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Kate Merriman

Combining Careers, Part 1: Vocational Discernment

Six people of varying ethnicities and genders thinking (expressed by question marks surrounding each of their heads).
Six people of varying ethnicities and genders thinking (expressed by question marks surrounding each of their heads).
Copyright: sabelskaya

I had been losing sleep for the better part of a year. The Anglican church in Toronto’s St. Clair West area, where I served as incumbent, could no longer afford a full-time priest. In a part of the city bounded by Little Portugal and Corso Italia, the prospects for Anglican congregational growth were slim …

What to do?

Perhaps, I thought, I could work in the parish part-time and find another part-time job. I raised this possibility with parish leaders and the bishop, and we agreed that, rather than trying yet one more strategy for congregational growth, I would engage in vocational discernment — the spiritual process of discovering my calling.

My story is not unique. Rosemary Shipton estimates that during the time she taught copy editing in the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University (then called Ryerson University), 60 per cent of her students were seeking a second career. Some of you may recognize yourselves in this statistic, while others may find it encouraging to know that knowledge and experience in other disciplines may make you well suited for a second career in editing. In my case, it was vocational discernment that led me into that second career.

In this post, I’ll describe the process of spiritual discernment, and in a later post, I’ll reflect on how two apparently disparate vocations — Anglican ministry and editing — have not only coexisted but enriched one another over a span of 17 years.

I engaged in vocational discernment under the guidance of Tim Elliott, another Anglican priest. There were several components. First, in our conversations, Tim centred me in an experience of being created in God’s image, gifted and called. We prayed together. I needed such encouragement: I was facing an unknown and uncertain future, and I was afraid.

Second, we touched briefly on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, with which I was already familiar and which has helped me work more effectively with colleagues. Based on Jung’s theory of personality types, the questionnaire is intended to help people understand differences in personalities as positive and complementary and to improve personal and workplace relationships. A word of caution: professional psychologists do not consider Myers-Briggs valid or reliable.

The Birkman Method, the third component, is widely recognized by professional psychologists. Based on an extensive questionnaire, it identifies areas of strongest interest, usual behaviour, needs and how we act under stress (when needs are not met). The results for my areas of interest and usual behaviour were what I expected. Identifying what causes me stress and how I react was the biggest revelation. I place more than average emphasis on orderliness. Sudden demands to adapt fill me with dread — I expect the worst, and I become overcontrolling. As Jasmine Peteran wrote, one of the challenges of career development is “looking inward first.” We might not like what we see.

Fourth, I read What Color Is Your Parachute? and worked through the exercises. Incidentally, the author of this venerable resource, Richard N. Bolles, was an Episcopal priest. The manual is intended for anyone seeking a job or career change, be they secular, spiritual or religious. As the title portends, the book is a joy to read. Bolles uses humour and whimsy while directly addressing fears and the stumbling blocks to finding one’s preferred job. An updated version is published every year, with other authors taking over after Bolles’s death in 2017.

In late November of 2005, out of the depths of my subconscious, career no. 2 emerged — editing. I had never consciously considered editing as a career; it may have appeared on a list in the Birkman material or in Bolles, but I had not noticed. But when the thought of editing emerged, unbidden and unexpected, my response was “Yes! I think I can do this. And I think I would enjoy doing this.” Two months later, on the advice of friends, I enrolled in the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University.

In a later post, I’ll reflect on 17 years of combining two careers. I expected them to run along parallel tracks but have found instead that they merge in exciting and unexpected ways. 

Is editing a second (or third) career for you? How has your previous experience helped to shape your editing niche?

___

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11 Comments on “Combining Careers, Part 1: Vocational Discernment”

  • Andrew Wetmore

    says:

    There is a venerable** tradition for Anglican clergy to join some recondite study (in butterflies or trilobites or Cornish history) to the daily round of celebration, service, and contemplation. In fiction, the second career can be in the crime-fighting/mystery-solving line (my favourite book in this niche is Charles Williams’ « War in Heaven », with the humble and heroic Archdeacon of Fardles).
    To the extent that we as editors help our authors open up their hearts so they can express clearly and effectively what they want to say, there is a lovely alignment of pastoring and editing.
    And editing generally pays better than collecting butterflies, and is less nerve-racking than solving crimes.

    ** cf: Venerable Bede, monk and historian

    • Kate Merriman

      says:

      How lovely to recall the venerable tradition. I haven’t read « War in Heaven » but it’s now high on my list. You are absolutely correct about pastoral and author-editor relationships, which I’ll discuss in part 2.

  • Gael Spivak

    says:

    What an interesting story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I’m looking forward to the next part!

    • Kate Merriman

      says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Gael.

  • Tim Green

    says:

    Many people hold themselves out as editors. But for someone who is recycling into editing, the editing niche might be the combination of the former knowledge/experience with the current focus on editing (writing). This is less useful in proof-reading but more useful in substantive editing, with copyediting somewhere in the middle. So if you used to be a biologist, for example, you have way more to offer as an editor of biology papers than someone with a degree in English even if you’re both competent editors.

    • Rosemary Shipton

      says:

      Exactly – and that’s why scholarly presses like to hire editors with expertise or graduate degrees. These editors are familiar with specialized subject matter and research methods and can work as equals with academic authors. This mutual respect is important in author-editor relations.

      Thank you, Kate, for a stimulating article.

      • Kate Merriman

        says:

        Yes, I’ll provide examples of how specialized vocabulary, academic apparatus, and familiarity with church history and theology have come into play. I find it exhilarating when the two worlds of editing and Anglican ministry merge.

    • Kate Merriman

      says:

      Agreed, but with one caveat. In the first years that I was editing, most people who knew me as an Anglican priest found it difficult to think of me/take me seriously as an editor. Since I’d been the chaplain of Trinity College for 6 years, I sought to build connections through those contacts. It was slow going! As you rightly observe, academic publishers, on the other hand, sought my specialized knowledge and experience.
      Happily, my profile as an editor has grown within religious organizations as well.

  • Robin Larin

    says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Kate. I’m also a member of the Anglican Church and rarely encounter other editors who are Christians. And I also found my way from another career into freelance editing, work that certainly suits my personality too and my desire to serve :). I look forward to your next post.

    • Kate Merriman

      says:

      I look forward to your reflections on my next post, Robin. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m recalling that after I’d taken two courses in the publishing program at TMU, I applied for a scholarship, and in my application I commented on two similarities between editing and ministry: first, as Andrew Wetmore observes above, pastoral relationships and author/editor relationships; and second, careful attention to the word/Word – reading scripture, writing sermons in light of the scriptural readings, and taking biblical studies courses.

      • Tim Green

        says:

        Ah, the parallels we find! I believe that editing is very much like writing software given the structure, syntax, macros…

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