Does Career Success Impede Our Holiness?

By a Leonie’s Longing Contributor.

Most of my life I have had a certain disdain for wealth and luxury.  I would catch myself looking down on those with big houses, nice cars and name brand clothes.  I grew up poor the majority of my childhood and I was proud of where I came from and the challenges I had to overcome.   When I converted to Catholicism and eventually entered the religious life, the value placed on poverty and shunning luxury fueled my belief that pursuing wealth was diametrically opposed to a holy life.  After leaving religious life, I worked in jobs that I was underpaid and overqualified for. Pursuing a secular career that paid well with opportunities for upward mobility seemed too worldly a pursuit and an obstacle to my vocation.  Alongside me, I had friends, who, like myself, graduated from expensive Catholic colleges with massive student loan debt, follow a similar path.  It seemed working for the Church in some capacity was the goal, regardless of the low pay, and secular well-paying careers were avoided.  As the years went by, I started to question these choices.  Why do devout Catholics (particularly women) pursue low paying jobs they are overqualified for?  What was influencing this and is it healthy?  Is this what God wants?

In the Catholic tradition, we are taught the virtues of poverty and detachment from earthly goods.  This especially becomes prominent in religious life in the Vow of Poverty.  As we detach from earthly things, we are taught that this allows us to attach to God and “store up treasures in heaven”.  The benefits of wealth, such as luxury, convenience, and comfort, are looked down upon and seen as obstacles to our walk with Christ.  The concept of the Prosperity Gospel that we hear of from some of our Protestant brothers and sisters is close to the exact opposite of how we view our faith in relationship to money.  In fact, our tradition holds that suffering (including financial hardships) are opportunities to rely on the Providence of God and sometimes are directly given to us to grow on our paths to becoming saints. And this skepticism of wealth and success, especially if we have come from religious life, can guide our decisions in career paths, financial choices, and lifestyle.

Yet, with all this being said, the million dollar question is (no pun intended), have we swung the pendulum a little too far?  Are we taking something neutral or even good, and shaming it?  To be clear, I am not saying working a fulfilling but low paying job is wrong.  Or that the teaching on detachment is erroneous.  This is more a challenge to evaluate our views on wealth and career success.  Negotiating pay, investing to build wealth for the future, purchasing a home (yes, even as a single man or woman), pursuing a promotion or career change for better pay – these are not bad things.  And so, I challenge anyone reading this, if you find yourself in a job that you are overqualified, underpaid, and living paycheck to paycheck, I encourage you to reflect on your approach to your career, to success, and to wealth.  Do you find distorted thinking, shame, guilt, or scrupulosity at its foundation?  If you can move up in your job, why aren’t you?  If you can get better pay, why not?

If this message strikes a chord with you, I recommend researching professional development learning opportunities to develop and upgrade your skills, learning from inspirational figures such as Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins and Matthew Kelly, and finding a career counselor to address what’s been holding you back (National Career Development Association is a good place to start).  LinkedIn is also a fantastic resource for networking, workshops and keeping up to date on trends in the workforce.  Remember that as lay Catholics, we are not barred from success, nor are we forbidden to become wealthy and enjoy our success.  Poverty or wealth does not determine attachment to goods – our love, generosity, and pursuit of God determines this.  It is up to you how you decide to live that out.

Activities for When You’re Home During the Day

By Hettie Howlett.

Being home and not knowing what to do during the day can be overwhelming and depressing. But it’s a great opportunity to do things that full-time workers often intend to do but never quite make the time. Here are some suggestions that I have found helpful:

 

Pray and go to Mass

             You must take time for this! Don’t be ashamed if you don’t feel like praying. But do it anyway. This may be hard if you’re far from a church but you can pray at home. Even just 10 minutes is better than nothing. Read Park It (At All Costs) for some encouragement.

 

Exercise

             Try something new – bike, swim, dance, walk, run, cross country ski, etc.

             Do it daily

             Consider weights and other strength training, especially for your core

             Join a recreation league

             Look for community classes such as scuba, tennis, martial arts, etc.

 

Personal Growth and knowledge

             Consider individual counseling or group therapy (like ones for grief, etc). Check with local hospitals, funeral homes, Catholic Charities, or your diocese. I did GriefShare and found it extremely helpful.

             Self help materials – perhaps you can’t find a counselor or you just want to be a little healthier. Try Ten Days to Self Esteem, Resisting Happiness, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Or The Place We Find Ourselves podcast.

