Career profile: Jo Salm, McCartney Family Funerals - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

How did you decide on a career as a funeral director?

I had worked at K-Mart Wynnum Plaza for 17 years and I decided that I needed a change. I had always wanted to be a mortician and had an opportunity to join a funeral company. Initially I worked as a Cremator Operator, then became a Funeral Director after working behind the scenes for a few years. It can sometimes feel a little strange to know that the families that I served for so long at K-Mart are now the families that I serve as a funeral director, but it is also comforting knowing that I have that connection to their loved one and can support them during their grief and loss.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A funeral director’s day can change in an instant, a simple phone call can completely change the things that I need to do. Most days however, I am completing general office duties (there is a lot of administration to complete for a funeral), talking to families, engaging in our community programs and activities, arranging funerals, conducting funerals, and a range of other funeral tasks. My day is always focussed on supporting the families that I am currently serving and making sure they receive incredible service and have the space and time to grieve in a healthy way.

What are the highlights of your job?

Being able to help and guide those people in my community through what is the hardest thing they will ever need to organise and being there for people that I genuinely care about during those times of grief and loss.

Do you have any interesting stories about your job?

One of my families – their mother had everything planned right down to what each child had to do. There were seven children. Mum had made these mobiles to hang off the sides of the chairs – approximately 20 all up. The last request their mum had made was for there to be a conga line out of the chapel to catering with a boombox on someone’s shoulder playing a certain song from the ’80s. Everyone got into place and conga lined exactly as she had planned. It was a great send off for her. The children had met every one of their mother’s wishes.

Has your industry changed over the years?

Since I started in 2004 a lot has changed in the funeral industry. It was very rare that people had photographic slideshows, these are now common at most funerals. We were doing funerals within three days of someone passing, families are now taking their time and taking a week to organise as there is a lot to do and this gives more time for families to understanding and express their grief in a healthy way without feeling rushed. Technology has come along in leaps and bounds. Gone are the days of the old cassette tape and CDs, it’s all now done on USB sticks as MP3s and MP4s. I am still learning.

Are there any common myths and misconceptions you’d like to address about your job?

As a cremator operator I was always asked how many coffins you can fit in the cremator. There is only room for one coffin. The whole coffin goes in including the plastic handles; metal handles are removed and discarded unless the family wants them back.

What advice would you give a young person considering a career in your industry?

It can be the most rewarding career you can ever have. Helping families in need at the worst time of their lives is rewarding. It’s not a career for everyone, but for people who are naturally compassionate, empathetic and who have a genuine desire to care for their community, a Funeral Director might just be the career path for you.

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