Finding Employment

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 They will wonder if your job skills are out of date and if there is something wrong with you that made you unemployed for so long.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.

Afraid – But Not to Fail

Afraid But Not to Fail 2

In April of 2014, I found myself sitting in a meeting room on a university campus at a departmental “meet and greet,” where a bunch of professors gather to listen to wildly successful alumni of their department talk about their exciting career exploits. That Friday morning, the visiting alumna was some hotshot Director of International Marketing for some top five international magazine publisher that, every two or three years, moved her and her entire family to a new country, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Thailand…, to launch a new magazine in a language and culture she didn’t understand. Then, when she had made the magazine wildly successful, they moved her on to the next country to do it all over again. After about an hour of listening to her adventures, one of the professors asked, “Weren’t you ever… anxious or… afraid even… to just pick up your family and move them to a country you knew nothing about?”

The Marketing Director appeared genuinely confused, as if she couldn’t even understand the question. “Afraid? Why… Why would I be afraid? You just go and figure it out. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

In that moment, I felt a hard knock in my chest as I remembered who I used to be. The marketing hotshot continued talking, but I didn’t hear her. Instead, I heard my inner voice say in a slow, matter-of-fact tone, “I used to be like that. I used to be fearless. Now I’m afraid of everything.”

Most people are afraid of failing. They’re afraid of putting a ton of work and time and effort, and love, into a thing Moon Cyprus Mountains Pixabayand then having it all “go to waste”. They’re afraid others will look down on them because they set their sights high, but didn’t make it. They’re afraid of starting all over again from scratch, because it might mean they’ll just fail again.

I wasn’t afraid of any of those things, and in my time working with Leonie’s Ladies, I’ve found that a lot of you think those are the things you’re afraid of, but you’re actually afraid of something else entirely. So, over the next few days, I’m going to tell you what I was afraid of, and where that fear came from. See if you can relate!

When I was a child, my mother used to say to me like it was a mantra, “Jenni, you have so much faith”. She didn’t mean that I was the spitting image of the Virgin Mary. She meant that I was fearless.

I suppose I actually was objectively fearless back then. Like a lot of us, my mother always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be and that I would always be successful at it. With those prospects, what was there to be afraid of?! In both school and college, I always made straight ‘A’s. So long as my world was confined to studying, I rocked it.

Israel Path Dune Desert PixabaySo I branched out a little. I traveled all of Western and much of Eastern Europe, by myself. At 23, I immigrated to Israel, also by myself, with every intention of making my life there. Israelis used to regularly ask me, “What, you mean you don’t have any family here? You don’t know anybody?” And just as regularly they would express awe when I answered in the negative. For five years, I supported myself as a freelance editor in Jaffa. I had a great professional reputation, and I was making exceptionally good money.

My world was bigger, and I still had never failed. What was there to fear?

Plenty…

Part Two of this post can be found here.

J. E. Sigler is the Vice President (+ Blog Mistress Emerita) of Leonie’s Longing and a doctoral student in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. She has never been in religious life, but she spends a whole lot of time with nuns. For a summary of her Master’s thesis research with 35 sisters, view her TEDx talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m5Ek34BROE&list=PLsRNoUx8w3rPODRo_T8DNdXCWrm7m9jSa&index=12.

When Paths Diverge

And what do you want to be when you grow up? asked the fourth grade teacher to her class. “An astronaut!” “The president!” “An actress!” “A pro-football player!” responded the bright-eyed students. The sky is the limit to a nine year old. Could you imagine if a child ecstatically exclaimed, “a cashier!” or “a receptionist!” Such a response would certainly raise eye brows, and maybe even a little teasing on the part of his or her classmates.

 

Yet, the older we get, the more we are faced with obstacles when pursuing our dreams. Suddenly, we wake up to find ourselves sitting in a cubicle, entering senseless data and answering phones for a company that sells pencils. So much for our dreams and ambitions. Time to face reality.

As a teenager, my greatest ambition was to one day become a nun, and at 25 years old, that dream came true. Happily ever after? Not exactly. I was as surprised as my friends and family were when I realized it was not my calling. Leaving the convent was the hardest thing I had to do. I felt like a complete failure. Desperate for a job, I landed a secretary position. It paid the bills, yes. But was I happy? No. That nine year old self challenged me to aim high and fulfill my true potential. Pushing aside my insecurities and doubts, I listened and entered a graduate program to become a certified Counselor.

A vivid memory has always stayed with me that has kept me grounded. Shortly after I left the convent, in a time of confusion as to what I was going to do next, I turned on the television to a local Christian station. The host on the show said something that entirely changed my perspective of vocation. While giving her personal testimony, she had discovered that where your wound is, there your ministry also will be. Many can testify to this truth, including myself.

As a Career Coach, I have had the privilege of helping others find out “who they want to be when they grow up.” More often than not, individuals discover that their career potential is right in front of them. Maybe it’s a personal hobby, an academic interest, or through volunteer work. Your path may not be clearly set out in front of you just yet, but if you remember to listen to that little nine year old voice in your head, you will find yourself fulfilling what Aristotle once said, “Where your talents and the world’s needs cross, there lies your vocation.”

By Wendy Macagno

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.