By Guest Author: Hassan Saeed
One of the most frustrating things that a job seeker faces is the prospect that you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Well, hospitality and tourism is different. In this industry, entry level jobs require little expertise and the skills required can be learned quickly. You can get hired as a restaurant server, housekeeping person or a receptionist entirely based on your personality. If you are outgoing, social and like to talk to people, you have the basic ingredients to make a good host. Hospitality industry is in need of good hosts. Plenty of them. Just check international platforms like hosco or local sites like job Maldives, there are plenty of opportunities every day.
This is intended to be a series of posts that will provide some sort of guidance for those looking for a career in the hospitality industry. What I have written will reflect my own experience and I hope it provides some clarity to those exploring different career opportunities. Tourism and hospitality is the biggest employer worldwide and in Maldives too, this is a rewarding career for many. Here, the graphic below explains the typical career path you can expect in this industry. I have also outlined some traits or skills that may be helpful when you are seeking employment or advancement within the industry. Of course, academic achievement, creativity, critical thinking and good judgement will always be valuable assets together with those explained below.
Do you often find yourself helping others during family outings or social occasions or just life in general, opening doors helping others in or out before you? If you have, voila! You have the first and the most fundamental of all soft skills that hospitality recruiters look for. If you haven’t, put some effort into cultivating a mindset where you find real purpose and meaning in helping other people. Some personality types are more at ease or are attracted to helping people. These are the type of people who continue to stay in volunteer corps long after their scouting days in school. I remember reading that if you hold doors open for others or just put the needs of other people in front of yours, you are service oriented. A great service mindset thus would start from a genuine desire to help other people.
One can never stress this enough. This is one of the first things that your interviewer will start evaluating you for. Don’t be surprised if they sneak into your social media (whatever is publicly available of course) and asks you questions based on your activities in your virtual life. A positive outlook is a general requirement for success in life, in every walk of life. You know the saying, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today/present is truly a gift and you must make the best use of the present. Every day is a new beginning – nothing lasts forever – too many cliches that talk about this. All of them helpful.
People skills and Emotional intelligence
Job ads everywhere, especially for those positions in hospitality ask the same question – are you friendly and outgoing? Getting hired is very much about how you interact with others. The first impression that you set, your self confidence and clarity of communication – these are all criteria for being selected. If you grew up within a large family like I did, you will pretty much understand your personality by the time you start looking for a job. Employers will also try to place you on the introversion extroversion scale. Just one technical hint: experts say that the best position on the scale is somewhere in the middle – what they call an Ambi-vert – neither here nor there. So try to appear to be in the center. You can train yourself to be more introvert or extrovert by reading and understanding the expectations of others and the character traits that employers look for.
Foreign language / Cultural awareness
Almost 7 out of every 10 tourists to Maldives come from China and Eastern Europe including Russia and other CIS countries. Traditionally, top generating markets for Maldives used to be Italy, Germany and Great Britain. Most guests from the previous top generating markets shared quite similar cultural norms. Our new guests are totally different – while most millennials from the top generating markets speak English, our guests from China and Russia do not. We understand very little about our guests from the east – from their cuisine, from superstition to the significance of symbols. Being able to speak Mandarin, Russian or Arabic will help your employment prospects if you are planning a career in hospitality.
Long term focus, goal orientation
Every thing in life nowadays is about instant gratification. We are always looking for immediate benefits. They say that the biggest obstacle in getting people to care about global warming is that the impacts that we talk about are only going to happen in the future. It is the same psychological reason that people do not stop smoking now to avoid getting sick with cancer sometime in the future. The famous Marshmallow Test in the 60s by Walter Mischel is about how kids can delay gratification practice self control when faced with the difficult choice of one candy now or few more a while later. You must have goals to have long term focus. Too often, I have met youth who tell me that their goal is to be able to own a motorbike! Well, that is about a year’s or a half year’s worth of work if you talk about the tourism industry in Maldives. That is a very short term goal. Find your passion and start with a longer term goal than a fancy bike.
A lot of employers will list this as the top quality that they would like to have in their ideal candidates. You will most likely be hired for your ability to contribute to the team rather than your performance as an individual. Individual brilliance does not mean much in a team environment. In hospitality, everyone has a role within a team and together, the entire team creates guest experiences. For guests, it is not one interaction or one member of staff that matters, it is the warmth of hospitality from all members of the team that creates an enabling environment for guests to spend a memorable vacation at the resort.
Well, this one really is a no-brainer! Again, as cliched it may be, this means a lot. Especially, if you are looking for a serious career in the industry, then you must be willing and open to learning all the time. Lifelong learning allows you to make your life more meaningful and fulfilling. With technology, it has become so much easier. Quality reading materials, educational/informative videos are ubiquitous – they are everywhere. Find your passion and keep it alive. You can combine this one with storytelling to make your stories more compelling!
Since the days of hunting and gathering, basically, from the inception of humanity, storytelling is one of the strongest mediums of influence by one human the over the other. Whether you go into an entry level position in one of the core hospitality departments or choose to be in one of the support functions, storytelling is your vehicle to popularity among your colleagues, guests and management alike. It does not really matter whether you fake it or make it. What matters more is the impression that you set. This is a skill that really works on the principle that practice helps you reach perfection – or at least closer to that.
About the writer: Hassan Saeed is a hotelier with over 28 years of experience in Maldives tourism and resort operations. He is passionate about behavioral economics and how concepts like ‘Nudge’ can be applied in service settings. Hassan identifies himself as a lifelong learner. He currently holds the position of Resort Manager at Dhigali Maldives.