Post 20+ years in ministry, I landed a good job with a billion dollar company. Currently, I am an interior decor project manager working with leading franchises around the world.
As much as a job can be, it’s fulfilling. I enjoy the people I work with and the creative aspects of decor. I’m salaried with freedom to work from home when desired and I’m building a retirement that will hopefully be “golden” in 20 years.
I was 45 when I left ministry. I have some college but no degree. I have no background in design or engineering. My computer skills are average. With Mac, I’m exceptional; Microsoft, the preference in business, I hate! I had some experience in the trades before ministry but nothing recent.
The question I’m most frequently asked by former clergy is: “How did you get the job you got?”
Initially, I exhausted all my leads from current and past friends. One was a business owner who was eager to hire me, but not for the reasons I thought. He offered me base pay and wanted a commitment that I’d counsel him at least 2 hours a week.
Hmm… thank you, but no. I had lost valuable years of accumulating $$$ in a 401k. I couldn’t consider base pay and free “on-the-side” counseling.
Those few months were very rough. I was so depressed, and didn’t know the first thing about writing a resume. I also struggled with self-condemnation, dwelling on how I had “thrown my life away” and put my family in a terrible situation.
Eventually, I reconnected with a friend who’s a business consultant. He had been active in my church when I first planted it, but had left shortly after. Life took us in different directions.
Not a Loser!
He helped me process my predicament and sort through my “woe is me” emotions. He also helped me uncover the hidden gems (my skills and life experience) from what I thought was only rubbish! Together, for a few weeks we worked on my resume.
He shared with me that most professionals have at least three to six different resumes, each tailored for similar but different positions. We identified that my collective experience screamed MANAGER! Then, he taught me a new language. Religion was my native tongue. Business was not. I needed a translator, and he was that!
FACT: I had preached with translators around the world, but had never put two-and-two together. Translators paraphrase the message, and by de facto direct the conversation which follows. Learn how to translate and you can be the one leading and directing the conversation, even when being interviewed.
We started by listing my pre-ministry jobs and highlighting my skill sets. Have you ever participated in safety meetings, time studies, board meetings, interventions? That’s called problem-solving!
We then tackled my “gap years” in ministry.
We identified my ministry experience as a specialization in non-profit management. We listed out a few of the projects I had been part of: building projects, community-helps programs, weekly presentations, capital campaign initiatives, overseeing staff & volunteers, hiring, firing, etc.
FACT: Charitable initiatives are very popular with small and large companies. Few people have experience in coordinating and leading these initiatives. As a former clergy, a.k.a. non-profit manager, having past experience with charity drives is a big plus.
The initial goal of my resume was not to be exclusive about my past work experience; it was to highlight my worth and value. We kept it focused on my managerial experience, including buzz words such as, problem-solver, solution-oriented, positive, team player, etc. Because I didn’t have a completed college degree, I attached a link to my Strengths Finder summary.
The primary goal was not to oversell anything. It was to peak interest, and to get me into an interview where I would have face-to-face time. As a former minister, I knew I had the people skills to deal with that!
To make a long story short, the next interview I went to with my resume lasted for an hour. I was anticipating questions about my non-profit experience, but to my surprise, it never came up! Instead, we talked about family, marriage, music, movies and a host of shared interests.
When I left the top floor to find my car in a parking garage below, I wasn’t sure I had even interviewed. Two weeks passed until I received a call back inviting me to take a tour of the production facilities. This lasted for two hours, and the conversation was much the same. My head was spinning with bewilderment.
Can I Work With You?
Another two weeks passed and I was hired. Turns out, from reading my resume they were confident I had the managerial chops they were looking for. Their chief concern was:
Is he personable and likable? Is he a good fit with the other team members? Will they enjoy working with him 40+ hours a week?
