Over the past two years I’ve had many conversations with friends considering a job transition. Some of those were resigning and some were fired. Some of those were working in the secular workplace and some in the sacred. Below is the advice I’ve given to those friends.
I hope this advice helps you to transition jobs smoothly.
General Guidelines for a Smooth Job Transition
Below, find nine tips for transitioning into a new job–whether you work in the church, the marketplace, education, the medical field, or anywhere else.
1. Your Supervisor Shouldn’t Be Surprised
There are push and pull factors for any change in life. There are factors pushing you from the current situation and factors pulling you towards the new situation. Whatever “push” factors are driving you away from your current job and workplace, your supervisor should be aware of them. They may be able to alleviate them and create a healthy place for you to flourish. If you end up leaving because the push factors could not be reduced, it shouldn’t be a surprise to your manager.
2. Your Supervisor Should Be Surprised
Even though your manager should be aware of tensions you feel with the job, when you finally give your notice of resignation, they should be surprised. This is because you should keep the quality of your work up and your attitude in check during the final months and weeks of your job.
3. Avoid a “Glass is Half Empty” Perspective
Work is never perfect. But if you view it as positive overall, you can flourish in it. Once your perspective turns from generally positive to generally negative, your days are numbered. So beware–once you cross this attitudinal barrier, your time in the organization will quickly come to an end. You will either walk out or get kicked out. A friend–Stephen Brewster–warned me of this process a decade ago. I’ve seen it play out in myself and others a number of times since then.
4. Find a Mentor To Help You Personally
Changing jobs can be difficult. Bring in a friend to help you carry the weight along the journey. There is no reason you need to go at it alone. This friend will give you a safe space to vent privately instead of posting something publicly you end up regretting. A personal mentor will help you unpack any emotional baggage. Life is too difficult to be carrying around unneeded extra weight.
5. Find a Mentor To Help You Professionally
Find someone to walk alongside you to help you transition in a professional manner from one organization to another. This should be someone that can help you give as much lead time as possible, end with excellence and speak truthfully/respectfully during the exit interview. Professionally transitioning into an organization means polishing off the resume, finding as many leads as possible, crushing the interview and negotiating your compensation package.
6. Don’t Burn Bridges You Might Have To Cross Over
There are many reasons why you might want to connect with a former boss, coworker or direct report. You might want a resource from the old organization, reference for a new organization or even your old job back. So don’t burn bridges. Even if there is no personal benefit of ending favorably, it's still the right thing to do, so do it.
7. People Forget What You Did But Remember How You Departed
Hopefully your body of work speaks for itself. But allow your departure to also reflect positively on you. Spend the needed time saying goodbyes, passing on projects and onboarding a new hire. Don’t phone it in your final weeks. End on a high. It will be remembered.
8. Don’t Let Go Of One Rope Until You Have Your Hand on Another
This is basic advice, but I was burned by not heeding it early in my career. When I quit working in television as a Producer I was overconfident in my ability to land a similar job in the same field. I wasn’t aware of how competitive the marketplace was at the time and it took me a couple of months to find a new position. Since then, I’ve always had a signed offer letter before handing in my letter of resignation. Lesson learned.
9. Secure the Bag or the Legacy
When some organizations make a position redundant, they provide a severance package for the staff member who was downsized. But they also simplify the narrative to make it more palatable–often by saying the departure was a mutual decision or solely the decision of the employee leaving. And at times the severance package is tied to parroting the official storyline. If this is the case, you need to choose if you want to secure the bag or your legacy. I would opt for the former. But you do you. Just realize you may have to make a choice.
Guidelines for Transitioning a Job at a Church
Below, you’ll find six guidelines for how to change jobs smoothly in the context of ministry and the church.
1. Financially Providing For Your Family is Godly
Salary wasn’t on my list of criteria when evaluating a position as I began my career in ministry. I was just happy to be doing a job for God. Over the years, compensation has been added to–and moved up–my list of requirements. I used to feel a false sense of shame that money mattered to me. But a mentor reminded me that God has placed the responsibility of providing for my family, in part, on my shoulders. So considering compensation isn’t greedy, it's godly.
2. Realize the Scope of the Transition and Treat It Accordingly
If you go from working at one church to another, this transition is huge. Not only are you changing your work, you are also changing where you worship and a large degree of your social circle. It may also mean a change in housing if there is a parsonage involved. Just changing a job is one of the most stressful parts of life. Changing a job, house of worship, social circle and home all at the same time is exhausting. So take a week off in between jobs to recuperate. I didn’t and it took me a couple months to get back to full speed.
3. Protect His Bride
I’ve transitioned out of a couple of churches. Each time I do, Jesus reminds me to protect His bride. So leave your former church in an honoring way. Do not gossip. If you need to vent to someone, make sure it’s not a staff member or congregant at your former church. There is no need to wound others, even if you yourself are wounded.
4. Consider Counseling
This advice can apply to people outside of church work as well. But because of how all-encompassing ministry is, I put this advice in the church section. Try to find a Christian counselor that specializes with church staff. They understand the unique wounds and spiritual abuse that someone can receive in ministry and how to overcome them. There was a time when this type of counseling was vital for me to move onto the next chapter in my life. It may be for you as well.
5. Find a Source Of Affirmation That Will Be There Come Retirement
I sought the counsel of a mentor the first time I transitioned working from one church to another. He had worked at multiple churches but was now retired. He said my transition would be easy. Easy because I was leaving one community that I loved/loved me for another that did the same. He said that the difficult part comes when you retire and no longer have that community loving you as part of your job. He encouraged me to find the majority of affirmation from my Savior, not my community. Jesus will still be there when I retire.
6. Not Everyone is Called To Ministry For Life
Some of us are called into church work for our whole careers. And some of us are called into it for a season. Understand where you fall between these two categories and proceed accordingly. In other words, don’t falsely feel an obligation to work in a church setting unless you clearly feel that call from God in your life.
Most of us only transition jobs once every five years. Because of how infrequently it happens, we aren’t the best at it. Hopefully, these general guidelines help you during your next career change. But this list is not exhaustive. Let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) what I missed. I would love to hear from you and learn from you. And if you are going through a tough transition and just need a listening ear, hit me up as well. I would love to be an additional resource to help you through your current situation.