Senior Living Executive Patrick Dooley Shares Career Insights

When the elderly and their families are facing possibly the worst crisis of their lives, Carson College of Business graduates can make a difference by contributing their expertise across many disciplines to any of the nearly 40,000 U.S. senior living communities. As baby boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964) retire and seek senior living communities that offer an active life style, a multitude of career paths will be available, from hospitality services, food and beverage management, and fitness to business management, real estate, and technology opportunities—and more.

Patrick Dooley

To help prepare students for these opportunities, the college is calling on industry professionals such as Patrick Dooley, Milestone Retirement Communities LLC’ chief operating officer and member of the Carson College Vancouver National Board of Advisors. As one of the college’s Coffee & Conversations series speakers, Dooley presented “The Long and Winding Road,” sharing his career path and tips for success that landed him in the eighth largest privately managed assisted living company in the United States.

“Being able to mentor students and see them become valuable employees is a huge benefit of my job,” says Dooley. “I believe everyone benefits from sharing their knowledge and mentoring others to become the best they can be.”

Dooley began his career with Club Corporation of America as the assistant manager of the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle in 1986. He worked with all of Seattle’s business leaders to provide the finest dining experience for their private and corporate events. After taking a break from the hospitality industry and working in technology for a few years, a friend encouraged him to apply for an executive director position for a senior housing property in Everett.

He got the job and says he has never looked for another one outside of the senior living industry.

Dooley joined Milestone Retirement Communities in 2009. As chief operating officer, his primary role is to ensure the buildings are operating at maximum efficiency while providing optimal customer satisfaction for residents.

Why skills matter

“Senior housing involves many facets, including legal regulations, physical care and management of medical conditions, and social/emotional aspects for optimal quality of life for residents,” he says. “Companies are looking for leaders to manage multimillion dollar operations.”

Dooley says the industry will be adding 347,000 jobs by 2025, and more people skilled in management information systems are needed to administer medical technology systems. Besides technical skills, Dooley says empathy, caring, and willingness to serve are at the top of the list.

“Remember that declining health, advancing mortality, and loss of independence are difficult issues that can have a huge negative impact on someone’s patience and personality,” he says. “You will need to be able to smile and remain positive when someone is accusing you of all manner of unreasonable things.”

Learn from every job

Dooley says high school and college students interested in a senior living career path should gain work experience in senior communities as a server, caregiver, maintenance worker, or dishwasher. “Nothing replaces actual experience in the communities,” he says. “Sit down and talk to someone who lives in a community to find out their perspective. What you learn might surprise you and will most certainly educate you.”

The most important thing to remember is that you can learn something from every job you have, Dooley says. “You aren’t going to have your ‘forever’ job right out of school. So embrace the mundane, the difficult, and the just plain irritating things that come with every job. Eventually, you will have a job that combines all the skills you have learned over the years into the perfect position that doesn’t seem like work at all.”