Yesterday was a special day. Besides being my Dad’s birthday, it also marked one year since I started the third professional job of my life–manager of digital communications at Catholic Extension.
When do you stop saying that you got a new job? After one month? After six months? After a year? The first time I switched jobs, I’m pretty sure I was still referring to it as “my new job” when I had already been there for two years. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of the swift passage of time, my multiple work projects keeping things fresh, or my inability to stay in touch with people who should have learned about my “new” job when it was legitimately new.
So my newest new job is now a year old. And what an interesting year it’s been! My decision to leave Northwestern University last year was not an easy one. I had a good and stable job at a place where I was incredibly comfortable. Still, I felt like I had accomplished about all that I could at my good old alma mater and was ready for some new challenges. I had updated my resume and interviewed for a few other jobs when the Catholic Extension position fell out of the sky and into my lap.
I received a random call from one of my grad school journalism professors saying that she had been in touch with a Catholic organization that needed someone with my skills and abilities and so she happened to think of me. She had no idea that I was even currently looking for a job or that I had also been looking at potential jobs that would allow me to serve the Catholic Church. Being in the journalism/communications/public relations field, it had long been my ambition to somehow use my skills to help get the message out about all the good that the Catholic Church is doing at a time when much of the secular world sees the Church as increasingly archaic and irrelevant. Unfortunately, my investigations led me to believe that I would never find a Catholic job that could satisfy that desire and still allow me to pay the bills. But from what my professor told me, this job might be exactly what I was looking for.
I took the bait, and the rest of the process was a whirlwind. I got that initial phone call on a Tuesday morning. I talked to the recruiter Tuesday afternoon. I interviewed with the recruiter Thursday morning. I interviewed at Catholic Extension all day on Friday. (And I do mean all day. The gauntlet of interviews was staggering, but apparently worth it!) I had to come back for one more interview the following Monday, and then I was offered the job the next day. Inside of a week, I went from never having heard of Catholic Extension to accepting a job there. It was all a bit surreal in its speed and perfection.
Yet I still hesitated a bit. I’m a planner, not a risk-taker–especially when I had just bought a house and was two months away from getting married. I was looking for something stable–kind of like the job I already had at NU–and wasn’t sure if this was a prudent move to make at a time when so many other parts of my life were already changing. After getting the job offer and talking it over with Theresa though, it all seemed somewhat divinely inspired and we both felt like it was something I was being directly led to do.
It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. I thought that I had experienced all of life’s major changes in 2014 when I sold my condo, bought a house, got engaged, got a new job and got married. For a self-proclaimed hater of change, I was changing everything at once and loving every minute of it. What could possibly go wrong? Then 2015 started.
I have had a lot of blessings on my cancer journey, but one of the greatest has been my job at Catholic Extension. When I first received my diagnosis, I also received immediate assurance from my boss that they would be there to walk with me through this experience and that the restoration of my health was their number one concern. It wasn’t a hollow statement. I have received nothing but support, concern and prayers from my coworkers–a bouquet of flowers after my first surgery, #DownWithLumpy photos and texts on my first day of chemo, a care package of cards and candy when I was halfway through my treatment, and lots of other messages, gifts and encouragement along the way.
They also arranged for me to work from home, which I have been doing exclusively since starting chemotherapy. Armed with my beloved work laptop, I think my colleagues would agree that I have been a surprisingly productive and effective remote coworker for the past six months–videoconferencing into meetings, running our #FlatFrancis social media campaign and overseeing the redesign of our website–all from my pillowed perch on the couch in my living room.
With the sea of uncertainty that comes from having cancer, it has been a complete grace to not have to worry about my job in the slightest and to actually have it serve as a positive distraction. The insurance coverage has also been tremendous, relieving the financial burdens that so many other cancer patients usually endure. I am truly blessed. If I had remained at Northwestern, I’m sure I would have received similar support, but there is simply no way that I could have done my job remotely. It’s pretty difficult to shoot video of campus news and events when you’re not in Evanston. Also, it seems that at least 75 percent of my previous responsibilities at NU are now no longer handled by my former department. Change was in the air even before I got my new job. If I hadn’t left, what would have become of me?
It doesn’t really pay to engage that hypothetical though, because I did leave, and I’ve found Catholic Extension to be a perfect professional fit for me. Beyond the unanticipated blessings I’ve enjoyed since January that proved this was the right career move, my new job (there I go again!) has provided me with lots of fresh challenges, given me the chance to try new ideas and even allowed me to put on a management hat for the first time (I have a budget!). All the while, I am working on projects that directly relate to my faith, and my success at helping this non-profit organization to raise money means that other people in the poorest parts of America are able to better practice
their our faith, too.
Watch out, here comes a commercial for Catholic Extension. Until I worked here, I had no idea about some of the realities of the Catholic Church in America. Growing up in the Chicago area, where the city is littered with gloriously ornate churches and each suburb has multiple healthy Catholic parishes and schools, I was completely blown away by the lack of resources in other American dioceses. Going on mission trips to some of these places (another perk of the job), I have witnessed the intense faith of Catholics in places where church facilities are insufficiently small and rundown. I have heard stories about priests who drive more than 100 miles on a Sunday to celebrate Mass at multiple locations. I have seen the impact of the ministries we fund that empower lay people to take on leadership roles in their parishes to help the Church become a powerful force for good in challenging communities. I’m not just saying this…it’s truly as inspiring as it sounds. Last year we set a new record by raising $32 million for the 94 mission dioceses we support. I can’t wait to see what we do this year. </commercial>
So clearly I love my job, and I can’t wait to get back into the office on a full-time basis. I made a rare appearance at work on Wednesday and it felt somewhat surreal to be back in my cube and physically present at meetings for once. I was also able to celebrate my one-year workiversary at the CE employee recognition dinner that night. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with all of my colleagues and to show off Theresa a bit, too. The fact that most of my coworkers are reading this blog and staying up to date on my adventure is really humbling to me, and their joyful encouragement as I prepare to finish treatment next week has been a source of strength.
Since CE had a rebirth of sorts in 2008 and has recently hired lots of new employees, they recognize people who have been with the organization for 3 and 5 years at the celebratory dinner. It’s incredible to think that when I receive that three-year certificate, I will already be two years removed from all of this. My first year–divided almost exactly between my first six months in the office and the last six months working from home–has been a long and eventful one. I look forward to settling into a cancer-free existence and hopefully continued success at my not-so-new job that brings me so much personal fulfillment.