Leaving a job without a plan, especially one where you liked the job but found the working environment unhealthy, is a life experience that can leave confidence waning. There is a meme going around on social media right now that notes that the first thing most people ask when meeting someone new is what do you do? In a capitalistic society, our work is often seen as an indicator of personal worth by others, and that makes it even more difficult when a job ends unexpectedly.
Most people in the United States work at least two-hundred-and-sixty days each year, forty hours per week, over two-thousand-and-eighty hours. That means five days per week, we spend more awake time with work colleagues than we do with our families or our friends. When something breaks at work, it can be hard to repair.
Walking away from a job can leave unexpected gaps in your life that work colleagues used to fill as first-line casual friendships – not your best friends, but certainly in your wider circles of associates. People who have not experienced this type of job leaving are less likely to understand when it takes weeks or months before healing happens, which means that in addition to losing the casual work relationships, many people feel unable to share with their closest friends and family.
When the broken relationships are part of a faith community, each of those impacts can be felt at a deeper level. Whether we like it or not, we expect better of church people. When we encounter toxicity within a church or church organization, it can shake faith in humans and sometimes in God.
For those seeking compassion and healing in the world, encountering a pastor, church staff, or even frequent volunteer who has been injured by our ability to be too human (prone to mistakes) at times, is an encounter of profound grief. If you are a person who has been harmed, even finding the words to convey what happened can be difficult because they fall far outside of what we imagine a church to be.
It can be a challenge to reclaim confidence and it can be hard to let go of relationships, and both are needed to heal and find something new. Here are some tips to help prepare for a job search or new call.
1. Splurge on yourself. This does not mean you need to plan a trip to an exclusive spa or buy a $10,000 watch. Splurging in this case means to take the time to figure out if you still love the same things or if you can find some new hobbies or interests. Perhaps you love to bake. Learn and master the perfect Rye loaf or get creative with cakes. Or perhaps you love to hike. Take some time to revisit a favorite location or search out somewhere new.
2. Reconsider Your Career. You might arrive back at the same place and realize that the work still calls you, even if the specific job was toxic. Or you might discover that you want to try something completely new. If you can, take the time before jumping in feet first to the next office pool.
3. Boundaries, and more boundaries. Before the first interview, make certain you take the time to rebuild any boundaries that were broken down. It is also a great time to build new ones to avoid sinking back into problematic behaviors when you start a new job.
4. Avoid the rush job. When you leave a position without a plan, it is easy to take the next job offered. Too often, that job is one that is not a good fit, or it is as unhealthy as the one recently left. While there are often economic considerations that make a quick job turnaround necessary, consider the next position like you would the next relationship after a break-up. It is likely a rebound job.
5. Take the time to reflect. Whether you journal, contemplate, or find someone to talk it out – give yourself space to think and process your experiences. During this time, make sure to find space to treat yourself with compassion and forgive yourself for things you might have done that were problematic in the moment.
6. Find a way to reconnect with God. Again, this is particularly hard if the hurt you experienced happened in a faith organization. Dr. Alison Cook has worked with many people hurt in the church. She notes; “If you’re struggling with pain of church hurt or if a church misrepresented God to you through toxic, abusive actions or words, please know you are not alone. You are still the center of God’s love AND God’s justice. God hates church hurt, too.” Church work that leads to church hurt must be separated from our relationship with God before we can move on or into another role in pastoral or faith leadership. Finding others who have experienced something similar can be helpful and healing.
The end of a job, even a problematic job, is the end of a dream. It might have ended unexpectedly, but it likely started with the best of intentions, and it likely left many projects you believed in undone. When you take the time to work through what happened, it has the potential to allow you to dream again.
In Soul Food: 101 Inspirational Messages to Nourish and Heal Your Spirit liberty forrest says of this part of the healing journey; “Wherever you are in that lake, whether fighting to keep your head above water in those horrible first waves, or whether you’re somewhere along the more gently bobbing ones, just keep your eye on the shore and know that you are a little closer to it today than you were yesterday. Just know that this too shall pass and one way or another, you will move on from this place. It is inevitable.”
Healing is a process. It does not happen in an instant, and it may take a lot of swimming before you find solid ground. But you will get your strength and your confidence back.