National Lutheran News

Out of the gloom — God’s voice?

Is God telling you to change your career, or just to go help out a little?

Have you been laid off? Shoved into early retirement? What should you do
with this “interesting” gift that God has bestowed upon you — the gift of no
job?

Of course you may be scrambling to find work, with no time for anything but
job hunting and networking. A job hunt, however, may be precisely the best
time to explore new directions — and one way to do that is by volunteering.
At the very least, by volunteering you help individuals with real needs and
support a worthy organization of your own choice.

At best, in volunteering you may discover a whole new career for yourself.
You’re too busy to volunteer because of all the networking and job hunting to
do? Volunteering can incorporate both. You may find yourself working side-
by-side with volunteers who know of job openings.

“Volunteering is definitely networking,” says Kristin Schurrer, executive
director of HandsOn Twin Cities (www.HandsOnTwinCities.org), a group that
links nonprofits seeking volunteers with companies offering them. Volunteering is “also definitely résumé- and skill-building,” Schurrer adds.

The Corporate Volunteerism Council says employers take careful note of
prospects whose résumés list volunteer work. Stepping up as a volunteer
when you’re out of work, Schurrer maintains, is “going to look very good to
the hiring professionals within those companies.”

A new direction?

You may already have asked God for guidance in finding a job. Yet this
interlude in your career may go beyond finding you another job like the old
one. Is God nudging you in another direction?

If so, you might not like God’s guidance — and you would be in good
company. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses
responded by positioning himself as a poor choice and a lousy public
speaker. When God called Jonah to preach in Nineveh, Jonah got on a boat
and went the other way.

Before you hire a voice coach or book a cruise, however, listen more carefully
to what God might be saying. For example, suppose you’re a laid off financial
pro. Helping the poor with tax returns or financial planning is an obvious way
to volunteer, right?

But what if you’ve always taken delight in working with children? Why not
volunteer instead as a tutor for struggling kids?

It’s up to you and God. “Maybe try both,” Schurrer suggests.

Do consider this, however: If you’ve had one too many layoffs in business and
you’d like to work at something else, now may be just the time.

A nonprofit that can’t afford a staff person right now may love to have you as
a volunteer doing what you do best — and when times are better, that may
make you a leading candidate for a job opening. Says HandsOn’s Schurrer: “I
would do that in a heartbeat.”

Meanwhile, back at church …

Are you not discerning any particular career counseling from on high? You
can still do God’s work. “There are always things that have to be done around
the church,” notes the Rev. David Seabaugh, pastor at Bethel Lutheran
Church in St. Paul.

His LCMS parish provides financial counseling for Liberian immigrants, and
organizers of such seminars often need volunteers to act as side-by-side
mentors in the classes to help participants understand the material
presenters are covering and to guide attendees in asking questions.

And there’s always heavy lifting. At Bethel Lutheran, work is getting done that
would have been delayed otherwise. The head of the board of properties lost
his goldsmithing job at a jeweler in a February layoff. Now Timothy Schmalz
has time to help rearrange pews as part of a project to improve access for
disabled worshippers at Bethel Lutheran.

The layoff, says Schmalz, was “a bummer” — but the 63-year-old
acknowledges God is at work. “He seems to direct me to places I want to go
— or He wants me to go to,” says Schmalz.

At all ages, the economy is pushing people toward service. Lutheran
Volunteer Corps (LVC) says applications at its Minneapolis office rose to 98 in
January, half again the number of a year earlier.

LVC places volunteers in inner-city jobs with nonprofits around the country.
Applicants of any age are welcome, but the circumstances — group housing,
no kids — may suit young people better than midlifers or retirees. Those
placed get a stipend — and “a good foot in the door” with an organization,
says Susanne Waldorf, LVC’s Twin Cities coordinator.

You’re not hearing God’s voice? Listen to the news. “In this economy, we need
to think about ways we can build communities,” says Waldorf. “We’re going to
come to the realization more quickly now that we can’t live so
individualistically and that we need to rely on each other more.”

In any case, even if you’ve lost your job, you can keep working: Be a
volunteer. You just may find yourself doing the work that God intends for
you.