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Professional Development for the Funeral Professional

One of the most important components of Funeral Service is the level of professionalism of those providing the service.  In a day where consumers have increased business acuity and more access to information, it is imperative that Funeral Service providers have a level of professionalism to meet the demands of the consumer.  One of the founding principles of Women in Funeral Service is to provide women with resources and information that would promote the ultimate level of professionalism as Funeral Directors.  In an effort to continue to encourage professionalism in Funeral Service, I would like to introduce Tyreece Echols.  Tyreece is a Professional Career Developer and Leadership Trainer.  Tyreece has years of education and training in providing practical information to those seeking to advance in their career through professional development and career consulting.  If you would like a personal consultation, you may contact Tyreece at


When it comes to professional development, there is so much information available on the Internet and social media it can become overwhelming. You may also notice everyone seems to have a different opinion on what proper professional etiquette is. When considering your own professional development, first consider the things that are important to your industry. There are some do’s and don’ts that may differ across industries. When we consider the funeral services industry, we know that it would be important to an employer to hire a candidate that will represent them well, who can serve families with care, proper sensitivity, and excellence. Conversely, we must insure your professional resume, appearance, and behavior in an interview, and overall personal brand reflects this.


The overall goal of your resume is to get past the six-second screen to ultimately land an interview. Laszlo Bock, SVP from Google explained he has reviewed 50,000 resumes in one week!  So you could only imagine in those cases, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for anything that can narrow down their list.  The 2013 Career Builder Survey found 58% of resumes have typos. Typos are one of the quickest ways for your resume to be rejected.  Avoid some of these common errors such as improper subject-verb agreement, periods left off, and dates out of alignment. Another way candidate’s applications often get rejected is lying! Yes it’s true! Some candidates tend to stretch the truth about their GPA, where they attended school, time on their job, sales quotas, and size of their teams. Be sure to be completely honest on your resume, because today more than ever, information is available at our finger tips or just a phone call away. Hiring managers are very savvy about finding the information they need also because we were raised better than that, right? So honesty is still the best policy.

We briefly discussed common errors to avoid on your resume. Now let’s discuss ways to make your resume stand out above the rest.  Make sure your resume has plenty of S.A.M.! You are probably wondering what on earth does this mean? S.A.M. stands for skills, accomplishments, and metrics. These 3 areas are vital to creating a winning resume. All too often a resume looks too much like a job description rather than a document that thoroughly explains your unique abilities. S.A.M. really takes your resume to the next level and brings it to life. This is why it is important to keep track of your achievements in a role. I am sure you have accomplished so much in your career, and we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t highlight our skills, accomplishments and metrics. Additionally, adding S.A.M. also helps the reader have a clearer understanding of the magnitude of what you accomplished. If there is any time to show off, now is the time!


Many of the modern resumes have a section called “Areas of Expertise”, “Core Competencies”, or “Highlight of Skills”. You may have seen others. This is the area where you list your strongest skills. When building out this section, I strongly recommend that you print out the job description and use the key words that stand out. Here is an example of what this section would look like:


Core Competencies

Client Services                                    Family Support & Education        Staff Training & Mgmt

Empathetic Communicator          Pre-Need Counselor                      Monument & Markers         

This section is normally just above the “Experience” section. Most importantly, be sure to use the same words used in the job description. For example, if you currently have customer service listed but the job description describes it as client relations, change it to client relations. Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to find the best matches.


Hiring managers are less interested in the general duties you performed and more interested in what you achieved in that role. They are interested in what problems you solved and what value you added to the department. Here is an example of a general description vs. an accomplishment:

Provided stellar customer service for all customers meeting their unique needs and helping them resolve conflict in a swift manner.

Achieved Customer Service Associate of the month 3 times in 2014.

When describing your accomplishments use action words such as achieved, created, implemented, and discovered to really enhance your resume.


When it comes to adding metrics to your resume ask yourself a few question: How many? For how long? How much? Let’s look at this example.

Trained large staff and enhanced overall sales environment.

If we take this statement and ask ourselves how many, for how long, and how much, this is what we may be able to come up with…

Trained a team of 100 and increased sales profits by 20% during the 3rd quarter in 2014.

Do you see how utilizing metrics can truly enhance your resume?


