Campus Ministry Experience and the Post-College Job Search
by Jeff Eads
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's post is an excerpt of Jeff Eads' new booklet, Qualified: How to Think about Your Ministry Experience in Relation to Your Job Search (2020, 42 pages). Learn more about Jeff by visiting the Muncie Fellows website.
There is a difference between positions and roles. Positions in organizations come with titles. These positions are limited, not everyone gets one, they are often taken by upperclassmen, and they are usually by a vote which is out of your control. Roles, on the other hand, are almost entirely in your hands. For instance, when I ask students, “What do you mean you are a ‘member’ of the XYZ Club?” They will often say something like, “I just attend some meetings to listen to speakers. I joined because I knew it would look good on my résumé.” What an employer hears in this is, “I am a spectator.” But they are not looking for spectators. Having XYZ Club on your résumé is only helpful if you have gained something or contributed something, and this doesn’t mean you need a title. The answer could have just as easily been, “As a member, I show up early to help the officers set up the room, which also gives me the opportunity to greet guests as they arrive. I specifically like to focus on first-time attendees to help them feel welcome. In addition, I invite others from my residence hall and classes, so that they can also benefit from our programs. In the future, I would like to have an official position in the club, but right now I am establishing myself as a leader by serving those around me.” In that answer I hear emotional intelligence, motivation, interpersonal skills, common goals, servanthood, prioritization, time management, and organization. I hear leadership. If your club happens to be a student ministry, this all still applies.
In addition to the "club" aspect, student ministries also often have summer leadership training programs, leadership retreats, conferences, and spring break experiences. There are all great places to develop as a leader. They are not categorically different from other clubs on campus in terms of developing the kinds of leaders that employers need. In fact, most campus ministries are more robust because their advisors and mentors are seasoned leaders and are far more engaged with the group.
You need to learn how to talk about your leadership experiences in ways that related to the jobs you are seeking. By this, I mean tone down the insider language and talk about the transferable aspects of what you have done. [...] The world needs more leaders that display the servant-leadership qualities of Jesus. Who better to offer this than those who hold to his teachings?
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