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5 Tips to Kick Start your Ministry Career Transition

About 25 years ago, a popular topic in ministry circles centered on Kings (marketplace leaders) and Priests (vocational ministers). One of the hottest discussions I recall was that Kings did not know how to talk to Priests and vice versa. They each spoke a language of their own and didn’t understand what was being spoken other than a few common words. This created a lot of misunderstanding and frustration and in the end resulted in the two parties no longer attempting to talk to each other.

Ministry language issues

Minister: What Language Do You Speak?

Communication between any two groups can be challenging. If you don’t think so, take a trip to a non-English speaking country and try to order food at a local restaurant!

The same type of communication challenge faces ministers who are transitioning into or out of ministry. Most employers find it difficult to understand the skillset and work experience of pastors and other ministers. The jargon and typical terminology we use in church and ministry is very different from the secular work context. That’s our priest language tripping us up.

There are language and cultural barriers that must be navigated well if one is to be successful in the change of role.

Here’s a quick look at some important steps to get your job search started.

Define Your New Direction

Seek God’s guidance as you begin this process. God uses transitions in our life to move us from where we are to where HE wants us to be. Rather than see it as a difficult change, work on an attitude of looking forward to what good things lay ahead. In the beginning take advantage of assessments, coaches, close friends and other resources to define where your unique gifts and experience might fit well. Consider your passions and interests carefully as they often are related to your next job.

Employers are looking for employees that know what they want to do and have clear career objectives.

Sign up for the free services of Crossroads Career  and download the job search workbook. Put some time and effort into figuring out what God has been preparing you to do in this new season of your career. Explore your options and get a sense of what it would look like to work in different roles. It is like trying on suits, some look good until you have seen yourself in the mirror. So make time to find the fit that is best for you. Experiment with the good online job search tools and resources on this site. Set up email alerts based on keywords you input for your search and receive daily updates of new jobs in the area you want to locate.

Translate Ministry Job Skills, Education and Experience

Your goal is to define your transferable skills and experience that an employer seeks within your target industry and position. A minister who is exiting vocational ministry for a secular career needs to have a good plan and some practice thinking through how to translate job skills and experience into marketplace language so it is clear that they can do the job.

Don’t wait until you have an interview to do this. You have a target career and industry, so research the ongoing needs that you might qualify to fill. Begin to prepare to tell your story using King language. Your mission is to anticipate the employer’s questions and have an answer for them. That takes some time and practice just like most anything else that is worth doing. The best way to learn a new language is USE IT. So talk like a king with your friends and family. This will help you unlearn the old language of the ministry job and build confidence in communicating in a new way. It will also help you understand the way the employer thinks. The more serious effort you put into this step the better. It will pay off when you need to stand out from the crowd. So leave your ministry jargon for when you are in church, and use your King language everywhere else.

So instead of preaching as a major part of the way you describe your job, you might translate that to training and equipping developing leaders and workers. For each hat you have worn as a minister you will need to learn how to explain it in King language. The more ministry skills you can translate into your new King language the better!

Customize Your Resume

Yesterday’s one-size-fits-all resume is not given much attention. If you have been in ministry very long you will find that many things have changed in the marketplace world. Do some study online or hire someone to assist you in creating a template that you can use which will help your resume make the first cut.

For each job you should take time to translate your work history, education and experience to language the employer uses in his industry. Take time to research the specific job description, company website and materials for tips on their culture, customers, products and services and find ways to relate to their needs.

 Prepare for Interviews

Ministry Interview Tomorrow

Interview Tomorrow

Preparing for interviews you should take the job description and line by line work on how you can show that you have met each of the requirements. Then prepare stories (in King language) about how you met or exceeded goals in the process.

If you can find a bio, LinkedIn or Facebook page on the person you will be interviewing with figure out what you may have in common.  Do you have marketplace friends or even friends of friends that work for the company or in the same industry? If so you may be able to get some inside info that will help you prepare for the interview.

When you walk into the office for the interview, scan for clues that might help you establish rapport with the interviewer. Did you go to the same university? Share a hobby or interest? Have the same number of kids? Drive the same cars? Drink the same brew of coffee? Don’t overlook the small things as they often can tip the scale for you.

Network for Opportunities

One of the fastest ways to learn King language is to find opportunities to hang out with them. Search the internet, libraries, Chamber of Commerce and local employment offices for leads on the places that you can connect with trade association meetings and shows in your target industry. Find the trade journals and magazines and study the ads, case studies and articles to find the latest trends, topics and thinking in the industry. Listen to the chatter of your target industry and companies on Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and blogs to learn what they talk about, how they think, who the industry respects and where the potential for a job that fits is hiding.

 Transitioning into Ministry

If you are on the way into vocational ministry, just reverse the 5 steps above. Start learning to talk like the Priests and hang out with them to build your network and find your spot.

Stay tuned for more in future posts.

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