I recently had the privilege or spending time with a few talented younger women in ministry and amongst the thousands of other things we discussed, we talked about the challenges for women moving to higher level positions. Many churches are willing to hire a female minister in the area of youth, children, or other jobs seen as entry-level jobs, especially if the position is part time. The challenge comes when female ministers are looking for their next position and it is only increased by the fact that often in higher level positions, you are competing against other women, even against your friends. The question was asked, “How, in that environment, do you create community and support for other females in ministry when you are often competing against them for jobs?”
I believe, most importantly, it would help if we each knew what our gifts were and how to present ourselves. Each of us who reads a job description, sees what we want in the words. So, obviously, it feels like we are all “competing” for the same jobs. But, what if we each knew our “specialty.” What if we knew our talents, our passion and our vision in ministry? What if we knew, as Parker Palmer states it, what it is we cannot not do? What if we could represent ourselves well, having something like a brief statement or elevator speech about our “specialty”? Then we could leave the interview, submit the resume, etc. knowing that if this was the right job for us, if it was the job we had read and dreamed about, we would get it.
I was once sharing with a former coach about how hard it was to be rejected in the dating world. It made me feel like I was not enough, or too much, or something was wrong with me if the guy decided he didn’t like me enough to pursue something more. He helped me reframe he experience with an image given to him from one of his former coaches and said, “It’s like if you go shopping. You see a sweater hanging on a rack and you really like it. You try it on and it just doesn’t look right. You take it off and hang it back up and it still looks good, you still look good, you just weren’t a fit for each other. It looked better on the rack, as we always say. Nothing wrong with you, nothing wrong with the sweater.” He went on to extend the analogy to dating. You have to “try people on” to know if they are a fit. If it doesn’t fit just right, you can hang it back on the rack, or find yourself back on the rack, and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with either of you, you just weren’t a fit together. You, as a couple, just looked better on the rack.
Since this conversation, I’ve expanded this image to applying for jobs. (which I believe is much like the dating process but I’ll save that for another blog post) When I apply for the job, I describe why I believe I would be perfect for the job. I share my experiences, my vision, my gifts, etc for the job description as I read it. If they don’t choose me, it’s because it just wasn’t a fit. There’s nothing wrong with me, nothing wrong with them. I know what I look like on the rack in terms of applying for a job. I know that I have to try things on. Women know that with each item you try on, you have a better understanding of what is going to look the best, what is going to fit. It is the same with applying for jobs, with each one I get clarity about my calling, my gifts and what I’m looking for. With each person they interview, they get clarity about what qualities and experiences they are looking for.
I wrote in my last blog post about this idea of churches having a specialty and I think women must embrace this idea. They have to know what they have to offer a church, know how to communicate that clearly. If five of my friends, all women, are applying for the same job but each of us knows how to describe our gifts and strengths clearly, we are each presenting something different to the interviewers. Then we aren’t competing against each other, but the church or organization is just picking the one they know will be the best fit. It’s not that those who did not get the job are less than, it’s not that there is anything wrong with the church or organization, it just wasn’t the right fit.
What is your specialty? Do you know how to confidently present yourself in an interview process? Do you know what it is you cannot not do?
….I’ll be blogging about this more in the future but would also encourage to contact me or another coach if you are interested in developing answers to the questions.