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May 1, 2022

I have several friends who are looking for new positions right now, and there is a lot that goes into making a decision like this.

I’m dedicating this episode to my friends who are looking for something, so imagine that we are in a coffee shop and I’m having this conversation with you. If you do want to have this conversation, because, admittedly, it is easier to have over the phone with someone, or in person. I’m going to ask some questions in here, and when I do that, if you take the time to pause the podcast and actually answer the questions, it will be a valuable experience. Just saying them out loud while you’re driving or exercising will be valuable. Bonus points if you actually write out your answers.

And, if you want to go through this with me, just give me a call. (801) 7-JETHRO. Seriously, that’s my phone number. You’re probably not going to take me up on that because you’ll think I’m too busy, or you don’t matter enough. That’s baloney! If you don’t call me, call someone else you trust!

Before we get into the rest of the episode, I want to recognize a new partner for the Transformative Principal Podcast. This is Just Right Reader at

When I was an elementary principal, I saw firsthand how important reading was. If kids can read, they can do anything. But our decodable readers were not great. There are boring, repetitive and kind of bland. A few weeks ago, Sarah, from just right reader, shared her decodables with me. Kids see themselves in these books.

They are enjoyable and actually funny. I’m going to talk more about this in the future, but in the meantime, check out just right for some decodables that kids will love reading.

Recently, a friend shared this article on LinkedIn with me called “[[Tribe, Brand, Domain (TBD)–How to Think about Building Career]] (link) and I want to highlight some pieces. It is written by David Boyce, who ”is a serial software entrepreneur who has helped build and sell four companies. Currently he is Chief Strategy Officer of XANT and board member for Forrester (NASDAQ: FORR). Dave is an adjunct professor of marketing at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business and a frequent guest lecturer at Harvard Business School."

I regularly have given similar advice to what Dave offers here, but he did it much more eloquently than I have. I encourage you to check out this article

First and foremost, let’s remember what a job is. David describes a job as “a transitional arrangement with an employer that has certain features easy to measure and compare: title, compensation, benefits, etc. ”

A job is just a thing. They come and go. They are largely out of your control, no matter how secure you think that job may be. I would have used the word Transactional (because you’re trading time for money) but I like how Dave uses the word Transitional because it connotes that it is a time of transition, not a permanent thing.

A career is different than a job. Dave says, “A career is something you invest in over the long term. It takes shape longitudinally, layer upon layer. While the person in charge of your job may be your boss, the person in charge of your career is you.”

Two important things:

  1. Your career is your responsibility.
  2. No Career can only be defined with a specific path.
    For example, let’s say in your career, you want to be a superintendent. There are some people who say that in order to be a superintendent, you have to have X years experience as a teacher, then X years as a principal, then X years as curriculum director, then X years assistant superintendent. Then you can “qualify” for that role. That is made up. If I took a poll of superintendents, I am sure many would have followed a similar path to that, and that could be the tried and true way to do it, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way to be a superintendent.

I recently shared a sad story on my other podcast, Cybertraps, where a superintendent in a district in Massachusetts started out as a substitute teacher and eventually became the superintendent. Unfortunately, we were talking about her situation because she got caught in a cybertrap and allegedly sent threatening messages to a police officer to dissuade him from applying to be police chief.

I only bring this weird story in to illustrate that you are in charge of your career, while you may not always be in charge of your job. Your career and how you talk about it is completely up to you.

Dave says, “Who will decide how to sequence jobs, layer experiences, and develop facets of your professional self? Nobody but you.”

When I left being a principal in 2020, I told my wife that even if I went back into schools, I would never define myself by my role again. I get to decide who I am and what that means. So do you. And that’s exactly the point that Dave is making. You are in charge of your career.

When you’re making a choice about a job, Dave continues, “it’s important to focus on things that will matter over the long run. Starting salary doesn’t matter. Starting title doesn’t matter (much). Benefits don’t matter… so what does matter?”

Dave calls the things that matter TBD, Tribe, Brand, Domain.

Let’s talk about each of them:


The 2008 book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin really brought this idea of tribes to our collective consciousness. I’m sure others have thought and written about it, but that’s when it really became apparent to me.

Dave talks about Tribe like this: “Look to your left and to your right. Who do you see? People who inspire you? Challenge you? Stretch you? Do you get energy from your peers, or do they suck energy from you? Do they encourage you to do your best work or do they bore you? Are you your best professional self among your workmates?”

Your best professional self! That doesn’t mean you are perfect, but it does mean that your peers encourage you to strive. I remember working for one district where we were in a principal meeting, and as soon as the district person left, the other principals started ragging on the district as a whole and complaining about anything and everything. This group of principals did not inspire me to be my best professional self. I knew I had to get out of there.

