A religious career is often seen as a calling rather than a profession, one that is considerably purer than a job in corporate America. But some alumni have found that their “worldly” business experience actually enhanced their pastoral roles.
Exhibit A: Charles Hardwick (KSM93), whose degree helped him land a prestigious job at Bain & Co., a global consulting firm. He worked in Dallas for a year, then moved to Madrid for two years, a position that thrilled the former Spanish major.
“In many ways I had my dream job,” he says. “I was enmeshed in Spanish society, and I got promoted to manager. But I didn’t have an end goal that made working so hard worth-while. One of my clients was a brewery, and I just wasn’t interested in helping them find cheaper bottles. It’s impossible to work that hard if you don’t care about the end result.”
He remembers the turning point that forced him to re-evaluate his life. “It was 1:30 a.m., and I was in a hotel outside of London the day before a presentation, faxing documents back and forth from the London office. The person who was sending documents back to me suddenly told me, ‘That’s it — I’m just a temp. I’m leaving.’ It was like God was sending a voice of reason telling me not to live this life.”
He had thought half-heartedly about entering the ministry years before, and he decided to take the plunge after talking to a pastor friend, Sarah Sarchet Butter (KSM98), who later came to Kellogg herself.
Still, it took Hardwick about nine months to decide to leave his job. “I remember complaining to God: ‘If I do this, I will have to change every single thing about my life — where I live, how much money I make, who my friends are.’ I had a friend who said to me literally 10 times, ‘That’s crazy.’”
Now an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Hardwick is currently working toward a doctorate in preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. For his dissertation he is designing surveys that will allow listeners to help pastors preach more faithfully and more effectively using market research methods he learned at Kellogg.
It’s one of the many aspects of his Kellogg experience that Hardwick has found relevant to his new career. “A lot of what I learned at Kellogg was how to be a leader,” he says. “Most ministers don’t get that training in how to chart a vision.” It also gave him added credibility when he worked at a church in Atlanta. “I asked questions about church finances in the same way I used to quiz my clients — they didn’t know how to answer!”
Hardwick’s own finances took a hit when he left consulting, but his ministry experiences have put that in perspective. While working at the church in Atlanta, he sometimes found himself missing his relatively cushy consulting office — until the day a homeless man came in to meet with Hardwick and said, “This is a really nice office.”
“I realized I really didn’t give up that much,” says Hardwick. “My previous career was intellectually challenging, but I didn’t care about the work. Now I care deeply about helping people find deeper faith. Even though I took a 70 percent pay cut, I still think to myself, ‘I can’t believe they pay me for this!’”
Warren Radtke (EB57), of Chelsea, Mass., has found that a life of faith and a life in business are not mutually exclusive. An accounting and finance major at Northwestern, he spent four years working for the General Electric Credit Corp. (now GE Capital Corp.) then attended the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and worked for 16 years as an Episcopal priest. “The ministry was a chance to be involved in the major events in people’s lives — what ministers jokingly refer to as ‘hatching, matching and dispatching,’” he says.
But Radtke’s ministry extended beyond the church doors. He began to visit parishioners at their offices, so he could more fully understand their daily lives, and discovered that he enjoyed helping people find their way through problems at work. (He also began advising clergy who needed to make what he calls “a graceful exit” from the ministry.) Eventually he realized that his career counseling was the aspect of his job he enjoyed most, so “I took off my collar and put on a necktie.” (He remains an ordained priest and still takes part-time and temporary church positions.)
With four partners, he started a successful human resources consulting firm and then started his own private career-coaching practice (among his clients, the Harvard Business School, which refers alumni with career difficulties to him). Now 71, Radtke says, “I’m far from retired. This work keeps me alive.”
Though his job titles may have changed over the years, Radtke says there’s a common thread to everything he’s done. “I’ve always been involved with people and organizations at critical turning points. When people are in crisis, it’s very fulfilling to help them through that process.” — E.C.B.