Combining Careers, Part 1: Vocational Discernment
I had been losing sleep for the better part of a year. The Anglican church in Toronto’s St. Clair West area, where I served as incumbent, could no longer afford a full-time priest. In a part of the city bounded by Little Portugal and Corso Italia, the prospects for Anglican congregational growth were slim …
What to do?
Perhaps, I thought, I could work in the parish part-time and find another part-time job. I raised this possibility with parish leaders and the bishop, and we agreed that, rather than trying yet one more strategy for congregational growth, I would engage in vocational discernment — the spiritual process of discovering my calling.
My story is not unique. Rosemary Shipton estimates that during the time she taught copy editing in the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University (then called Ryerson University), 60 per cent of her students were seeking a second career. Some of you may recognize yourselves in this statistic, while others may find it encouraging to know that knowledge and experience in other disciplines may make you well suited for a second career in editing. In my case, it was vocational discernment that led me into that second career.
In this post, I’ll describe the process of spiritual discernment, and in a later post, I’ll reflect on how two apparently disparate vocations — Anglican ministry and editing — have not only coexisted but enriched one another over a span of 17 years.
I engaged in vocational discernment under the guidance of Tim Elliott, another Anglican priest. There were several components. First, in our conversations, Tim centred me in an experience of being created in God’s image, gifted and called. We prayed together. I needed such encouragement: I was facing an unknown and uncertain future, and I was afraid.
Second, we touched briefly on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, with which I was already familiar and which has helped me work more effectively with colleagues. Based on Jung’s theory of personality types, the questionnaire is intended to help people understand differences in personalities as positive and complementary and to improve personal and workplace relationships. A word of caution: professional psychologists do not consider Myers-Briggs valid or reliable.
The Birkman Method, the third component, is widely recognized by professional psychologists. Based on an extensive questionnaire, it identifies areas of strongest interest, usual behaviour, needs and how we act under stress (when needs are not met). The results for my areas of interest and usual behaviour were what I expected. Identifying what causes me stress and how I react was the biggest revelation. I place more than average emphasis on orderliness. Sudden demands to adapt fill me with dread — I expect the worst, and I become overcontrolling. As Jasmine Peteran wrote, one of the challenges of career development is “looking inward first.” We might not like what we see.
Fourth, I read What Color Is Your Parachute? and worked through the exercises. Incidentally, the author of this venerable resource, Richard N. Bolles, was an Episcopal priest. The manual is intended for anyone seeking a job or career change, be they secular, spiritual or religious. As the title portends, the book is a joy to read. Bolles uses humour and whimsy while directly addressing fears and the stumbling blocks to finding one’s preferred job. An updated version is published every year, with other authors taking over after Bolles’s death in 2017.
In late November of 2005, out of the depths of my subconscious, career no. 2 emerged — editing. I had never consciously considered editing as a career; it may have appeared on a list in the Birkman material or in Bolles, but I had not noticed. But when the thought of editing emerged, unbidden and unexpected, my response was “Yes! I think I can do this. And I think I would enjoy doing this.” Two months later, on the advice of friends, I enrolled in the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University.
In a later post, I’ll reflect on 17 years of combining two careers. I expected them to run along parallel tracks but have found instead that they merge in exciting and unexpected ways.
Is editing a second (or third) career for you? How has your previous experience helped to shape your editing niche?
The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.