Another career coach wrote:

I always have some clergy as clients, and I’m curious about your take on misconceptions or even dysfunctions clergy bring to their job search. I found your blog post addressing the difficulties people have in combining and balancing discernment and selling themselves. Do you also run into people who are just plain uncomfortable around selling themselves? Or who just assume “I have to take whatever I can get,” which pretty much rules out discernment? These are things I have seen in many clients – clergy, lay, totally nonreligious – over the years, but your viewpoint is different, and I’d love to know what you notice.

Dear career coach,

Many of the problems clergy have with job searches are inherent in the deployment system, not in the clergy themselves.  The goal of this blog is to help clergy understand how the current system does and does not help them manage their vocational journey.

Some of the problems are caused by the opacity of the deployment system.  For example, clergy used to complain to me that the old CDO system never sent their profiles to search committees.  Once clergy learned that parishes used just a few dozen of the 1800 possible skills with any statistically significant frequency, and learned which skills from that shorter list to use to describe their skill set, they found the CDO system would send their names to many potential matches.  Unfortunately, the matching component of the new OTM program is still a work in progress, so there is no technical fix for the new system yet.

I find breaking a job search down into manageable and measurable steps helps clergy understand the process more clearly.  The whole process can seem daunting with clergy asking, “Where do I start?”  “What do I do next?” and “What went wrong?”  There are techniques for navigating each individual step, from resume writing, to parish profile analysis, to interviewing.  Your effectiveness in performing each of these steps can be measured and enhanced.  Follow my current series of blogs , “The Five Steps in the Search Process “ for more tips.

I do work with clergy who are uncomfortable about selling themselves and note two common causes.  Some clergy oversubscribe to traditional “call theology”.    (See my previous two-part blog on Theology for the Vocational Journey).  Call theology implies that clergy, like young David, should be minding their own flocks patiently waiting for Samuel to come offer us a new job.  Under that theology anything that smacks of sales or climbing a career ladder is assumed to be unseemly.  Discernment theology encourages clergy to present the best of their skills and values, while they discern the best of a job opportunity before them.  Discernment theology understands that once Samuel anointed David, David climbed his career ladder with the help a slingshot and then with an army.

Clergy often don’t understand what they are selling or are so anxious about finding a new call they will try to sell anything to anyone.   The challenge is to sell what you believe in, not what you think a search committee wants.  Presenting what you like most about yourself, the experiences where you feel fulfilled and successful, the values you hold dear, and your sense of your God-given purpose in life, shouldn’t feel like sales.  If what you present is near and dear to your heart, it is an offering, not a sales pitch.

Discernment is key, despite the immediate pressures to find a job.  I find it helpful to ask clergy to think about their whole vocational journey first before focusing on their next job.

I hope this helps and I hope other readers will chime in.

Steve Ayres