How Promoting Within Gave Me a Career I Love

When an acquaintance asks me what I do for a living, I’m proud to say I work for St. Paul’s Senior Services, a non-profit company that serves San Diego seniors. More often than not, their next assumption is that I’m a CNA and I correct them with a self-deprecating scoff and shake of my head. Medical professionals have nerves of steel. Show me a paper cut and I’ll swoon like a Victorian aristocrat. If I did want to be a CNA though, St. Paul’s Senior Services would help me to become one. Being a medical professional isn’t the only career when it comes to caring for seniors. It takes a variety of departments to create a well-rounded organization and St. Paul’s believes in helping their employees thrive by providing opportunities.

If you had asked me eight years ago what my perfect job would be, I would’ve shrugged. Before St. Paul’s, I’d been working in the service industry mainly as a waiter because I always enjoyed the hospitality aspect of the job. On the other hand, I never cared for the mandate of pushing customers to buy more food than they needed or to squeeze as many surveys as possible out of every individual.

Waiting was the doorway into which I entered the realm of senior service careers and I have travelled far since then. I’m only one of many success stories. Plenty of staff members have been celebrated for their hard work in achieving their goals or by striving on the path they originally chose.

When I applied to work for St. Paul’s, I was merely looking for a stable job to keep up with the cost of living at the time. I’d been working in a corporate restaurant that was overstaffed and underwhelmed, which lead to scant shifts. With plenty of free time, I searched both on foot and online, soon discovering that St. Paul’s Villa was hiring a part-time server.

Within two months I became a full-time server working the lunch/dinner shift at the Villa. I loved my new job. It was great to come to work every day and serve the residents, chat with them while refilling drinks, celebrating their birthdays and indulging in the holidays with festive menus. It wasn’t about sales, tips or surveys; it was about genuine hospitality.

Fast-forward two years into my career, St. Paul’s Plaza was constructed and opened its doors in the Chula Vista community. Many positions needed to be filled and employees from all of St. Paul’s facilities were encouraged to apply. Once those who made the transition set off on this new adventure, their former job positions became potential opportunities for the rest of us. One of these positions was for a Diet Aide at the McColl Family Health Center. I was approached by my supervisor and asked if I would like to apply. Intrigued by a new job prospect that was still within dining but outside of the waiting realm, I took the offer.

Much like the Villa, the next years I spent at the skilled nursing facility were wonderful. I learned so much about caring for individuals and met many amazing seniors there as well.

On occasion, I would encounter former friends from the Villa who would be temporarily residing at McColl’s. Seeing a familiar face would always help them feel less worried about the transition they’d recently made to the skilled nursing facility. I wouldn’t be the only familiar face either. There were plenty of other staff members as well who took new positions, or were promoted, and who were just as happy to see and care for a friend from a St. Paul’s facility in which they previously worked.

During my tenure at McColl’s, it was a delight to watch the residents have fun with the Activity team every day. They would play games, enjoy arts and crafts or have a snack while being entertained by a performance in the dining room; among many other favored pastimes.

While stocking and cleaning the kitchen and serving station, I couldn’t help to venture out and cheer on a game, admire the artwork they made or assist with passing out the snacks. It seemed like a joy to work in Activities and I eventually confessed my interest to the coordinator. She briefly explained to me what it entailed and encouraged me to become certified. It was because of this that I learned about the education reimbursement program that St. Paul’s provides. I was excited to learn about this prospect because it would enable me to afford the certification course and thus try a new career path.

An opportunity to work as an Assistant Activities Coordinator at St. Paul’s PACE Downtown eventually opened and I was accepted for the job. I hung up my apron and headed over to their facility.

Activities was a new world to me and I thoroughly relished in the experience. As an assistant, I would help both the coordinators and their guests in setting up, replenishing supplies or assist a senior with participating in a game.

Later on down the road a Receptionist/Administration Assistant was needed at the corporate building. I was interested in the opportunity and had plenty of hospitality experience to cover the reception aspect, of course, but no formal corporate knowledge to show on my resume. If I was accepted, I could learn more about administration and develop my skills in that area. It would turn out that my history at St. Paul’s would speak for me in lieu of this minor shortfall.

Aside from noting my reception-related skills, the supervisor saw potential in training me, thanks to the initiative I showed in learning and adapting to different fields. She accepted me for the job and I’ve been the administration assistant and receptionist for the corporate office for 5 years.

I never realized how much I enjoy helping out “behind the scenes,” so to speak. My experience through the different departments showed me that hospitality comes in many forms. These days, I love providing information to callers who are interested in our services, aiding seniors – both within St. Paul’s and outside – by directing them to one of our professionals, as well as helping folks looking for a career that’s rewarding.

All of my supervisors and fellow co-workers at St. Paul’s Senior Services have been kind and encouraging throughout my journey and I’ve likewise encouraged other employees to take advantage of the opportunities to build their careers within the company. It’s heartening to work for a place that not only cares for the elderly but for their staff members as well; engendering a workplace community that both supports and celebrates its employees in every way.

About the Author: K.M. Royal

K.M. Royal is an Administrative Assistant at St. Paul’s Senior Services and a freelance writer. She hopes her blog entry will inspire others to take opportunities that arise in life and find the adventure that awaits them.