Putting the Fun in Funeral: Lessons about Work from My Dad

June 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Rocking a handle bar mustache and a Dorothy Hamill haircut like only we could in 1979! Magnificent hair is another legacy from my dad.

My favorite thing about the movie My Girl is that the main character is the daughter of a tuba-playing small town undertaker – VERY familar. We didn’t live at the funeral home growing up but we did have their phone line at our house and I have fond memories of wandering over to the office during the summers to mooch coca colas when things were slow. And my dad does play tuba. And euphonium. And several other brass instruments in his spare time. When my dad wasn’t warning me about the dangers of dating brass players, I learned a few things by example from his own career that held me in good stead as I have navigated my own non-linear professional path.

My dad had always wanted to be a funeral director but his parents steered him toward another career path that seemed to them to hold the promise of more financial stability (a great read on this is over at Laura Berman-Fortgang’s Huffington Post blog). Over the years, life happened and my dad’s dream faded until his mid-thirties when an opportunity presented itself for him to go back to school and finally train to become a funeral director. It hasn’t been an easy road over the last thirty years as the industry has changed dramatically. I have watched my dad roll with it and re-invent himself career-wise a few times and here’s what I have learned.

It doesn’t matter that you’re a girl or who your family is or any other external defining factor. When I got accepted into an special academic program at school, he was proud, but he warned me “…that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee”. Over and over again he emphasized the importance of getting a good education and working hard. He knew I would be judged based on what I produced, not on any other factor.

You’re never too old. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but it must have been quite an adjustment for my dad to leave a known job for the unknown of funeral school and apprenticeship.

Don’t be afraid. As the funeral industry has changed, my dad has dealt with periods of career upheaval. Along the way, I never saw him give up hope. Even as he explored other job options, he found opportunities to learn from these situations. Fear holds you back and closes your mind to new experiences.

Change your perspective. My dad is no longer a full-time funeral director. He keeps in touch with the industry he still enjoys working as a substitute but his full-time job is in insurance. Years before, he had to get a state license to sell insurance products. This additional credential allowed him to segue into a different career when the labor market tightened for the funeral industry. If he hadn’t been flexible in how he viewed his credentials, he would have missed an opportunity.

Do what you love. My dad is good at what he does and his favorite part is helping families. His interest in serving others held him through a return to school and constant change in his industry. Even though he doesn’t do it full time, his background and commitment to helping families serves him well in his new career.

What did you learn from your dad about work and career?  Tell us in the comments below!

We here at PEC wish everyone a wonderful Father’s Day!  

Posted by:  Heather Comstock

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