Have faith in the power of religious networks

Just as journalists learn that anyone and everyone can be classified as a contact, so should the jobseeker appreciate that their professional network need not be confined to ex-colleagues on Linkedin. A lead for new job can just as easily be found on the church steps as on a recruitment website.

Posted mardi, juillet 11 2023
Have faith in the power of religious networks

According to a Gallup poll published in June, in the four years prior to the pandemic an average of 34% of US adults said they had attended church, synagogue, mosque or temple in the past seven days. From 2020 to present, that average has dipped to 30%. Meanwhile, the same pollsters found that 70% of French people say they have no religion. 

Practicing Christians, Jews and Muslims are in the minority in western society, which means that those that do keep the faith are a more tight-knit community, and this definitely helps when members of the above denominations need a leg up in their professional lives. Let’s take a closer look at a type of networking little known to wider society.

Catholics stick together
"Practicing Catholics have finally come to realize that their base is retracting,” estimates Laurent, a 30-something Catholic who regularly attends mass and is a manager in the pharmaceutical industry. The result of this new reality is a strong sense of belonging and a desire to help his fellow Catholics, notably those looking for a job. “In our community, the idea of merit is held in high regard. Shared values are an advantage, but nepotism or trading on the fact that you share a religion with someone doesn’t work.”

In recent years the scope and sophistication of Catholic organizations whose purpose is to help the flock find work has greatly expanded. Laurent cites Ecclesia RH or Le Rasso, the latter a European network of former scouts that’s become a veritable job noticeboard for exchanging situations vacant.

A religious congregation is great place to establish a rapport with those in a position to provide a career stepping-stone

Beyond the more overtly Catholic networks, some large companies have a strong strain of Christianity in their corporate DNA. The online marketplace ManoMano was founded by former scouts, while Michelin and Danone are still in the hands of the founding Mulliez and Bollore families respectively. "These companies still have something of a Catholic identity and so stating on a CV or in an interview that your were in the scouts, or that you volunteered in parish activities is often a plus,” continues Laurent, who believes that the Catholic faith holds sway in certain public sector organizations, citing the example of the French ministry of defense. 

Multimedia Muslims
Helping each other out is also a trait of the Muslim community, which distinguishes itself via its level of organization online. In France, the site cadres-muslims.com has 100,000 members and offers career guidance, professional assistance and networking events. In certain fields, including IT and data science, many managers trained in countries in the North Africa region, especially Morocco, have reached the upper echelons of the profession. These people are in an ideal position to advise fellow believers or countrymen on the most bankable skills, or the sectors in which they are most likely to thrive.

Jews Sharing Job News
Upon leaving the synagogue, the faithful don’t just talk Torah and Talmud. Questions of a professional nature are also broached, a blessing for those looking for work since, according to the rare surveys on the subject of employment carried out among the Jewish community in France, those identifying as Jewish are well represented in the upper echelons of the business world. According to a 2016 study by Jerome Fourquet and Sylvain Manternach entitled L’an prochain à Jérusalem ? (Next year in Jerusalem?) 27% of Jews in France are senior staff, freelancers, shop owners or company directors, around double the national average for other groups.

To make the most of a religious network, you need to do more than pay lip-service your faith

One thing members of the various denominations agree on is that, to make the most of a religious network, you need to do more than pay lip-service your faith, but, rahter, play an active part in the religious life of your community, with regular attendance at your place of worship a must. “Being invested in your parish is clearly a plus when you are a manager, as it opens the doors to this hidden jobs network,” observes Laurent, who adds that parishes in big cities such as New York are extremely fruitful places to network as they contain a high number of company executives and other high level decision makers. For the job seeker, it is a great place to get noticed and to establish a rapport with those in a position to provide a career stepping-stone.

Woe unto the unscrupulous
Be warned, cosying up to a religious group with the sole aim of passing on your CV is not an advisable course of action, according to the Rabbi Emile Ackermann. “In our community we are above all oriented to the spiritual. Obviously we help each other out, but we can spot a mile off those who join our community because they think it will advance their career."

Clearly, it’s not enough to show up at the mosque on Friday, the synagogue on Saturday or the church on Sunday. If you want to make the most of what religious communities can do for your career, you need to be authentic, build trust, show you can be relied upon and you do this by giving your time and being altruistic. 

In a society that has become suspicious of traditional communitarianism, these types of networks often get a bad press and have to contend with numerous cliches. But in the end, they are made up of people, like any network, and they work like university alumni groups. Both put employers in contact with those seeking employment, and what’s more, they contain people who share the same values, which from a manager’s point of view makes daily life in the workplace easier.    

“Whether it's former students of a particular university or practitioners of a particular faith, the principle remains the same: getting your CV into the hands of the right person and building relationships with potential employers. In this way you application can go to the top of the pile rather than in the dustbin. But at the end of the day it’s ability that counts,” affirms Laurent.

Religious practice is a soft skill like any other. As 90s American rapper MC Hammer once sang “We need to pray, just to make it today.” Amen to that.