             Career services – Does your local college offer advice? Is there a women’s center nearby? Research how to improve your resume/CV. Learn more about our career initiative here.

             Career books like What Color is Your Parachute? and Do What You Are

             Cook a new meal, learn a foreign language, explore a computer program that may help your job hunt or school efforts. Your library might offer free access to resources such as lynda.com 

             Join a club – see if your local library offers craft groups, book groups, etc.

Take a class- Find newsletters from the library, community college, community center, etc. to see what they offer

             Pick up an old hobby – Were you in the band in school and haven’t touched your instrument in 10 years? Give it a try! Revisit drawing, poetry, painting, stargazing or other hobbies that used to give you joy.

Learn a new hobby – calligraphy, sewing, knitting, churning butter 🙂

             Volunteer – it looks good on your resume/CV and will help you give to others.

 

Finances

             Create a budget spreadsheet

             Sign up for online banking

             Track your credit card spending

             Read about investing (example, Smart Women Love Money by Alice Finn)

             Ask friends, family, your pastor, people at the parish for help or recommendations

             Or if you’re a financial guru, please offer your help to others!

 

Relationships

             Reconnect with old friends

             Learn how to make small talk. Check out this blog or The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine

             Write a note to someone. Wasn’t snail mail in the convent special?

             Find ways to meet new people (local Catholic group, meet-ups, book clubs)

             Visit a shut-in or take communion to the sick / elderly

             Babysit and/or visit a stay at home mom who might feel isolated

 

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please comment below!

Introducing Career Coaching!

By Ryan Haber.

“What do I do next?”

You might not know. To make things worse, you might not very good at much that the world is willing to pay for.

I felt that way when I left the seminary. I landed a decent job almost by dumb luck but didn’t really know what I was going to do next or even what I was doing in general. I was bored with work which seemed trivial compared to the grand vision that had been laid out before me during years of priestly formation. During one job hunting phase, I couldn’t get anyone to look at my resume. I sent out 200 resumes and got back not one response. How worthless can you feel?

I’m happy to report that more recently, Google and Facebook have approached me about jobs and I like my current situation well enough that I turned them both down.

How did that happen?

I do not have any magic. I have learned a few things over the twelve years since leaving seminary, and I’d really like to share them with you.

You can have a stable job that adds value to the world and that you enjoy. You can change jobs when you want, rather than getting chased out of them. You can have your own home and be confident in job interviews. You have something to offer. The “world” works by a different set of rules than the monastic community. The good news is that you can learn these rules and, without compromising your faith or morals, navigate the game of life.

I am not a career coach. I’m not an expert. But if you’re feeling lost and confused, I am probably just a step or two ahead of you and can relate. I’ve love to share what people have taught me.  Here are some of the things we can work on together:

  • Thinking and envisioning careers which may interest you
  • Figuring out potential next steps
  • Getting your resume and online profiles ship-shape
  • Learning how to network in powerfully effective ways
  • Getting job interviews
  • Being more comfortable with job interviews
  • Figuring out how to get along with secular managers and coworkers
  • Negotiating for salary
  • Strategies for decision making

There are no guarantees, and you’ll only get out what you put in. But if you’d like to chat with me about yourself, your career and what may come next, I’m very happy to share what I have learned so far.

To get started, go to https://leonieslonging.org/careercontact/ and complete the contact form.

Soon afterwards, we will be in touch to make appointment for an initial chat.

Here’s what you’ll do in your initial 60-minute initial chat:

  • Get to know each other a little bit
  • Tell me where you are, what you’re doing, what you want
  • I’ll probably give you a homework assignment
  • Set up a time to talk more in-depth about one topic or another

After the initial chat, you and I will go on to the steps that make most sense for you. Each time we meet – whether in person at a coffee shop or across the country via video chat – just buy me a cup of coffee and we’ll call it even. That’s not much of a risk.

Ryan Haber is a Maryland native. Since leaving Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in 2006, he has mostly worked in software development even though his B.A. is in history and he has no other degree. He has worked in companies big and small to help document and explain technical software development tools to software engineers. Periodically they let him out of his cubicle to speak at conferences and workshops about similar nerdy things. Right now he works for Blackboard, Inc. In his free time, he hikes and camps and takes pictures and kicks his nieces around. Like you, Ryan has no idea what God has in store for him next.

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.