Working at your dream job is something that every professional craves. Those who can honestly say they’re doing what they love will “never work a day in their lives.” For those of us who don’t feel like we’ve “arrived” at our ultimate career goal just yet, it’s not too late. We spoke with Betsy Nichols to discuss her recent transition from working in ministry to working in the business world and the steps she had to take to acknowledge her true career calling.
4word: What drew you to become involved in ministry?
Betsy: Both of my parents were entrepreneurs, so I grew up surrounded by business. I always knew that I wanted to do something meaningful with both my life and my career. I wasn’t sure what that meant for me as far as picking a career to pursue. Then I went to summer camp, and something clicked in my mind. I loved the interaction and ministry and community that is cultivated at summer camps. It felt like the meaningful role that I was looking for.
I was lucky enough to go right into a position with a summer camp after I graduated from college, and I continued to work at a few summer camps for about three years. When I attended Dallas Theological Seminary, I came to realize that the DFW area was saturated with amazing church leaders and feared it would be very difficult for me to further my ministry endeavors. I was fortunate to be brought onto the teaching team at Irving Bible Church where I served as Young Adult Catalyst ministering to adults in their 20s and 30s.
4word: At what point did you feel led to enter the corporate world?
Betsy: When I was in seminary, I was blessed to have the opportunity to work at a money management firm, Annandale Capital, which supplied me with the resources to graduate debt-free. While working at Annandale, I realized how much I was drawn to business. After graduating and starting my work with IBC, I would still feel little tugs every now and then that maybe I should look into a career in business, but I always pushed the tugs away.
We taught a series at IBC called Good Work, which focused on how all work is God’s work, and good work done well is an act of love. I helped develop the series, so I spent quite a bit of time researching and diving into the subject matter. In doing this, it really opened my eyes to the fact that I could still have a career in the world of business and still consider what I was doing as “meaningful” – i.e. God’s work.
4word: What was the adjustment to your new career like?
Betsy: Honestly, it’s been awesome! In some ways, my new position at Symbolist is similar to what I was doing at IBC. As an Employee Engagement specialist, it is my job to work with a company’s employees to make sure that they feel a sense of community within the workplace and that they are getting the most out of their jobs. A lot of the work that I did with the young adults at IBC centered around the same goals: feeling connected, knowing your purpose, and getting satisfaction out of your role.
The only thing I could say that I’ve had some issues with is figuring out my continued role with IBC. I am still a volunteer with IBC, I’m still on the teaching team, and I continue to teach Sunday School. I knew when I left my job with the church that I would still need to stay involved, no matter what. If I’m not plugged in, I will drift and be at risk of not being a part of a church community. So figuring out the balance between corporate life and ministry life has been tough at times, but I think I’m reaching an understanding between the two.
4word: What personal strengths did you learn to rely on in your new position?
Betsy: Communication is something that I have always been comfortable with. When I started teaching at IBC, it reminded me of how much I love to speak. Written and verbal communication is something that I thrive in, and it is something that is utilized daily in my new position. Another strength that I have come to rely on is networking. In business, networking is vital, and thankfully, I have always sought out connections with the people around me.
4word: If you could go back in time to before you switched careers, what is one thing you would tell yourself?
Betsy: Ask the hard questions and listen to the inner promptings. I touch on this more in the video below. While I am grateful for the time that I spent working in ministry, I think I could have looked more seriously at the skills, history, and passion I had for business and dreams I have for my future and seen how God could use those to do meaningful work in the business world. If I had just stopped what I was doing and looked inward, I could have dug down and seen how my passions and that potential could have lined up even sooner.
4word: What advice do you have for other women looking to make a career shift?
Betsy: I know how uncertain and slightly terrified you feel when you reach this point in your life. The biggest thing that helped me was to find and work with a business coach. The time that I spent with her definitively shaped my new career path and goals. Of all the questions that she and I worked through during my “life plan creation” phase of coaching, the most valuable was this: “Who do you want to be when you’re 60?” As I thought about my answer to this question, it really made me deeply evaluate what I wanted my path from now until I reach 60 years of age to look like.
Another invaluable piece of my transition was meeting two men who had done a similar career switch from ministry into the business world. To hear from these men about what they had had to deal with and the kind of mental shifts they had gone through was such a blessing and wealth of knowledge for me during that pivotal time in my own career journey. If you are considering transitioning careers, find someone (or more than one person, if you can) who has either left the industry you are currently in and gone into the career you are thinking of, or that has made a career transition and can guide you through the general steps that are involved with that transition.
The careers we choose are in no way set in stone the moment we say “yes” to our first job offer. As our lives progress and we grow as individuals, our career passions might also shift and require a drastic change. Find the strength within yourself to be honest and ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing now what I want to be doing in 5 years?” If your answer to that question is no, heed Betsy’s advice and begin taking the steps toward the career you feel led to pursue.
4word women, do you have a dream for your career? Have you been hearing that “small voice” in the back of your mind but are scared to listen fully? In almost any situation involving a tough, life-changing decision, it always feels comforting to have someone who can come alongside you and help you determine the next steps in your professional journey. The 4word Mentor Program is now accepting applications for the upcoming session. Start your new year off with a goal to reach for that next step in your career with the help of a 4word mentor. Applications are due by January 9, 2015, so click here to begin the application process!
Have you ever made a career transition? What was that journey like?
Betsy is a catalyst at heart. While not the chemical kind – she has been a business catalyst in every one of her business endeavors – from doing marketing work at a money management firm to working with millennials in the non-profit sector – she has taken the lead in inspiring and driving change in people and organizations for years. Currently, Betsy is an Employee Engagement Architect for Symbolist where she works with clients to design and implement employee engagement solutions that help make their workplace the best place to be. In addition to reward and recognition program design, Betsy uses the educational development work she put into her Master’s degree to develop curriculum to train individuals and teams for lasting change. An avid communicator, Betsy speaks on a regular basis for audiences ranging from a few, to a few thousand. It is one of her favorite ways to lead and inspire change. If you ask her what her life motto is, she will say – Inspiring change makers to make a difference. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University and Dallas Theological Seminary.