That’s the typical response I get, from the young and old alike. Younger people have a stereotype of what a funeral director should look like – thank you Netflix. They might expect Lurch Adams or perhaps a character from “Six Feet Under.” The older folks walk into a funeral home looking for a middle-aged, church-going man. I don’t fall into any of the above-mentioned categories, but that is the change in our industry. Join me in my exploration.
Walk into any funeral home, and you’ll likely find an odd dynamic. Older funeral directors claim to be experts – at everything, all the time, since the beginning of time. The younger ones are over-educated and driven by ideals to “make a difference.” As a fourth-generation funeral director, who is also a 32-year old female, I found myself torn. Tradition coursed through my veins, yet I felt a need to bring our industry into the new-times. I chafed against the idea of handwritten contracts, and typewriters for printed materials. There had to be a way to combine these two ways of thinking. Honor the old. Pioneer the new. That was my mission.
I didn’t have any intention of pivotal change in my career. Like many Millennials, I decided against working for a minimum-wage life until death. I’d drawn the line in the sand that said, “No, I’m not going to kill my dreams to make yours come true. I’m going to find my own way.” On a day like any other, I stumbled on an article about a company I’d never heard of called Parting Pro. They specialize in software that enables forward-thinking funeral directors to serve consumers online. Their technology appealed to my millennial side, but their aim for service appealed to my traditional side. I initiated contact, hopeful that I could offer support.
I quickly realize how passionate I felt about offering more than support and over several weeks of conference calls and exploration, created a position for myself. I wanted more. I saw an opportunity and illuminated the benefits for them of having a licensee on staff. Today I’m their Aftercare Director and Social Media Manager, because I grabbed the bull by the horns and made it happen. I put myself out there and they believed in me. I embraced the pursuit of my happiness, as well as the pursuit of growth in our industry. Together, we’ve crafted a team that spans the country, and we work together to forge serious change for funeral homes and families, alike.
My message for you? Change is possible. As a millennial director, you may feel stuck in a dinosaur industry. You may be the person making name cards on a typewriter. But this is our industry now! Take your bull by the horns and create the change you want. These are our families and we can determine how we serve them. You are not limited to the status-quo, as impossible as it may seem to break away. What’s the formula for change? I’ll recap it for you. One part desire, one part initiative, and one part opportunity.
To learn more about Parting Pro, click here. You can check out our blog, read up on what we do, and watch our awesome video!
Written by: Gillian Rodriguez
Gillian is a fourth-generation funeral director & embalmer who lives on her family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country. She is currently in graduate school completing a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling. Gillian works with Parting Pro to develop software for the death-tech side of our industry, and still occasionally pops into the local funeral home to lend a helping hand. She is a member of TFDA, as well as the TFDA Disaster Response Team, Angel Gowns, along with many others.
To this day, she wears a bracelet made out of her grandfather’s cufflinks as a reminder that tradition in service can be honored, but staying true to herself is most important.