Little Miss Funeral’s Tips For Breaking Into The Funeral Profession
This article was originally shared by FuneralOne
I woke up with a smile on my face. One month prior I had just graduated from the New England Institute at Mount Ida College with an Associates Degree in Funeral Services. An accomplishment I wore proudly like a badge. A goal I had spent the last two years working towards. But for me, graduation was just the first stepping stone in my journey.
I slowly got out of bed and got dressed. I was nervous, although my family had told me not to be. My mom had bought me a new gray suit. Since I wasn’t yet working in a funeral home, she felt it was professional without being too ‘morbid’. I laughed to myself at the irony and prayed that she was right.
Next Stop: The Real World
I had called Charles two days prior. He owned a own funeral home about 30 miles outside of my town. My mom worked with a woman who knew him. My cousin had a mutual friend through him. These connections did nothing to ease the tension in my stomach. I explained to him on the phone that I had just graduated from mortuary school and had many questions about what to do next.
Mortuary College, to an extent, will hold your hand. They want you to pass the National Board Exam that first time around so they can tell prospective students that they have an excellent passing rate. I was in the real world now. I didn’t know what to do next. So that’s where Charles came in.
I walked into the funeral home and immediately become overwhelmed. It was a beautiful old house that had been converted sometime over the last 40 years. The hallways seemed like they went on forever. There was a service going on in the chapel. My palms began to sweat and I prayed to God for me to not make a fool of myself and trip in my new black heels. At that moment Charles walked out of the chapel and I began to sing songs of thanksgiving that I stalked his website the night before. He looked just like his photograph. I quickly wiped my hands on the side of my suit and walked up to him and introduce myself. He shook my hand and smiled. So far so good.
He invited me into his office so we could talk. I explained how I had come to call him based on mutual connections. He was a straightforward man who asked me what I wanted from him. I explained that after graduation, I was lost as to what to do to become licensed in New York State and was looking for some guidance and advice. We spent the next 40 minutes talking about everything other than funerals. He looked me in the eyes and offered me a job on the spot.
“But I’m not even licensed!” I protested
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll get you licensed”, he replied. “I can teach you how to be a funeral director, but I can’t teach you how to be compassionate. That’s something that has to be inside of you, and I feel as if you have it.”
I wondered how a 40 minute conversation had made him believe this about me, but I was not about to pass up this opportunity. I hoped that everyone’s opinion about him was correct as I accepted the job and asked him if I was allowed to wear nail polish. He laughed and said yes. I silently wondered if I was prepared for this next step since my professors had said no to nail polish. Were the last two years a lie?
Finding Your Place
School will keep you so busy that often you don’t think about what comes after. At least, that’s what happened to me. My mind was set to tunnel vision. Focus on one thing at a time.
“Okay Lauren, let’s get through college.”
“Okay, Lauren, let’s just pass the Science section of the National Board Exam.”
Soon you find yourself with all of the credentials and no job.
In a world that revolved around the internet, I have found that my greatest asset was learning how to talk to people. Sure, Google is my best friend when looking to learn something new (I did google my boss before our meeting), but as a funeral director, you spend the majority of your time with people. Sometimes, they’re cold and in the back room, but sometimes they’re grieving in one of the front rooms.
Something that I learned from talking to people is this; folks are fascinated with funeral directors. Knowing someone who works in such a taboo field makes for great dinner conversation. When I tell someone new what I do for a living, I am surprised by the number of times they reply with “Oh, do you know Mr. Smith from Smith Funeral Home? I have a cousin who drives the hearse for him!” You never know where something will lead. After all, my foot in the door was a mutual friend and my mom’s co-worker.
But the connections would have never helped me if I didn’t make that phone call. There was no job posting. I was not even looking for a job; I was looking for advice. It’s just one more example of what can happen if you take a chance.
Funeral directors are distinct members in the community. They have to know how to present themselves and speak for themselves. People look to them for guidance. So even if your stomach feels like you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean, put on that suit and make sure you have a firm handshake. You are the best advertisement for yourself. Be professional, but be yourself. Someone may just notice that little spark that makes you unique. Make those phone calls and talk to people. Coincidences are a funny thing. And make sure you ask about the nail polish.
ABOUT LAUREN LEROY:
Lauren LeRoy, also known as Little Miss Funeral, is a twenty four year old licensed funeral director in New York State. Little Miss Funeral was started in March 2012 as a platform for Lauren to share her thoughts and ideas on the funeral industry.
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