This explains why my two interviews were so casual and conversational. That was 3+ years ago, and obviously my employer’s initial hunch proved correct. They enjoy me and I enjoy them. Last night, my direct report and I split a bottle of wine and 4 small plates with desert, reminiscing about life, work and growing older.
Let’s Try It Again!
After I had been employed for a year, my wife and I decided to create a resume for her. She had zero college and no trade skills. However, she’s confident, smart and possesses exceptional communication skills. She got her face-to-face interview with the same company and was hired as a salaried PM like me. Presently, she’s killing it, and has been tapped to be a leader in her department soon. Why? Because she knows how to get people to work together.
A year later, we did the same thing with my daughter. She has some college and a brief job history. She’s smart, a quick study, amiable and a good communicator. Long story short, she was hired as a customer service representative. After one year, she is being promoted to a salaried project manager position! Why? She has a good work ethic and is willing to tackle difficult projects others freak out with.
This past week, my 18 year-old son got word he’s being hired to work in the production plant. He’s excited, because after 6-months the company will pay for schooling as long as he’s employed and has good grades. He sees his future in IT and software engineering. Why did he get the offer? He had exceptional references, via dad, mom and his sister.
A Growing Trend
For us, things have worked out very nicely. I realize not every company out there is willing to hire people with little to no experience. But there is a growing trend right now prompting many companies to take a chance with people that are lacking experience, but are kind, responsible and willing to learn.
The economy is good right now; demand is high, and companies are desperate for good workers. As a result, the hiring environment is far more open to giving people like you and me a chance. We just need a little re-educating behind the scenes, learning how to translate our previous experience in a format that is appealing.
In preparation for creating your resume, I’d recommend taking a personality test. Even if you have done so in the past, take it again. Many of us have taken “gifts test.” That was then; this is now. A lot has changed for you since then.
I’d also recommend taking the Strengths Finder test. The results will help you understand how to translate your religious experience into a more business friendly vocabulary. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself in the process!
Once you’re satisfied with your resume, update your LinkedIn profile. It’s important to have an online presence. Once I completed this, I reached out to a handful of friends and asked them to endorse me on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people are willing to help, even if they don’t agree with you. I gave them a deadline and followed up. Soon, I collected a handful of references, and posted them on my profile in a PDF attachment as referrals.
Once you’ve completed these things, you’re ready to interview. If you don’t have any leads, consider a temporary job service. I used Seek Professionals. They were highly motivated to get me an interview and super great to work with. They will also provide counsel on how to tailor your resume for a particular job posting. They get paid when they place you!
Once you land a decent job, the panic ensues as how to keep that job. Consider these tips.
- Be a good listener — Practice active listening by asking clarifying questions.
- Resist divulging your past — Your past is your past, not your present.
- Enjoy being you without a ministerial title — You no longer represent an ecclesiastical order or position; you represent you.
- Display willingness to learn — You’ve made this transition in life because you are a natural seeker and learner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep learning.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes — Confession is in your wheelhouse. “Hey, I screwed up! I have a plan to remedy the situation. What do you think?”
- Avoid work politics — You’ve had plenty of experience with power plays and position flexing. Therefore, you know how to spot it when it’s happening and how to avoid it.
- Complete tasks in a timely manner — Deadlines are nothing new to you. Think Saturday night before Sunday service, and for some, multiple services.
- Enjoy yourself — Console yourself with the reality that you are doing something very few have had to do. Celebrate the small things. Every day is an opportunity to keep moving forward.
For those who have been reading my Patheos postings, you’ve no doubt noticed I keep referencing Icarus, the mythological risk-taker who flew too close to the sun and perished from his tragic fall back to earth. The inspiration which sparked my recent article came from an Oscar Wilde poem:
Lately, I’ve been questioning why I’m obsessed with making inferences to Icarus. After all, it’s a tragic story traditionally accompanied with warnings for the over-ambitious and reckless. There’s even an attributed psychological term called The Icarus Complex: a person who is fond of heights, narcissistic and obsessed with fantastical, far-fetched, imaginary cognition.
Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all, is never to feel the burning light.
Psychosynthesis ties this complex to those whose religious/spiritual ambitions exceed the reasonable limits of their own personalities. They are characterized by self-gratifying, attention-seeking behavior and obsessions with apocalyptic “crash & burn” predictions. Interestingly, they also have an emotional fascination with fire (e.g. burning sexual desires, moral works tried by fire, scorching eternal punishment, etc.).
To say the least, there’s enough with all of this to keep me busy for months, writing and making inferences!
The Red Arrow
As it concerns my recent articles, my chief motivation can be found in the painting above. Icarus’ fall (red arrow marks the spot) is depicted as an unnoticed non-event. Farmers, travelers, fishermen, sailing merchants, they all continue their day-to-day tasks, unconcerned with the tragic splash below.
So, what is it that best represents the uninteresting splash? Without knowing the painter’s intentions, I’ll attempt to offer my own insights.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
Maybe the uneventful splash is symbolized by all the rising/falling religious-spiritual fads, trends, obsessions, predictions and ever changing, contradictory dogmas? You know, the elusive transcendental stuff. If this painting were a contemporary work, we could theorize the splash to be the numerous rapture theories or Zionist Temple Mount predictions featured by Charisma Magazine each month.
Or, we could point to the televangelists’s hyper theatrics serving up hot, steamy love songs to God followed by oratory hell-laced admonitions to the Divine’s captive bride.
Or, our thoughts could turn to Oprah’s recommended reading list and all the eager Super Soul Sunday guru guests.
The splash of week-old TV ratings certainly constitutes as a non-event.
Cable specials about angels and demons, books left out of the sacred canon, dinosaur-sized giants, ancient aliens, Nessie and Bigfoot exposes and alchemy secrets revealed… splash! splash! splash!
The latest, greatest study bibles promising word-for-word translations, religious programming’s annual pledge drives, right and left wing talking points, political call to arms and Church/State promises to use your tithes and taxes to honor God and country… SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!
Who Gives A Crap?!?
For many, if it doesn’t impact grocery and gas prices, vacation resort deals, or 401K gains… who gives a crap?!?
Week after week, month after month, and year after year, many have learned to ignore the splashes. It’s just entertainment after all, right? Umm…
I’m a romantic, so I like to think the splash is not Icarus sinking into Davey Jone’s Locker. I like to envision him getting close enough to the burning light of reason, he realizes his world is upside-down. He no longer fears falling and sheds his father’s wings. He’s actually flying; for real, he… is… flying!
Think Neo being unplugged from the Matrix.
My romantic self likes to think of the splashes as being all the social, religious, political, inhumane mechanical bodies–the dim promises of transcendent flight–plunging into the waters of stupidity far below. Like Icarus, I envision myself shedding my inherited biases to soar high, far above the superstitious storytellers, religious dogma and prejudiced contemporary philosophers.
Together, we live without regret in the brilliant light of free thought and discovery.
Have I peaked your interest?
More romantic, sentimental musings to come soon… #Icarusflew #noregrets
My follow up article to Only Human is live now on Patheos: Exit Plan. I confess, there were a few drafts, and obviously the one posted made the final cut. In no way am I inferring the current article is deficient in any way. IT IS NOT. Linda, the blog editor, and I worked hard to tell the story with enough detail to hopefully answer as many questions as possible.
My working title was “The Eternal Love Shack”, which upon reading Exit Plan makes no sense whatsoever. For you following me on FreshLA.me, below is a portion from the first draft which reveals some of the backstory and emotions I started writing from. I would suggest taking 5-minutes to read Exit Plan so the below excerpts jive better for you:
But, before I reveal how this all came about, let me back up a bit with my story.
