A few weeks ago, I was interviewing a funeral professional about why he got started in funeral service. As a first-generation funeral director, he was delighted to relate the story of how his then-girlfriend’s father, a funeral professional himself, convinced him that funeral service would be a perfect match for his desire to help his community and be his own boss.
Soon after, he made the decision to attend mortuary school and landed a job at a family friend’s funeral home. After many year’s working at the firm, he continued to feel that funeral service was where he wanted to continue his career, but he felt stuck overall. It seemed that his passion was occasionally wearing thin as the toll of his day-to-day duties set in. He also felt he had ideas that could benefit the firm, but making changes to an established funeral home didn’t seem like an option.
Not knowing what to do, he reached out to several of his mentors for advice. One of the best suggestions he received during that time was from a mentor who asked him a series of questions: How much do you spend each month on food? How much do you spend on rent? How much do you spend on your mind?
He had answers to the first two questions, but the third was much harder to calculate. Finally, he told his mentor that he didn’t spend any money on his mind each month. His mentor responded by pointing out that it seemed he had found the problem, and suggested he “invest” in his brainpower by “investing” in a library card, because it was free, after all.
From that day forward, the funeral professional began slowly incorporating education into his daily routine. He thought of even more great ideas for the funeral home and found ways to make him a better professional and person. A few years later, he took the knowledge he had accumulated and decided to purchase a funeral home of his own. To this day, he still says that becoming a lifelong learner helped him reach his goals.
Learning about the world around you can have many benefits to your personal and professional life. Here are a few ways that you could see a difference in your career and your funeral home.
Gain a Wider View of the World Around You
Whether you live in a small town or a large metro, there is often more to the world than is in your grasp, but becoming a lifelong learner can help you discover it. Understanding your culture’s history and the history of other cultures can make understanding each other easier. Learning how different cultures have related to each other in the past can make communication more effective.
As the United States faces shifting demographics over the next few decades, understanding cultural differences in communication styles has become more important in everyday life. The U.S. Census Bureau projects significant demographic shifts over the next 15 years. The black and Hispanic populations, age 65 and older, are expected to increase to 22% of the population by 2030, which is an 8% increase from 2012. While there are a number of funeral homes already serving diverse communities, those in historically homogenous areas may start to see a shift in their client families’ traditions and consumer preferences over the next few years. Being proactive in learning about different cultures could equip you to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse market.
Developing the skills to be a lifelong learner can open new doors for you and your funeral home. Consider taking advice from the first-generation funeral director and get a library card in your city. Reading about the history of those growing populations could be a good place to start your adventure into lifelong learning.
Consider New Technology
As the baby boomers age and begin needing funeral service assistance, it’s possible that millennials – their children – will be helping to make those important decisions. According to a 2015 TD Ameritrade study, 20% of millennials are already financially supporting their parents. In the coming years, it’s likely that people will become more difficult to connect with due to the popularity of emerging technology. Understanding how to reach potential decision makers with an education on technology could prove beneficial for your funeral home.
According to a study from Nielsen, millennials ranked “Technology Use” as the most defining characteristic of their generation. Consider focusing some of your lifelong learning efforts on burgeoning technology like funeral livestreams for family members who can’t attend, apps to help families manage their event and digitally produced memorial videos. Information on developing technology can be found in funeral service publications and popular technology websites like Wired and TechCrunch.
Reignite Passion for Your Job
Not only can lifelong learning be good for your funeral home, but it can also help you in your personal life. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, only 6.6% of American adults age 25 and older practice self-care on a daily basis. Self-care is the practice of doing activities that keep you healthy without medical or other professional consultation. These activities include things like massages, healthy eating habits, meditating or exercising.
There is some stigma surrounding self-care. According to GoodTherapy.org, an organization that advocates for healthy psychotherapy, some people view self-care as being selfish. However, the site states that people whose job is to care for others can become physically and emotionally drained if they don’t practice some form of self-care.
Educating yourself on simple ways to develop self-care routines could keep you from developing compassion fatigue. According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, compassion fatigue is the burnout associated with individuals who work in environments with strong emotional challenges. They also note that highly compassionate people tend to focus on the needs of others and forgo proper self-care. Understanding stressors and continuing on the path of lifelong learning can become one of the best ways to manage and prevent compassion burnout. You can study more about self-care and compassion fatigue from the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, The American Institute of Stress and many scholarly articles on how compassion fatigue affects funeral professionals.
Whether you are just starting out in your career or are wondering if it’s time to make a change, becoming a lifelong learner in any number of topics can benefit your life and funeral home. Start your journey to becoming a better you today. FBA
Sarah Loghry joined Homesteaders in 2017 as a Marketing Communications Specialist. Prior to that, she worked as the Communications and PR Coordinator for the Iowa Chapter of the ALS Association and a Digital Marketing Associate at Blue Compass Interactive (a full-service advertising agency in West Des Moines).