Highlighting Hounds – Nicholas Zecco

Hi, hounds! On this week of Highlighting Hounds, we are featuring Nicholas Zecco ’24, a recent graduate who majored in Business Management and minored in Marketing. As an Apprentice Funeral Director at Miles Funeral Home in Holden, MA, Nicholas’s role allows him to combine his educational background in business management with his passion for helping others. Read the blog below to learn more about Nicholas’s journey toward pursuing a career in the funeral industry, as well as learn more about the role of a Funeral Director.

Nicholas Zecco ’24

What inspired you to pursue a career in the funeral industry?

At 15 years old, my parents encouraged me to get a job. Like every 15-year-old, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do. I was offered a job by a family friend to work in the parking lot of a funeral home, with no intention of ever pursuing a career in funeral service.

However, after a difficult battle with Parkinson’s Disease, my beloved grandfather passed away on January 5, 2018. On this day, my entire perspective changed. Navigating the unbearable grief of this tremendous loss, I didn’t know who to turn to. It wasn’t until the funeral home took my grandfather to his final resting place that I realized the impact they make on others. Amidst the sorrow, I found myself drawn to the compassionate support of the funeral director. I never understood the importance of this career until I encountered it. The funeral director came to my family with open arms and unwavering support, understanding, and empathy. In those moments when our hearts were broken, the funeral director stepped in with guidance, easing our pain.

Witnessing this profound kindness firsthand, I found myself interested in the funeral industry. It was a moment of great despair and enlightenment. I was able to reflect and celebrate upon my grandfather’s life, while also mourning his loss. My perspective of the funeral industry has changed ever since.

What are your duties and responsibilities as an Apprentice Funeral Director?

Working as an Apprentice Funeral Director with over six years of experience, I play a role in all facets of the profession under the supervision of a licensed Funeral Director. From assisting with funeral arrangements, coordinating services for families, preparing the deceased for viewing, and supporting grieving families before, during, and after the services, I am dedicated to providing sympathetic care while paying meticulous attention to detail.

I take significant pride in my contribution to the celebration of all loved ones who are taken into our care. I am honored to assist in providing dignified farewells to each and every family. Every single task I encounter is approached with sensitivity, confidentiality, and professionalism, striving to alleviate the pain imposed on grieving families during their most vulnerable times.

What are your career goals?

Although I pride myself on providing compassionate support, I continue to strive to do better. Death is a difficult terrain to navigate. Given this, I constantly aspire to enrich my skill set to lead with empathy, compassion, understanding, and encouragement. In addition, I am to continuously expand my knowledge and expertise in funeral services, staying up to date on industry practices and advancements to provide the most information and support to families.

Ultimately, my goal is to make an impact. I strive to make a difficult situation a little better. I shed light upon the celebration of life, while also understanding the tragedy of death. I aim to comfort families in knowing that their loved one is cared for and provide them with professional and sentimental services to say goodbye.

Miles Funeral Home

How has your Assumption career prepared you for this role?

At Assumption University, I completed my bachelor’s degree in business management to prepare myself for the administrative end of the funeral industry. During my time here, I gained valuable skills and knowledge that have proven instrumental in preparing me for a career in the funeral industry.

I took it upon myself to create a course in funeral services to exhibit my leadership skills and genuine curiosity to learn. The business curriculum equipped me with a strong foundation in the following areas: management, finance, marketing, and communication. These skills are critical for managing a successful funeral business, which is an end goal of mine. I learned how to effectively manage resources, develop strategic plans, and communicate with clients and colleagues in an empathetic and professional manner.

Moreover, the critical thinking and problem-solving skills I acquired during my academic training have been invaluable in navigating the complexities of the funeral industry. These essential skills have helped me in finding innovative solutions to exceed the expectations and needs of families in our care. Overall, my course of study at Assumption University has provided me with a well-rounded skill set that complements my passion for serving others.

What skills and qualities are essential for someone in your role?

The funeral industry requires a unique compilation of technical expertise, interpersonal abilities, and emotional intelligence. Personally, I find the key skills within the field to be communication, empathy, attention to detail, organizational skills, cultural sensitivity, professionalism, and adaptability.

The ability to effectively and compassionately communicate with grieving families is critical. Just as important, professionally coordinating care with colleagues and other professionals is crucial. Within the skill set of communication, empathy is required. Empathizing with others and providing emotional support to families during their time of loss is vital for funeral service professionals. While coordinating care with families and professionals, completing legal documents, and preparing for services, meticulous attention to detail is essential to ensure that every aspect of the process is executed flawlessly. In order to execute a seamless plan of action, funeral service professionals must be organized, especially when handling high call volumes. Managing multiple tasks and coordinating logistics is prominent within the field. Every aspect from arranging logistics, coordinating with vendors, and handling administrative duties requires strong organizational skills. While coordinating care and handling services, it is essential to consider cultural backgrounds and beliefs to adequately meet the needs of families.

It is important to understand and respect that each family that walks through the doors of the funeral home carries a different background and set of beliefs than the family before them. Understanding and respecting cultural and religious customs within our diverse communities is essential to providing the utmost care. When coordinating with families, caregivers, and providers, the funeral director is expected to act professionally maintaining integrity and confidentiality given the sensitive information that is disclosed.

Lastly, a funeral service professional must carry the skill of adaptability. The ability to adapt to changes within the field and unexpected challenges with composure is prominent within the funeral industry as every situation is unique. All in all, a blend of technical expertise, interpersonal abilities, and emotional intelligence is essential for this line of work.

What advice do you have for undergraduate students?

For each and every undergraduate, I encourage you to try your best and aspire to reach your fullest potential. Despite the path you take, endure it with strength and pride. For those of you choosing unique career paths that may not directly align with the courses you are taking, or if you are eager to learn more, inquire about creating your own line of study. Take pride in your passion and work towards your goals.

For undergraduates considering a career in the funeral industry, I advise you to focus heavily on developing a strong foundation in both business management and interpersonal skills. Pursuing relevant coursework in areas such as business, psychology, sociology, biology, and communications can provide a well-rounded education that prepares you for the diverse demands of the funeral industry. Additionally, ensure that you have practical experience through internships or apprenticeships. These experiences will offer valuable insights, as well as learning and networking opportunities. It is important to remember that you are the leading force in services. Empathy, professionalism, and a commitment to serving others should always be your priority. Such qualities are necessary for the field.

Finally, stay open-minded, flexible, and educated. The industry is constantly evolving. Being able to embrace the changes will serve you well in your career path. In whichever journey you choose to pursue, be positive that you are passionate, creative, and eager to learn.

If you are interested in being featured on Highlighting Hounds, please email us at careerdevelopment@assumption.edu!

By Abby Sproles
Abby Sproles Graduate Assistant Career Advisor