I went to bible college in the early 90s when Christian Music (CM) had given birth to as many sub-genres as there were new modern bible translations flooding bookstore shelves. Christian Counseling was a popular major. Friendship Evangelism was the big breakthrough in proselytizing methodology. And, the topic of “accountability” was turning the age-old duty of making disciples into a sexy mandate!
In the late 90s, I started working professionally in ministry. By then, a dozen new CM genres and revised bible translations had been discarded for new and improved infatuations. Interestingly though, the attraction for accountability had never faded. The desire for it had actually increased, making it a steamy church-house obsession.
To keep my story short, I’ll just say: For the love of Jesus, I do not want to be in a weird, three-way accountability relationship between me, God and you — all in the name of discipleship of course. If I want to experience something new and understand my potential, I’ll find someone who’s not interested in making me a love slave for all time and eternity. Sorry, no offense intended; feel free to do likewise. I won’t be hurt.
For the group sitting on my patio, the idea of existing in the divine’s secret place of accountability was repulsive. For all we cared, you could tie a millstone on that #%@$! and drop it into the Marianas Trench! We could stomach no more. For us, Forest Gump’s sentiments summed it up best: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Thus, Patio Church originated from a shared ache to be free of compulsory bondage and stupidity. We all were just looking for a safe place to hide from the disciple-making-holy-match-makers. In a professional capacity, we each had lent our vitality to these religious, lovesick practitioners, and we were now desperate to be free. But was it possible? Could we really breakaway?
A safe place was needed where we could rest, think freely, question critically and talk without fear of reprisal. We needed a haven outside of The Damn Dark Room — better known to me now as The Eternal Love Shack. Why? Well… my experience on the inside had revealed this space to be home-sweet-home to numerous pet fetishes and oppressive exercises. I (and my staff) had been exposed numerous times to 50+ shades of misogyny, abuse, racism and sexism rooted in sacrificial bloodletting rituals and foreboding promises of never-ending punishments/rewards. I needed an escape, and my staff likewise. In time, Patio Church served as the gathering where “exit strategies” were discussed and evaluated.
After serving together in ministry at the same church for almost two decades, we slowly and graciously worked ourselves out of jobs. There was nothing sexy about it…
Exit Plan definitely does a much good job telling the story in a straightforward manner. Thank you Linda! For everyone following me here at FreshLA.me, I couldn’t help but share the above first draft excerpt. No doubt, it gives insight into my state of mind — sentimental with a dash of Fifty Shades of Grey… OMG! Actualy, I have plenty to say about faith and sex, but I’ll save that for another time.
Predictably, when I started writing what is now Exit Plan, I was jamming out to the B52’s timeless hit Love Shack. And… I still am. Bang! Bang! Bang! on the door, baby! I can’t hear you… YOU’RE WHAT?!? The “Love Shack” was a rustic cabin with an outhouse where the B52’s wrote their music. Sadly, it burned down in 2004.
When it comes to writing, I always need some form of an inspirational catalyst, and deadlines are never that. Instead, I need something that I can feel and vibe with. This time it was RaRag’n’Bone Man‘s song Human. At the 2017 Brit Awards, he was named British Breakthrough Act and received the Critics’ Choice Award. As I typed my first submission for Patheos, I cranked the volume up! After all, great songs deserve to be played at volume 11.
His soulful sound and lyrics gave voice and grit to what I was feeling inside:
Maybe I’m foolish, maybe I’m blind, thinking I can see through this, and see what’s behind. Got no way to prove it, so maybe I’m blind, but I’m only human after all… Don’t put your blame on me…
In my article Only Human, I wrote in brief how I recently navigated a major transition in my life. I find the most authentic and honest thing I can do as a writer, is to make myself vulnerable by sharing from my personal experiences. Opinion pieces have value, but heart-to-heart sharing is golden.
As it concerns my recent blog post on Rational Doubt, there is much more to share. So, be watching; I’m currently working on a follow-up article. The best way to stay-in-the-know is to follow me on this blog and on Twitter.