This post is part of a mulit-part series giving pointers to those who are starting out in church communications.
Last time, we looked at how to prepare for a job in church communications including getting a formal education, people and resources worth checking out, and informal ways to prepare for the job.
So, let’s take the next step today. It’s time to land that job.
What Are Churches Looking For?
Church leaders often have a wide range of perceptions of what a communications director should do. For example, here are some common “roles” that leaders and other staff might assume:
- Create message graphics
- Design the bulletin
- Run the internal “print shop”
- Maintain relationships with outside vendors
- Make camp brochures
- Part of the creative service planning
- Produce videos
- Create strategy
- Champion branding (style guides, etc)
- Social media guru
- IT/Help Desk
- Church database keeper
- Web designer/developer
- Project manager
- Freelancer liaison
I could keep going, but you get the picture. The chasm between expectations of different organizations makes it difficult to market yourself, but I think there are a few areas you can develop that will help you no matter the presuppositions a prospective church has about the position.
Wide Range of Skills
If you can develop a wide range of skills (such as video, web, print, etc), rather than being a specialist, it will not only help broaden the field of potential church communication jobs that you qualify for, but will also help make you more appealing to those doing the hiring. As we’ve mentioned before, read websites and articles, attend seminars, take on side or freelance projects, etc. to do whatever you can to expand your skillset.
We’re all aware of the paradox: it’s hard to find a job without experience, but it’s difficult to get experience when no one will hire you. Nonetheless, churches are looking for people with experience to be their communications director. So, do whatever you can to gain experience that you can add to a resume or portfolio. Take an internship or work in another area in a church until you can work your way into the communications director position.
I worked as a middle school youth director (and I sure loved those kids and those years) until the church that I started in grew to the point of needing a communications director. When they created the position, I was ready to slip right in to the role.
This might be the most difficult one to develop. Often, you either have the talent for the job or you don’t. However, different churches are looking for different talents (see above) so just because you might not be talented in web design doesn’t mean that you can’t find a role as a church’s social media strategist. God has given each of us a gift and I’m confident you can use your gift in church communications if you feel it is the area he’s called you to serve.
There is no substitute for being able to effectively communicate and get along with people. From networking to interviewing, having good people skills is essential in landing a job in church communications. Once you get the job, people skills might be the most important tool in your toolbox to be successful.
It’s amazing how many churches are looking at leadership skills ahead of practical skills. If you can demonstrate leadership of self, colleagues, bosses, and teams, you have a big head start on other candidates. Even if the role will be a one-man-show, your ability to lead others on staff and the leadership of the church (i.e. “Leading Up”) will be a key to success.
Preparing a Portfolio and Resume
An important step that many people seem to have problems with is preparing a resume and portfolio. We all know the “rules” for resumes (keep it to one page, highlight experience, skills, and education, keep it simple and avoid clutter, etc.) but I would encourage you to try to show your personality through it. For example, on my resume, I added a section about my interests and the software applications I am proficient in (because my wide knowledge of various software titles is a highlight of my skillset).
In preparing a portfolio, try to keep it simple. I would avoid using complicated navigation or flash slideshows. Organize it clearly and let your work be the highlight. If you don’t have a nice body of work to highlight, make that your top priority (see the first post in this series for practical ways to get experience.
For my portfolio, I started out with an interactive PDF, but found it was too cumbersome to email (it was a large file) and would get lost in potential employers inboxes. So, I ended up creating a simple WordPress blog with a nice theme that allows me to highlight my work, purchasing a memorable domain name, and now I can use it to make a big first impression!
One last thought on the portfolio topic. Anything you can do to establish yourself as a person with knowledge in the area of church communications will help you. One important step is to set up a blog or microblog and talk about what you know on the subject. I’ve probably had more success in connecting to churches about jobs come about because of my blog than my portfolio and resume combined.
Once you’ve prepared yourself, your resume, and your portfolio the next goal is to find job openings. The best way to do this is by hitting the job boards. Here are a few that I’ve used:
Also, don’t forget to check the individual websites of churches you’re interested in. Sometimes, particularly in larger churches, a church will only post openings on their own website.
Finally, there are some great organizations out there who specialize in placing prospective employees in churches. Two that I highly recommend are the Vanderbloemen Search Group and the Slingshot Group. I’ve worked with both of these groups and have had extremely positive experiences.
Finding a job in church communications is not an easy road, but can be a very rewarding journey.
In the final post in this series we will look at what to do once you’ve landed the job. Until then, leave us a comment with your struggle in finding a job or your tip on how you landed the job you have.