We connect with people online and over the phone often, but when we have a chance to meet with someone face-to-face, we must see it as an amazing opportunity. When you are invited for a face-to-face interview, it’s time to turn it on and show them who you are. It’s common to feel nerves when going in an interview, but just remember, they reviewed numerous applicants, saw your resume, and from there, decided to call you.  Take confidence in knowing you have something great to bring to the table, and BRING IT!

First Impression

Growing up we have often heard that a first impression is everything.  The same is true when it comes to interviewing. Make sure you are professionally dressed. I would suggest wearing a dark colored suit for both men and women. Ladies should wear simple jewelry, panty hose, and light make up. Gentlemen, wear a tie, groomed hair and polished shoes. When you meet your interviewer, give them a strong handshake and maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.


View the LinkedIn profiles of the individuals you are meeting with and learn about any commonalities such as alma mater, sororities, hometown, or organizations. Even if there are limited commonalities, you will get a good grasp of the person you are meeting with and may be able to come up with some talking points. Secondly, research the company by reading up on any current events taking place and use what you learned to incorporate it in a question. For example, you may be interviewing with George Milsap and Son’s Funeral Homes and Crematory. After researching them, you may have recently learned during the upcoming 3rd quarter they plan to expand in the Southeast. During every interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. Using this example you may want to say:

“I noticed you are expanding to the southeast in the third quarter, how will this initiative impact this position?’

When you include a current event in your question, it shows the interviewer that you have a real interest in the company.

Be Prepared

I would like to share with you a few staple questions that you can count on being asked in any interview. And if you are not asked these but are prepared with the answers to these questions, you will be well prepared. The questions are:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about a time when you experienced a challenge and share how you overcame it.
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker and share how you resolved the conflict.
  5. Why should we hire you?

Also be prepared to give scenario based answers. For example, when they ask you about your weaknesses, perhaps you may want to share a weakness and a real life example of how you overcame it or have grown from it.

Lastly, be so familiar with your resume that you can discuss anything on it.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Don’t take the chance at winging it. Walk in the interview already knowing what you plan to discuss, and you can accomplish this best by practicing. Practice with a friend a few times and get feedback. Also, practice in front of the mirror and be aware of facial expressions and body language.


In my opinion one of the most critical areas of professional development is networking. As a new mom, getting back out there after maternity leave was a bit of a challenge, but once I did it, there was no stopping me. Another way to describe networking is building relationships. There are numerous ways to accomplish this. Are you a member of organizations in your industry like the National Funeral Director Association (NFDA)? These organizations often have a local chapter you can join, and they often provide resources where you can learn and grow in your field. You also have an opportunity to meet other like minded professionals in your field. But if you are shy like me, you may want to practice in a lower key environment like your place of worship, the PTA meeting, or the family cook out. Last summer my husband landed an interview from a conversation at a family cook out. It’s a shame that sometimes our own family may not know exactly what we do. If you don’t remember anything we’ve covered today, please remember everyone you know should know what you do or what you are trying to do. Your next great opportunity could be just one conversation away.  Networking can happen anywhere. The idea is to get to know people and to become more comfortable with it.

Another great networking opportunity you should strongly consider is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the largest professional social networking site in the world. Notice it is the largest in the WORLD! This means international opportunities are quite possible. In fact, it was a reality for me. Someone from Germany reached out to me for resume services because he was moving to the Atlanta area and wanted his resume to be compatible to what is acceptable in the US. Another benefit of using LinkedIn is over 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. That is why I urge you to get a profile so you can be found! I can go on and on about the benefits of LinkedIn, but I will share one of my favorite things….GROUPS! You may join groups for your industry on LinkedIn. As a matter of fact NFDA has a group on LinkedIn. In these groups, you can meet people in the field, use the group to vent frustrations, ask advices, or just be spectator and see what people in your arena are discussing. It’s cool because you can learn new trends that are taking place in the field.

Whether it’s through your place of worship, with an association, through LinkedIn, or all of the above find a place for networking in your career. You don’t have to dive in all at once. Just start somewhere and build as you get more comfortable.

It is important to keep in mind your professional development should not only happen during the job search process but is an ongoing process for the life of your career. I believe you should always keep your resume updated and keep track of your achievements in each position. You should also seek opportunities to interview to keep your interview skills strong. And lastly, find ways to meet people and network; it is good for the soul.


  1. Amber R. Amber R.

    Excellent information. Especially for those needing guidance or just a refresher. I encourage anyone who needs help to please contact Ms. Tyreece! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all!

    • Hey Amber R! I am so glad you found the information helpful! Thanks for your support.

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