By Wendy Macagno.

The process of job seeking after leaving the religious life is daunting. Job applications, resumes, and cover letters are usually not on the forefront of your mind as you are processing your transition back into the world. A common question that arises is what to put on your resume regarding your time in the convent or seminary.

From an employer’s perspective, a gap in work history, particularly a long one, raises a red flag. They will wonder if your job skills are out of date and if there is something wrong with you that made you unemployed for so long. Therefore leaving a gap in your resume can hinder your chances of landing a job. However, you may not want to share such a personal part of your life, and this is entirely understandable. One way around this potential dilemma is by describing your time in the convent or seminary as volunteer service and word it as such that it does not reveal that you were in formation.

Beneath the title “Volunteer,” you can list your former job duties and tasks that you were responsible for, such as
“assisting first grade classroom with behavioral management,” “organizing files using the alpha-numeric system,” or “landscape maintenance.”  It is especially important, for any resume, to add specific job duties that relate to the job you are applying for. This may take some creativity on your part, but keep in mind that the employer wants to see if you are qualified for the position and your resume should always be tailored to that end. If you are stuck on how to word your job duties, I recommend going to www.onetonline.org and type in your job title on the top right hand corner. From there you can find many examples to get you started on the kind of wording to use.

Looking for a job is no easy task for anyone, and can often be discouraging after sending in what seems like the hundredth job application. But don’t give up! As one who returned to the world during the height of the 2008 recession after living in a cloistered monastery for an entire year, I can testify that with a little elbow grease, you can find the job that is right for you.

If you have any questions regarding resumes, job applications, or career guidance please comment below or send me (Wendy) an e-mail via the contact form. Best of luck on your job search!

Wendy has received her MA degree in Counseling Psychology from Regis University and her BA in Religious Studies from Benedictine College. She has served her community as a career coach in both the non profit and government sectors.

Postscript: below are three examples from real CVs that include time spent in the convent, showing several different approaches. The first one focuses on duties and responsibilities without mentioning that they were undertaken while in a convent:

February-July 2013. Part-time tutoring position at Saint ________ College in ________. Responsibilities involved teaching remedial English to two Year Seven students (emphasis on spelling, grammar and phonics, but including a text study of The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde), and occasional supply teaching across primary and secondary year levels.

The second mentions directly the time spent in religious life, but places the emphasis on other work experience:

Work Experience:

Aspirant Dominican Sisters of ___________ (Convent in __________) 2011

Office Manager Company Name (Location, State) 2007

  • Positively assisted customers and clients through fruitful communication.
  • Represented President via email and phone.
  • Managed projects and co-workers, productively lead meetings.
  • Maintained order in chaotic atmosphere through filing, data entry, AR/AP and tier 1 support.

The third is a list of the terms that the individual has used to turn her convent duties into marketable skills: Convent CV Examples.