Switching Careers: From Catholic Nonprofits to Secular Marketing

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” (St. Catherine of Siena).


Just a few weeks after college graduation, I took a leap of faith and joined Christ in the City — a year-long Catholic missionary program located in urban Denver. 

I was in the midst of a reversion to my Catholic faith, which my parents so ardently nurtured during my childhood. As a result of this intense year of spiritual, intellectual and charitable formation, I was learning to make that gift of faith as my own. After the year-long program was complete, I decided that working in the Catholic nonprofit world would be the best next step for my continued spiritual growth. 

Over the course of the next few years, I got engaged, moved home to Kansas City, got married, worked at my Catholic high school alma mater and had a baby. Every new mom will tell you they’ve changed, but for me, that change extended to my professional life as well.

In a response to what I believe was God’s call, I started working for a secular company as a marketing copywriter. While there are plenty of things I love about my work, I’ve also learned some important things to keep in mind when making the jump from a Catholic to a secular environment. While the switch is not a dramatic one, it is significant, and as such, I’d like to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way so you can make the transition with confidence.

Discuss Your Catholic Faith

People typically won’t stop you mid-sentence when you are discussing your faith, but most businesses have strict rules on proselytizing or openly discussing religion at work. While offering advice such as “pray on it” or, “ask for your patron saint’s intercession” might seem like the appropriate response to your co-worker’s problems, the reality is, they might not be able to receive that advice.

Instead, try finding moments where you can be brave about your faith. Ash Wednesday Mass or Lenten Fridays are the most obvious opportunities to proudly display your faith and encourage an open discussion. A less obvious one could be turning down a group lunch to attend daily Mass and reminding your co-workers they are always invited. Who knows? It could open the door for meaningful conversations.

Time for Prayer Is Never Limited

Every Catholic nonprofit I’ve worked for offered Mass and adoration with a chapel for some one-on-one prayer. It was something I took for granted. I have no chapel and no scheduled meeting with our Lord during my 8-4 office hours, but there is always time to find God in the chaos of each day.

Wake up and say a meaningful prayer. Listen to a podcast that will fill you with hope and joy to persevere during your busy day. Pray before your meals. Say a quick prayer before you head into a long meeting. Sacrifice 10 minutes of your lunch to visit the local parish that offers perpetual adoration. Renew your Marian consecration silently at your desk before your day begins. Go for a walk outside on a beautiful day, and say a decade of the rosary. 

It might not be a chapel, but I can assure you, God will be happy wherever and whenever you pencil him in.

Trust in God’s Will

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Working for a secular organization as a devout Catholic might seem intimidating, but more people are more open to your beliefs than you might think! Look for the little moments that will connect you with a co-worker and allow you to find common ground. Maybe they are Christian, maybe they aren’t. Maybe they want to know more about your faith or want to share their faith.

Never second-guess the power of your “fiat.” If you’re confident in your discernment that God is indeed calling you to a secular workplace, then making the switch is not only the best thing for you but might also be the best thing for someone else! By bringing the light of Christ into this new situation, perhaps you are accepting the opportunity for a new co-worker to say, “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Colleen Godinez is a marketing copywriter for a mid-size membership organization in Kansas City. She graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in psychology and a minor in journalism and mass communication. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing and helping other organizations propel their brand. She has learned to appreciate the little things in life and soaks up every moment she can with her little girl and husband. Depending on the time of day, coffee and wine are her drinks of choice. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.