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!
When formatting your resume, don’t be afraid to try a variety of styles. There are numerous free resume templates online. If you have a Mac, Pages has great templates. That’s what I used.
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.