Returning home from a mission is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in your life. Your next steps might include finding employment or seeking further education, making this a dynamic time of career exploration. While you may also be feeling some uncertainty, know that your experiences and your missionary service have prepared you for the decisions ahead. As you start on your path to building a career, consider the following tips.
Keep Your Momentum
As a missionary, managing your time helped you make and keep appointments, study well, and establish good habits. As a returned missionary, it’s tempting to view being home as vacation time or an extended period of rest. But that could put you in a dangerous trap, causing missed opportunities and reappearing bad habits. Avoid this complacent mindset by continuing to live by a structured and planned schedule like you did as a missionary. Continue using a planner, whether print or digital, that allows you to keep track of your daily activities and use your time efficiently.
Develop a Career Plan
Near the end of your missionary service, or upon returning home, take the time to develop a career plan—a set of goals and actions that will lead you to your ultimate long-term career goal. In addition to including these goals, your career plan should also focus on your needs, resources, and action plan. Seek help in mapping out your career plan from someone you trust—such as your bishop, elders quorum president, Relief Society president, or ward employment specialist—and share your goals with parents or family members who will help encourage you. You can also create an online profile on LDSJobs.org and set up a time for free one-on-one coaching with employment missionaries at the nearest LDS employment resource center or self-reliance center. They can help you develop your career plan and connect you to other available resources.
When putting together a career plan, set both short-term and long-term goals, similar to how you set daily and weekly goals on your mission. For example, a long-term goal could be something like starting a career as an electrician. But what is it going to take to get you to that point? Short-term goals might include having an informational interview with an electrician, finding an apprenticeship, or becoming certified or licensed in certain skills. Short-term goals are stepping-stones that lead to your broader long-term career objective. As you create these goals, make sure each one is realistic and meaningful.
Plan for Education and Finances
Education is the key to attaining skill sets to provide for and sustain a future family. There are often more ways than one to learn the skills you need, such as college courses, university programs, vocational training, apprenticeships, or internships. Refer to your career plan, do some research, and ask for help from others to decide which educational paths are right for you.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “It matters not whether you choose to be merchant, teacher, carpenter, plumber, mechanic, doctor, or to follow any other honorable vocation. The important thing is that you qualify to be useful workers in society. It is so easy and so tragic to become a drifter, a drop-out. It is so challenging and so satisfying to be a producer” (“Watch the Switches in Your Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 92).
But how will you pay for school? In addition to part-time or full-time employment, seek out school, government, or community programs that provide financial resources, such as:
- Perpetual Education Fund (PEF)
- Work-study programs
Effectively Communicate the Skills Gained from Your Mission
As you seek education or employment, effectively communicating the skills you learned from your mission will be invaluable. The good habits and skills you developed as a missionary can directly carry over to your success in the workforce or as a student. Here are some of the possible skills you may have developed while on your mission:
- Time management
- Effective planning and goal setting
- Study and research habits
- Interpersonal communication: Eye contact, body language, and the ability to carry on a conversation
- Conflict management
- Public speaking
- Ability to manage and oversee the work of others
- Working as part of a team
- Active listening
- Teaching English
- Foreign language
Be sensitive when describing your missionary experiences. Consider the company, educational institution, or individual with whom you are sharing your missionary experiences, and decide if doing so will have a positive or negative impact. While explaining the details of your service, be sure to express the value of your missionary experience in a way that makes sense to individuals who aren’t members of the Church. Using unfamiliar terms such as “zone leader,” “district meetings,” and “tracting” will most likely result in blank stares from hiring managers and others. Following are some examples of how you can avoid using LDS jargon and be specific in communicating the skills learned on your mission.
“I served as a a zone leader in my mission.”
“I became a trainer and trained two missionaries during the course of my mission.”
“I planned out every day during my mission and learned how to efficiently use my time.”
“I served my mission in Mexico and became fluent in Spanish.”
“I gained people skills while on my mission.”
“I regularly trained, helped facilitate meetings, and created progress reports for 20 to 24 volunteer representatives in a non-governmental organization.”
“I was given additional responsibilities to help train and mentor other representatives.”
“Every night my colleague and I created an hourly schedule and set numerical goals for the following day. During this time, we would also evaluate our performance from the previous day and discuss how we could improve. This process taught me how to set goals, work with others, and be accountable for how I used my time.”
“My volunteer experience in Mexico taught me how to effectively communicate and work with people of different cultures. Through daily study, I became fluent in Spanish and learned the importance of persistence.”
“I taught and interacted with many different people every day. I learned the importance of good eye contact, body language, and how to listen to others.”
You can better describe the skills gained from your mission by using common language like the examples above. This principle can help you with job applications, résumés, job interviews, and scholarship application essays.
For more practice with presenting yourself well and talking about your mission to employers, meet with a mentor or a job coach at an LDS employment resource center or self-reliance center. They can assist you in creating a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement and power statementsso that you can present yourself confidently.
Use Additional Resources
LDS employment resource centers and self-reliance centers are a great resource for whatever direction you decide to take after your mission. The Career Workshop and Accelerated Job Search (AJS) programs are both offered free of charge at LDS employment centers. These programs, in addition to enhancing your job search and helping you find employment, can help you identify your skills, learn about educational opportunities, and build networking connections. Similar to the key indicators you used on your mission, the AJS program uses the 15-10-2 job search technique. This means obtaining 15 new resources, 10 contacts, and 2 face-to-face meetings or interviews every day. Job seekers enrolled in AJS meet together every morning and report back on their results from the previous day. To find out when and where these meetings are held, contact the nearest LDS employment resource center or self-reliance center.
Continue Forward with Trust in the Lord
Rely on the Lord to help guide you after your mission, just as you relied on Him to help guide you during your mission. Continue to live the gospel and have faith that God will guide you in all that you do.
Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy said, “In whatever manner the Lord may choose to bless us during the course of a mission, blessings of missionary service are not designed to end when we are released by our stake president. Your mission is a training ground for life. The experiences, lessons, and testimony obtained through faithful service are meant to provide a gospel-centered foundation that will last throughout mortality and into the eternities” (“The Opportunity of a Lifetime,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 50).