Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Career Transition and Isolation: A Blessing or a Curse

Written by: on March 2, 2014

The statistics are out and the news is not good. The Wall Street Journal says the average worker will have approximately 7 careers in one lifetime and the average American worker changes employers every 4 years. I have been fortunate to have been in my job for 15 years but that came after I made a career change from working as a Church Pastor to moving into the Senior Living Housing Industry.

Changing careers and jobs can be chaotic in a person’s life and can be a lonely experience. Shelly Trebesch in her book Isolation; a place of transformation in the life of a leader has a healthy approach to address various aspects of isolation sometimes caused by a career change. She approaches isolation from a spiritual perspective and says isolation is a fourfold process: striping, wrestling with God, increased intimacy with God and a looking forward to the future (Trebesch 1997, 35).

After reflecting on her principles and my career change in the past, I could relate to the four fold process as I experienced much of these phases. In the 1980s I had a positive experience starting a church in California with the support of two sister churches. My wife and I decided to leverage that experience to start a new church in Seattle but without the support of churches close by. After a couple of years, funds were dwindling and I decided to go bi-vocational and start a second career. The second career lead to become a Nursing Home Administrator with the goal to become an Executive Director of a faith based Continuing Care Retirement Community.

The decision led to a time of isolation and experiencing the 4 phases Trebesch talks about. Stripping was felt as I had a Masters of Divinity and was trained to lead people in a church environment. I knew very little about healthcare and geriatrics which led me on a journey of having my pay cut in half while I interned in a State sponsored Administrator in Training program. This took a year to learn and obtain my license.

The wrestling with God came about through prayer and reflection about working through an unsuccessful church planting effort and deciding to move into another career. Much was learned through a period of months of wrestling and seeking God’s direction in a real life crisis.

Increased intimacy grew over time as I saw God faithful walking along this career transition. He never left me and I found comfort in reading scripture (especially Psalms) and praying through the day to day experience. The lapsing of time and consistent spiritual disciplines helped to take away the pain as my new career became the new normal in my life.

Finally, the looking forward stage was feeling a release that it was ok to pursue another career as a lay pastor and not a professional pastor. This stage took a few years to be released to lean into my new career.

Changing careers can be a lonely and isolating experience and Trebesch’s work was encouraging to read and reflect over some of the isolating experience my journey has taken me. How about you? Tell me about a career change you experienced. Did you also experience the fourfold process? Was your experience a blessing or a curse?

Trebesch, Shelley. Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of A Leader. Altadena, California: Barnabas Publishers, 1997.

About the Author

Mark Steele

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