Leaving the Station

Leaving the Perfect Job – The First Time

I left the perfect job – twice.

This is a scary post to write because it’s so personal, but it explains a lot about why this blog is so important to me. The first time I left the perfect job, it was because I thought there was a better plan waiting for me (and there was). The second time, I had no plan at all – I just knew I needed to leave. This week, I’m sharing the story of how I left the first perfect job.

Leaving the First Perfect Job

In 2006, I was working for the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, leading an ethics program for local charities. And I loved it. The people were great, the work was both challenging and fulfilling, and, though I had only worked for the organization for a couple of years, I had received an important promotion that led to an increased role in the organization’s strategic development. It provided the right blend of conceptual (“What does it mean to be an ethical nonprofit?”) and pragmatic (“How can I get more people to participate in our program?”) challenges that I enjoy.

The longer I worked there, though, the more I began to feel there was something missing, something more that I could be doing with my particular skills and passions. At about this time, my wife gave me a copy of Bill Hybel’s Courageous Leadership. One part of the book has stuck with me (here I’m paraphrasing):

If you don’t think God has given you a vision, have you ever asked him for one?

So, for the next 6 months, that was my prayer: Lord, please give me a vision. At the end of that time, I received one.

Receiving a Vision

Have you ever read a job description and known that the job was perfect for you? After praying for a vision for 6 months, I happened to be on the website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an organization I had been heavily involved with as a student. I was searching for materials to use at my church, and I clicked on the “Jobs” link. That’s when I saw the posting for someone to lead the Emerging Scholars Network.

The fit seemed perfect for me in so many ways. The Emerging Scholars Network equips Christian students to become professors in secular universities, which had been my original career goal in college. I had wanted to combine my love for God with my love for literature and become an English professor. Some InterVarsity connections put me in touch with several Christian English professors, and I reached out to them for their advice. Unfortunately, they were not too encouraging, as they were quite honest with the struggles I would face in trying to bring a theologically informed perspective to the secular field of literature. One of them suggested that I seek a degree in theology first, and so that’s what I did, enrolling in Regent College’s program in Christianity and the Arts. As I completed that degree, I decided that an academic career wasn’t for me, but it always bothered that there weren’t more resources for students, like myself, who wanted to integrate their faith with their studies.

The Emerging Scholars Network addressed that precise concern. Further, the job description read like someone had studied my resumé and created the job with that mind:

  • Concern for Christians in the academy? Check.
  • Strategic planning? Check.
  • Research and writing? Check.

The position felt like a perfect fit. I got goose bumps as I read the description. When I called my wife over to look at it, she got goose bumps, too. Even though it was after 11pm, I sent off a short email introducing myself and promising a full application as soon as possible. After several months of exploring the fit, I was offered the position of Associate Director for ESN.

Now came the hard part: resigning from the perfect job. It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had, telling our president about my decision to resign. She probably thought I was crazy – in large part because of the fundraising requirements of the new job (more about that in my next post) – but she respected my decision. We even worked out a timeline for my transition that allowed me to cut back my hours while ramping up the new position.

A few years later, I left my new perfect job as well – but that’s a story for next week.

What I Did Right in Leaving the Perfect Job

When I think back to that period, there are a few things that I think I did well.

I prayed, reflected, and sought advice. I took my time and tried to find as many resources as I could in my search for the next step in my career.

I waited for the right opportunity. Since I didn’t have a clear next step, at least not immediately, I stayed committed to my current work. I waited until the right opportunity presented itself, and then I moved.

I prepared for my departure. Even before I resigned, I had begun preparing my work to continue beyond my own tenure at the organization. With the senior leadership, we had created a separate 501(c)(3) organization as structure for the nonprofit ethics work. I had also hired someone to work alongside me. Once I announced my resignation, we designed my transition so that she could step into my role.

The transition went very smoothly, and I was able to begin my work with InterVarsity full time after a brief period. I’m probably one of the few people out there who left one perfect job for another one – and then left the second perfect job a few years later. But that’s a story for my next post.

Photo credit: Tjook via Flickr

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