4 Tips For Kicking Butt In The Funeral Profession (That You Didn’t Learn In Mortuary School)

Nothing is better than finding your passion in life. For some people, this might be a desire to express your creativity through art or music, or to help people better themselves through education or teaching. But for those in the funeral profession, the journey towards a career full of passion is a little bit different.

Maybe your path to this profession has been clear since the beginning. You wanted to help people and make a difference in people’s lives, so you looked for careers that would help you along this path… funeral director, grief counselor, embalmer… and then enrolled in mortuary school to begin studying toward your passion. And while mortuary school is a great first step for learning the ins and outs of the funeral profession, for many, their first day as a funeral apprentice can still leave them feeling unprepared and overwhelmed.

The truth of the matter is, there is only so much you can learn inside a classroom. The rest comes with years of experience working with families, organizing services, and helping people through the grieving process. But don’t worry, new funeral pro. We’re here to give you a leg up. We want to help you become the best at what you do and deliver the ultimate healing experience to your families. So today, we’re sharing four great tips that you definitely didn’t learn in mortuary school.

1. Love What You Do

A few months ago, we asked funeral professionals on our Facebook page why they decided to go into this type of career, and nearly all of them gave a similar answer – It’s not a career. It’s a calling. And it’s their love of what they do that has allowed them to succeed over the years. It will be your passion for helping people and making a difference that will get you through the hard days, and keep you going when your phone rings at 3am… for the third night in a row. So before you jump into your first funeral job, make sure that this really is the profession for you. Take an apprenticeship, shadow a funeral director, or volunteer at a local funeral home on the weekends. If you don’t have the passion, you’ll never reach your full potential.

2. Don’t Just Inform… Educate

Today’s families are changing, and the way that they look at funeral service is different than it has ever been before. But this isn’t a bad thing for those that are new to the profession. In fact, it’s a great way to get into the good habit of educating families, rather than simply informing them and selling to them.

For instance, when a family calls to get information about cremation costs, don’t just offer them pricing options. Ask questions. Try to learn about what they are hoping to get from cremation. Ask what an ideal service would look like to them, or what their goals and expectations are for the funeral. Then be sure to educate them about what you offer and how it can help them. Not only will families value your services more when they are educated about them, but taking the educational route will set you along a path for success for years to come.

3. Take Care Of Yourself, Too

Did you know that ¾ of mortuary grads do not stay in the profession longer than a decade? (This probably isn’t a shocker to most seasoned funeral directors…) Why? Because, as much as they love what they do, the funeral profession is difficult, and many days will take an emotional toll on you. And while most other professions can take advantage of long weekends or vacation time to get a much needed recharge and break from their job, that kind of time off just doesn’t apply to funeral professionals.

It’s hard to find time to relax when you’re juggling house calls, pre-planning meetings, services, appointments, and the many other tasks on your daily to-do list. But, trust us, it is important that you take care of yourself in order to avoid burn out. And a mix of good sleep, work breaks and emotional outlets are the secret to staying in this profession for decades to come. So be sure to find a healthy work/life balance, and find a hobby or activity that lets you forget about work at least a few times a week.

4. Brush Up On Non-Mortuary Skills

Just because you may have graduated from mortuary school with flying colors, that doesn’t mean that you have what it takes to be a rockstar funeral professional. There are a lot of other personal and professional skills that you must have in order to work well with families and plan a great funeral service. For instance, make sure you are comfortable with speaking in public, and asking great interview questions. (Many local organizations offer public speaking classes that will make you a pro when directing a service or meeting with a new family.) Also be sure to brush up on your writing, computer and technology skills, as they are all requirements for an outstanding funeral hire.

Want to truly impress your local funeral home employees? Become familiar with popular tools in the profession, such as Life Tributes – a great software tool that thousands of funeral homes use to create breathtaking memorial tribute videos for the families they serve. Knowing how to use the tools that many local funeral homes are already using will truly set you apart from others just graduating mortuary school. (You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Life Tributes at this link.)

If you are a seasoned funeral professional, what other advice would you give to new mortuary school graduates who are just starting out? Is there anything about the funeral profession that you wish you knew when you were first hired at a funeral home? Be sure to leave your advice in the comments below!

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  1. Glenn Davis

    Number one, be prepared to give up your life, stay single if possible, try never to work for a family owned business (you will always come last) and my last bit of advice is become a cop or a fireman or a teacher, you will get a pension. I hate to sound negative but I have been doing this for almost 40 years and really there is nothing else I would rather be doing

  2. DB

    Work/life balance? In the funeral business? That’s funny. I worked for a firm where the manager lived in the funeral home. She wasn’t married, and felt if she lived and worked in it 24/7/365, you should too or you weren’t dedicated. Maybe one of these days when there’s no qualified licensed personnel for funeral homes to hire, they’ll be forced to change their old school modes of operation and realize employees have a life too.

  3. Paul DeMitri

    Another thing they don’t tell you is be prepared to give up your weekends, nights and holidays for no differential. Don’t plan on spending time with your wife or kids if you have time to have any.

  4. Nan Bree

    Don't also forget these other tips:1) You're a piece of [blocked] on the shoe of the boss2) The boss has a line of people who would be happy to take your job3) You're a dime a dozen (especially if you ask for more money)4) No one tells you to get married….no time for your spouse or kids, oh well you should have stayed single5) If you want respect in your field, work at McDonalds or the circus following elephants and scooping their shit.

  5. Amy Gagne

    In the article it states, It’s not a career, it’s a calling…..that is one of the most accurate quotes to describe the mentality needed to be successful in this field. I’m part of the 3/4 of mortuary graduates who have taken departures from this profession before being in it for 10 years. The reasons are as others have stated. It is difficult to enjoy and participate in your own life with family and friends when with one ring of the phone and you have to leave what you’re doing behind to go on a call that at the minimum last an hour or many more if you’re an embalmer. The calls come any time. Three in the morning is quite common, as is anytime time throughout the day and night. Doctors, veterinarians, and clergy experience that as well. One of the times I left the profession in need of a break I had spoken to a veterinarian about his hours and asked how he handled being on call all the time. His response was, “I just accepted that this was my calling. It’s what I do. When I leave the office and see people at the store I don’t cease being a veterinarian. If they have a question or need help with their animal I try to help them whether I’m off or not.”
    So many jobs out there you can clock out and you cease being a courier, bus driver, secretary, waitress, fabricator, mechanic……..and switch over and be just be a mom, dad, or spouse. Although, when you’re on-call, funeral director is who you are, shared with the other roles in your life.

  6. Chris Pederson

    I really like how you said that a funeral service should ask the families that come in about what they think an ideal service should look like. If I was asked this then I would start to feel a whole lot better about planning everything. I’d feel as if the funeral service actually wants to help me and not just take my money.

  7. Krystal Penrose

    Thanks for sharing Chris, it’s good to establish new ideas about what a funeral director can do for you. Things are changing!