting, according to Trey Wright, a national education recruiter with Kaye Bassman International. Wright has also served as a director of career services and director of admissions.

“In the past eight to 10 years, I never saw the postgraduate degree requirements or level of need in educational leadership like I’m seeing them today,” says Wright.

Traditionally, education requires specific earned credentials more so than in private-sector industries like finance.

“Schools have dramatically increased their offerings. Usually that happens as a result of the need; the need creates the demand on the education side,” says Wright. “But I’ve seen it almost from the opposite direction. The demand from the education standpoint has created the need. That is largely due to these degrees being effective.”

Wright expects these trends will continue to grow because of the level of effectiveness on institutions and student populations. For those who identify a real passion for educational leadership, Wright encourages pursuing graduate degrees.

“The main reason is because it increases a person’s employability. Secondly, it’s a very competitive landscape from a jobs perspective. Those people who have the advanced degrees, and some experience to tie together with that, position themselves for more success than those who don’t have that,” he says. “In the past, you saw people matriculate into a role that was merit-based. Now we’re seeing more of an education-based system. Schools need people with advanced-level degrees so they can add curriculum and programs. That’s important from a lot of different angles.”

Standing out in the field

Educators with a track record of connecting with others outside their immediate circle of influence are both more visible and more appealing than the average candidate, whose job search consists of sending out resumes online.

“I firmly believe that an active candidate is going to be a more attractive candidate,” says Wright. “A person who is reactive is sitting back, waiting for whatever happens. Their reaction is a result of something that they saw or that came across their desk, as opposed to somebody who is a little more aggressive and working toward their own benefit.”

Networking heavily now can make the difference when it comes time to look for a new job or promotion opportunity. Wright suggests a multipronged approach:

  • Associate with a network of folks in the area that you’re working toward.
  • Build and manage a strong professional social media.
  • Participate in subject matter expertise conversations in various media, such as trade publications, magazines, articles, and press releases.
  • Speak at professional industry-level events.

Avoid self-sabotage

Educators tend to be well educated, well read, and have a tremendous amount of depth in a specific field. Ironically, those traits often don’t translate into great interviews, says Wright. “Sometimes a person can know too much, and not take good counsel.”

As a recruiter, Wright often goes through mock interviews to help people learn to avoid going off on tangents or down a rabbit hole. In more extreme cases, he works with candidates who don’t realize that their answers could potentially disqualify them for the job.

“Sometimes people are too smart for their own good. Instead of taking good counsel from people who do this for a living, and who are in constant contact with the person or people that they will be interviewing with, and know the red flags and what the client doesn’t want to hear, they feel, ‘Because I am who I am and I’ve done what I’ve done, that this is the way I should answer this question,’” he says. “I see that a lot.”

Executive searches are driven by (and paid for) by the hiring client, and so the recruiters don’t want to coach unsuitable candidates to say the right things. But Wright comes across what he calls rock star candidates who are brilliant at their job, yet don’t interview well. He compares these educators to students who don’t test well, but perform at the highest level in practical situations. “They’re not good at communicating how they perform,” says Wright.

In these cases, explicitly telling the candidate that another finalist has been eliminated because they’ve answered a question in a particular way can persuade them to reconsider their approach.

Taking the long view

Thoughtful education career planning takes time and consideration. Here are Wright’s recommendations.

  • Do your due diligence on the direction that you are thinking or feeling you need to take your career. Look at the occupational outlook on those positions over the next 10 or 20 years.
  • If you’re entering education from another field, find a strong program. Look at career services numbers. How many students completed the program? How many are employed in the field where they received their degree? How robust and accessible are the alumni network in the field?
  • If you’re already working as an educator, talk to the people within your organization or school. Have a deep-level dialogue about what you need to do from an education standpoint to go from A to B or A to C in your career. “A lot of times, you’ll find someone within your HR department, or a mentor in your department, will give you the guidance that you need to follow a certain education path,” says Wright.
  • Ask lots of questions, and don’t assume that there’s a single pathway, or that you’ve done all you need to do. “A lot of job descriptions will give you specifics as it relates to requirements. You could have the requirement now to get into the role that you’re looking to get into — but don’t be satisfied with that. Look above that.”

Rebecca L. Weber is a journalist who covers education, the arts, the environment, and more for the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, and other publications. Visit her online at www.rebeccalweber.com or on Twitter @rebeccalweber.