Thoughts on Susan Love’s 23rd Anniversary in Our Community
In 1997, my previous job was Director of Human Resources at a hotel, and due to several changes of ownership in a short period of time, I decided I should search for a new job. Since my career was in human resources and I enjoyed being in this field, I focused my search for the same position. In early June 1997, I saw an ad for a director of human resources at a local nursing home in Cherry Hill, NJ. I decided to send my resume since I had nothing to lose. Soon after, I was contacted for an interview in which I decided I should accept and see what the organization was about and what they had to offer.
When I walked into the building for my interview, I was pleasantly greeted by the receptionist and waited in the lobby for about ten minutes. As I was sitting there observing residents in the lobby area, I kept thinking how different of an environment this was from the familiar hotel I had been working at for the previous 5 years. Part of me wanted to just apologize to the receptionist that I can’t stay for the interview, and part of me wanted to stay and see what the position and organization was about.
The interview was a typical interview in which I was questioned about my work experience, my knowledge of human resources practices, where I see myself in five years, and what are my strengths and weaknesses. As I was answering the question of where I see myself in five years, my thought was to respond that it definitely won’t be at this company; however, I decided this was not an appropriate answer. After about 45 minutes of questions and answers, the director who interviewed me said that there were other candidates that would be interviewed and I would be hearing back from someone in the next week. Honestly, I felt that I didn’t do my best with the interview, and as I began to back out of my parking spot, I drove into a yellow pole and damaged my car. To me, this was a sign that I would not get the job. After a week, I received a call and surprisingly was offered the position and needed to get back to the director by the end of the following day with my decision. If I stayed in my current position, I would be subject to another change in ownership and a high probability I would not continue to have a job. Therefore, I made the decision to accept the offer and move on to this new endeavor.
The first day of my new job, July 7, 1997, was 23 years ago today, at the Jewish Geriatric Home in Cherry Hill, NJ, as the Director of Human Resources. As we all know, it’s not always easy to change jobs, start over in learning the inner workings of a new organization, meeting new colleagues, etc. For me, it was a shift in culture in which I went from a hotel environment to a nursing home environment. The hotel was a fun environment, always seeing different people, fun events such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvah receptions going on, the hotel was filled with children staying for local sports tournaments, etc. The nursing home was where you see the same people day in and day out, and a much more subdued environment. After the first few days, I doubted myself as to whether I made the right decision and if I could truly work in what I initially considered to be a depressing work environment. However, there was one specific incident that occurred on the fifth day of my new job, which changed my perception of nursing homes forever.
As I was walking to the lobby to greet a job applicant, a resident in a wheelchair saw me and asked if I could help her get to the library. Of course, I did help her and I introduced myself and learned her name, and she continued to talk about herself, her background, her family, and why she was in the nursing home. Immediately, I was drawn to this particular resident and wanted to learn more about her and her life so I told her I had to leave for a while and I would come back to the library and talk more with her. As I said this, she began to smile and said she was looking forward to seeing me soon. It was at this point when I knew that making a resident smile is making a difference in a resident’s life. Also, it was at this point that I knew I wanted to get to know all of the residents, their life stories, how we could help improve their quality of life, and how we could make a difference in their lives. This is the point that I decided to change my career path from human resources to nursing home administration.
For anyone out there who is starting their career or looking for new opportunities, my advice is to be open-minded, explore all possibilities, and allow yourself to step outside your comfort zone as you never know where it will lead to.
As I reflect on the past 23 years with the same organization, my mind is filled with wonderful memories of so many amazing residents, families and employees. I am humbled and privileged to know that I get to come to work day in and day out with the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. However, what I realized over the years is that everyone has truly made a difference in my life. For this, I will always be forever grateful.