Searching for a leadership role in an international school

International school leadership opportunities Search Associates ANZ digital image of arrows travelling across a dual highway

You may be a very experienced leader within your local context, but there is an additional competitive layer for those educators seeking international school leadership opportunities for the first time.

No matter where you come from, if you have not gained experience overseas, the challenge is that schools/recruiters often do not understand how your skills and experience will translate to an international school setting, where demands may be varied and unlike those experienced at ‘home’. An administrator’s role may often be full-on. Everyone comes to you for decisions. You have to be there 24/7, as the first port of call in your teachers’ personal lives. In emergencies, they may not have family or friends to call upon (or speak the language), so you may need to step up and advocate on their behalf, depending on the situation.

What are you looking for?

The first step on your journey overseas should be understanding your ‘why’ and knowing exactly what you are seeking in your next job. More important than listing the countries you are interested in, list criteria such as the size of the school, the type of curriculum, and the leadership style you want to find in the school. Then prioritize these criteria.

Leadership candidates may not notice many day-to-day differences in the operational structures of international schools compared to their country of origin. However, behind the scenes, there are not-for-profit, embassy-supported schools as well as global chains, such as GEMS Education, Nord Anglia Education, and Cognita, who between them jointly operate hundreds of schools. Find out the type of leadership structure in place at schools of interest and imagine how you will rise to the challenge of working within that system.

International school leadership opportunities Search Associates ANZ photo of hands about to piece together two jigsaw puzzle tiles

Once you have identified the type of school you want to work in and the type of leaders you want to work with, match this with your own personal beliefs and philosophy about education. It is important to find a school to work in that meets your own value system so that you don’t find yourself conflicted in your work at the school. This clarity is important as it helps you when you are searching for that new role within the Search database, and/or reviewing leadership vacancies.

For Head of School or Divisional Principal positions, you should review positions that are posted on the Leadership vacancies page. Schools post positions there and candidates need to follow the instructions in each posting to apply for the position(s) that they are interested in. Candidates should apply as early as they can and try to avoid applying at the last minute as positions are sometimes filled before the deadline.

There are a lot of international school organizations offering professional development and allowing you to get to know and build relationships with international school leaders around the world. The Academy of International School Heads is an organization offering leadership courses, as does the AAIE Institute.

If you want to specifically target IB schools overseas have a look at the workshops available on the IBO. To register for a workshop, insert “Lead” into the database search fields and there will be a list of IB leadership workshops (Category 3) that are available (for those with prior IB experience). While this is not a guarantee of a job in an international school, it is an option for some professional development as well as some networking with leaders in IB Schools around the world.

How can Search Associates help?

International school leadership opportunities Search Associates ANZ image depicting work colleagues in a board room fitting together different sized cogs

Search Associates can also help you by reviewing your BIO section within your Search online file, your letters of application, and your CV, and providing suggestions. We have experienced international leaders on staff who have extensive experience in recruiting leaders for their schools. Part of the service entitles you to access their advice and expertise – all you have to do is ASK US by sending an email to your Search office.

In addition, based on the depth and range of experience that Search Associates staff have, we can help candidates understand how to write letters so that international recruiters understand the transferability of the skill set of ‘first timers’ overseas, structure the CV in a way that will also help, and if they get interviews, help with interviews. You may like to listen to Nick explain his tips for career advancement at the podcast “Where’s your head at.”

In brief, you have to build the skill set and move with a deliberate plan toward an outcome. If you’re a teacher, become head of the department. Work on the accreditation team, volunteer in the school, and get your Master’s degree. Advancement then becomes the logical next phase in your journey as an educator.
As an assistant principal, you’re thinking about what you need to start doing to take the next step. Are you mentoring and observing teachers? Are you involved with the Board of Directors? Or, maybe curriculum or technology is of more interest. There are other avenues in leadership that you may be more suited to.

Finding the right leadership role that will add value to your CV and allow you to pursue your leadership goals is challenging, full of highs and lows. However, with the often transient nature of international schools, these roles can come up faster than those in your home country.  Our staff at Search Associates can help you find your international leadership position, and provide perspective and balance when you need it. To find out about how Search Associates assists schools in leadership searches click here.

Discover a world of opportunity

Get in touch