That’s the negative part, but let me talk about when I worked with Damon, Courtney, and Carla. These were my three assistant principals when I was in Alaska. Although they were all very different, they truly brought out my best professional self. And that made all the difference. I still talk to all three of them regularly, and anytime I’m thinking of something new, they’re some of the first people I talk to about it. They’ve always set me up for success.

And this is the point of the tribe, truly: “If one of your peers finds the opportunity of a lifetime, and they need the best and brightest to join them and reap the rewards of an amazing product, market, etc., who will they call? The people they know and respect. If one of those people is you–lucky you!”

Earlier on when Dave mentioned that salary and title don’t matter, he was right. He says, “On the other hand, if you look to your left and see Sleepy, and to your right and see Dopey, you may be in trouble. It almost doesn’t matter how much an employer pays you–no amount is enough to sacrifice the opportunity to build relationships with best-and-brightest peers.” Thankfully, shortly after I got hired in Fairbanks, I got to interview for an assistant principal. Courtney was clearly the best and brightest.


The next piece in this framework is Brand. And we’re again talking about ourselves as we are finding a position. One of the pieces of advice I give to anyone looking for a job is that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

You have got to see if who they are aligns with your personal brand. Dave introduces a really simple way to evaluate this:

“Do you love talking about your work at parties, family gatherings, reunions? If so, your work is aligned with your personal Brand.”

I had a job cleaning up construction sites once. I hated every minute of it, and I try to never talk about it. More than anything, it taught me what I don’t want to do. I’m not afraid of working hard, in fact, that was the only part of the job that was rewarding: I was outside and building muscle daily.

As I look back on my career now, I’m so grateful for where I worked and what I learned while I was there. Most of my positions are highlights on my resume, but some didn’t really align to my brand. I’m certainly not saying that you can’t learn things, even in difficult or non-ideal situations, but it really is so much better when you are proud of where you work.

In education, most of us are going to work for “Just Another School”. In How to be a Transformative Principal, I teach principals how to NOT be just another school. Regardless, most of us are not going to work at a well-known or popular school. There aren’t many Teslas, Twitters, Amazons, or Apples in the education space. But I encourage you to make your school that way. Be innovative! Disrupt the status quo! Serve your families so well that people want to know what you are doing.

Or not.

If that’s not your brand, you’d hate working in a school like that.

I was talking to Steve Miletto, host of the podcast Teaching Learning Leading K12. He is the executive director of a regional education service agency in the heart of Georgia. He said that people say they want change agents, but then when the change starts happening, many people say, “Wait, it was good enough before!”

Lean into your brand and find places that complement your brand, as in make it complete!


Finally, the last piece of this is Domain. Dave says, “A key piece of a successful career is getting good at something…No one develops all the required domain expertise in one single job, so it is up to you to sequence experiences so you can develop each facet of your professional expertise deliberately.”

This goes back to having a vision for your life! Do you have a vision for your life?

If not, it would be very worth your time to sit down and make a vision for your life so you know how to build your career, know what you want to get good in, and know how to make sure that you have plans in place to support your growth, because you know who you want to become.

Dave continues, “No one develops all the required domain expertise in one single job, so it is up to you to sequence experiences so you can develop each facet of your professional expertise deliberately.”

If you don’t have a vision and goals for your life, you’ll be more likely to coast along and make some decisions that may or may not be in your best interest.

Have you watched the show Severance on Apple’s streaming service? It’s is a bizarre, crazy show but so good. Here’s the premise, in order to achieve “work-life balance” people get an implant that makes their work and personal lives separate. Their work life has no idea what happens with their personal life (not knowing their names, families, relationships, where they live) and their personal self has no idea what happens at work. Just that they show up and then leave at the end of the day. Each side calls themselves awake when they are in that state.

Anyway, these people have a reason why they want to know nothing about the work they do all day. At the end of season 1, you’re left with more questions than answers! But one man, Mark S. chose to do the severance procedure because he lost his wife in a terrible car accident and chose to do this to deal with the grief he was experiencing. He has no desire to know or get good at anything and while he was a professor before, he couldn’t handle being a professor after his wife died.

Thankfully, this dystopic world does not exist yet, and so we need to build domain expertise in our careers. And that is actually quite fulfilling.

The framework is TBD, Tribe, Brand, Domain, created by Dave Boyce. You can use TBD to decide a single job opportunity, or you can use it to determine if your life is heading in the direction that you want it to go.

I’m actually actively evaluating some things in my life right now through this framework and I’ll tell you more about it in episode 484 on June 6th! Be sure to check out for some amazing decodables that your students will actually enjoy reading.


Transformative Principal Mastermind

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Just Right Reader

Just Right Reader Decodables are a great way to help your students learn how to read, with research-based strategies that are proven to be effective. Each grade level has over 100 books. Send books home in packs of ten, with video lessons accessible via QR codes on each book, with lessons in Spanish and English. Learn more at