What Have I Learned Thus Far?

I have learned many things during my 10 years licensed and 15 years within the profession.  The major take away is that you get out of this profession exactly what you put in.  If you are one who is comfortable on the side lines and doing just what is expected of them then don’t expect advancement or career growth.

If you are the guy or gal who thought you would come in Monday through Friday, 8-5, and be able to leave work at work then you obviously flipped the coin incorrectly when choosing your career path.  Funeral professionals are literally some of the hardest working and most compassionate people you will ever come across.

I would bet to say 95% of us have a hard time leaving work at work and not coming home worrying if you did everything correctly and remembered to order all the necessities for a service.  I have learned that finding a good mentor is key, someone you can really rely on and that will give you completely honest feedback.

Feedback and PROPER coaching is the only way you can grow in the right direction.  Take it from me, find one or more great mentors and do not be afraid to ask questions or clarify things.  A couple years into this I thought I had it all figured out and would be afraid to ask questions because I didn’t want anyone thinking I didn’t have a clue.  Well, I had no clue, and I was truly just throwing darts and praying decisions I made were correct.  This is unfair to both your employer and the families you serve.

I have also learned that involvement at any level is key to success.  Our profession changes so much each and every day that we must keep up with current trends.  The best way to do this is to get involved in your state association and ask your employer to send you to educational opportunities.  Did you know that ICCFA and NFDA both have numerous scholarships to events that will truly benefit you that are just waiting for applicants?

I have attended NFDA Meet the Mentors and the ICCFA University both on scholarships and I cannot even begin to tell you the growth I have had professionally from attending those educational opportunities.  You simply will not get in front of more knowledgeable people than you will by being involved and attending.

YOU DO NOT HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT and no one way is the perfect way.

I still use things on a daily basis when meeting with families that I learned at Meet the Mentors almost 7 years ago.  I have joined my state and local associations and bounced ideas off of local leaders, owners, and managers that have elevated me to a whole new level.  It can be as simple as you playing a round of golf at a State Association meeting. You will be shocked how much you can get out of just doing this.

If you are sitting there wondering why you are still in the same place you were 10 years ago but you are not doing anything to grow professionally… then it’s time to take a look into what you are missing out on.

Go to conventions and trade shows and see some of the new cutting edge stuff out there.  I know that not all of us have the luxury of attending because of work load and staff, but do not be afraid to beg and plead with your employer that you want to grow and serve your families better.

Most employers will see that they have an employee that truly wants to make him or herself better overall  which can positively impact their business.  I go back to another article I once wrote that if you are having a hard time being involved and getting these opportunities, it might be time to start looking at some changes.

Take advantage of joining organizations such as The Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice and earn your CFSP.  Obviously I am bias because I am a board member, but I joined because I wanted to prove to myself I could earn it by being involved in my community and being as educated as I can in our profession.

apfsp iccfa

Zach with Patty from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice at CFSP booth.

The CFSP designation is truly such an important and powerful credential to have behind your name, it lets everyone in our profession know you are motivated to be better and it’s also something you can explain to families: how you earned it, what it took to get it, and the assurance that they are in good hands.

There are many of these types of credentials you can earn which only challenges you to grow.  ICCFA has numerous opportunities.  If embalming and restoration is something of interest to you then seek out Vernie Fountain and Matt Smith who both put on amazing opportunities for learning. The major conventions have these opportunities as well.

Overall, I have learned that like your parents and teachers said numerous times you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do if you just put your mind to it and pony up.  If you are comfortable with doing just what is expected of you that is not a terrible thing, just do not complain when you are not advancing or getting looked at when pay increase time comes around.

Be and do better and give it your all!  It takes a very special and particular type of person to do what we do day in and day out.  By being involved, finding a good mentor, and creating opportunities for success you will be just that… successful.


Written by: Zach Carnley, CFSP

Zach is a licensed funeral director & embalmer in the State of Texas and is a founding member of Millennial Directors. He is also a contributor to NOMIS Funeral Home & Cemetery News and The Dead Beat.

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