A career in senior living is not only rewarding and quite stable, but it also offers opportunities for significant career growth. In fact, it’s common to hear senior living leaders talk about starting their career as a server in the dining room or as a caregiver.
If you’ve already started your career in senior living or you’re just researching the possibilities, you can be confident that there are always new ways to learn and become a leader in a community.
At Cedarhurst Senior Living, we are big fans of internal promotions and finding new ways for team members to use their talents to inspire others and grow their own careers. We’ve compiled a list of ways that any senior living professional can grow their senior living career inside and outside of the community they love.
1. Every Senior Living Role Matters
Senior living communities rely on a variety of senior living roles to operate efficiently and safely. Every employee, from the assisted living caregiver to the nurse to the housekeeper to the dining room server, contributes to the resident experience and is crucial to the community’s success.
If you are starting in senior living, you might begin your career as a community leader or you can jumpstart your senior living career by gaining valuable experience in an entry-level position. These entry-level positions are crucial to any community and give you the opportunity to know more about the residents you serve and how a community operates.
2. Consider Part-Time Opportunities
Senior living communities need both full-time and part-time employees to serve residents. Working part-time at a senior living community near you might be a great way to begin learning more about senior living and to determine what type of role you might enjoy the most. Communities hire part-time employees from a variety of career experience backgrounds, including people who are transitioning from being stay-at-home caregivers, taking college courses and need a side gig, and stepping out of their comfort zone to try a new career opportunity.
Don’t be afraid to take on a part-time role, especially as you begin your career in senior living. You’ll earn extra money and gain valuable experience as you make the lives of residents better and brighter. You’ll also learn more about the community and other available positions, which can help you as you dream about where you want your career to go in the future.
3. Take Orientation and Ongoing Education Seriously
When you get a job at a senior living community, you won’t start working with residents on your first day. Instead, you’ll spend time in an orientation class where you learn basics like resident rights, emergency protocols, and the community’s chain of command. You might also learn best practices for resident care, information about dementia progression, and other topics that will assist you in supporting residents in your new role. Take your time in orientation seriously, meeting key staff members who are there to help and share their experiences in order to help you grow.
You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in ongoing education sessions throughout your time at the senior living community. Typically, these are held monthly, though each community is unique and might offer these in-service trainings more or less frequently.
In-service training classes are typically less than an hour but are packed full of information you’ll want to learn about. Participate in as many as you can, and be sure to stay engaged by asking questions, sharing your thoughts, and adjusting your approach with residents based on what you have learned.
4. Value Time with Your Mentor
A mentor is someone who is a few years ahead of you in the same senior living career path that you want to take. In many senior living communities, new employees are placed with a mentor during their first few days or weeks on the job. You will follow your mentor throughout the day, learning about everything from resident preferences to how to punch in for your shift.
These people are valuable sources of education, inspiration, and experience, so be sure to take advantage of your time with them. During your time with your mentor, ask any questions you have, but spend most of your time observing them in action. They were chosen as a mentor because they are reliable and great at their job. Perhaps in a few months or years, you will become a mentor and teach new team members, too!
After your first few weeks on the job, you won’t technically need an assigned mentor anymore. However, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from a mentor in your senior living career.
Look for someone in your senior living community or your extended professional network who has lots of experience and is working in a role you would want someday. Then see if they would be interested in meeting for coffee a few times per year or being available for you to ask questions about your next career move. Having a mentor throughout your entire senior living career can benefit you as long as you are willing to observe and learn from the mentor you choose.
5. Consider College Courses
Once you are in your senior living career, you might find that you want to learn more about specific topics to advance your career and provide even better care to residents. In some cases, college courses can be the next best step.
Before you begin applying to local colleges, first ask your senior living community if there is any reimbursement for ongoing education offered to employees. Although your community might not pay for your entire college education, they may offset the costs of tuition or supplies. It never hurts to ask.
College courses can give you further education so you can pursue a nursing degree, hospitality degree, or recreation degree. In some cases, you might find that you don’t need a full degree but could benefit from a few courses on topics that will elevate you to your next career goal.
6. Talk About Your Ambitions
When you sit down with your supervisor during an annual performance review, be sure you tell them about your ambitions and long-term goals for your career. They can take that information and help you grow the skills you will need to achieve your goals.
For example, they may offer you more leadership roles within your job or shift so that you can practice leading a team. Or they may invite you to take on small duties with the department budget so that you can learn more about financial responsibilities in a leadership role.
7. Build Your Senior Living Career in a Community That Values Your Goals
Finally, when you are applying for a senior living role, don’t apply to just any community. Although they are going to interview you to see if you’re a fit for their culture, your interview is also a chance to determine if their culture is a fit for you. Look for communities that work hard to promote from within, value their employees, and have opportunities for advancement.
At Cedarhurst Senior Living, you’ll find that we are always looking to provide an environment for our team members that inspires them to find a love for serving residents for their entire careers.
Learn more about positions we have available in a community near you. We look forward to hearing from you!