I get lots of messages from hospitality students and aspiring hotel workers who read this blog. In fact, an associate professor at San Francisco State University recently emailed me to say the General Manager’s Blog is required reading for his class. For some time now I’ve been promising to write a post about how to get into the hotel business. As the shortage of workers in the hotel industry begins to reach crisis proportions, the time is ripe.
One of the “horror stories” I’ve heard is a Wendy’s in Alberta had to close because they couldn’t find people to staff it. Doesn’t sound like much of a horror story to me. Starbucks maybe, but Wendy’s? All sorts of emergency task forces and working groups and action committees are being formed to address the labour shortage. Which begs the question, wouldn’t our time be better spent working than exacerbating the problem by sitting in meetings? The prospect of not having enough staff to fill positions strikes terror in the heart of hotel managers. Not only are we concerned that service levels will suffer but, more importantly, we’re terrified that we’ll have to do the work ourselves. Don’t be surprised if the next time you stay at a hotel the general manager parks your car and the human resources director fluffs your pillows.
If you’re interested in working in hotels but don’t know where to start, my advice is to get a job in a hotel. Brilliant, I know. My point is that I caution you against enrolling in four-year hotel management program before you know if the industry is right for you. Some people just aren’t very hospitable, and you’d be much better off establishing this before wasting your time and money on a diploma. If you are a good fit, then you’ll have some great practical experience to apply to your studies.
How to get a job in a hotel without experience or education? No problem. Hotels used to be really uppity about hiring the young and inexperienced, but times have changed. Many hotels, particularly big ones, are desperate for staff. This doesn’t mean that even though you have a ring in your nose and a chip on your shoulder you can walk into a high-paying executive position. It means if you are well-groomed, outgoing and have a great attitude you should be able to land an entry-level job. Even a little whippersnapper fresh out of high school can. Yes way.
The key is you have to be open to anything—delivering room service, cleaning rooms, bussing tables, fanning the GM—at any time on any day of the week. Yes, that might mean—gasp—graveyard shifts. We stopped calling them graveyards a long time ago for obvious reasons, so don’t be fooled by euphemisms like “night shifts” or “shift work”. If you want to work in guest services or management, the reality is that night shifts are a right of passage. The great news is you get to witness bizarre things that nine-to-fivers never see. Night shifts make you stronger, more knowledgeable and less afraid of the dark.
If you can’t demonstrate this kind of flexibility then you’re probably not cut out for the industry. A degree in hotel management isn’t going to change that. Save your money and consider a career in banking.
If you manage to land an entry-level job, don’t worry if it’s not your ideal position. Play your cards right and there will be opportunities to move. Work hard and be super nice to everyone, even that bossy lady in HR who made you cut your hair. Never say “It’s not my department” or “I can’t” or “Bite me.” Pay close attention to detail. And don’t steal anything, not even pillow chocolates. Colleagues must respect you, guests must love you and management must remember you. Once you’ve established yourself as an essential and noble martyr, don’t assume you’re entitled to the first opportunity that comes along. It takes time, patience and luck. Years ago, a coworker on the front desk used to apply for every sales position that came available. When she didn’t get them she would bitch to everyone about management’s appalling shortsightedness. She became the Susan Lucci of the front desk, always a contender but never quite good enough. Hm, wonder why.
I realized just how desperate hotels are for qualified people when a colleague from another hotel called me for a reference check on a former employee. The employee had issues, a lot of them, and I was quite candid about not recommending him. A few days later I got a call back. They wanted to know just how bad he really was. Apparently, the staffing situation was so dire they were willing to overlook past transgressions. Until recently, one negative word in a reference check was enough to rule out a candidate. Now hotels are more willing to compromise, which is very scary indeed. Good old Canadian hospitality is in jeopardy.
What’s the solution? One committee suggests bringing retired people back into the workforce and attracting foreign workers, disabled people, youths and aboriginals. All great ideas, but I think we need to be even more creative. What about ex-convicts? They’d be good at making beds. In fact, why wait until they get out of prison—why not hire prisoners? We’d have to keep them shackled, of course, and away from the cash drawer, but I’ve fantasized before about handcuffing wayward employees to their desks. Military personnel are also worth consideration. Their skills with weapons would come in handy in the accounting department collecting bills. We could also import workers from France now that its new rightwing government appears determined to kick immigrants out.
A more obvious solution is to increase wages in the hotel industry. I suggest we start with the general manager. Katrina suggests starting with the director of sales & marketing. Regardless, it would increase operating costs, which would result in higher room rates, but in this economy people have more money, and they should be willing to pay a premium for good service, no? A positive work environment is also important, as are good benefits, training and opportunities for advancement. But now I’m stating the obvious. I’m starting to feel like I’m in one of those task force meetings.
The big question is, if we manage to attract enough employees to staff all these hotels under development, are we going to have enough travellers to fill them? Only time will tell. In the meantime, outgoing, flexible candidates with no previous criminal convictions are welcome to send your resume to email@example.com.
Izvor: danieledwardcraig.com, jun 2007 | Autor: Daniel Edward Craig