Hospitality Life Lessons

Many moons ago (as my dad used to say) I worked for The Plaza Hotel in NYC for the Trumps – who at the time were Donald and his first wife Ivana. I worked in the Food and Beverage department and my duties consisted in not only all things graphic design needed on-property, but also hosting, ticket sales, and a million miscellaneous other little things to handle throughout the day. I was a low-rung on the ladder, and it was a lot of work for someone who was still pretty green. I was very young, and it was my first time working in hospitality, and not exactly trained in the fine art of navigating different personality types. At the time I worked my butt off, working 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week, sometimes overnights, and through every single holiday. And although I resented a lot of it at the time as it cut into my youthful social life goals, looking back now I realize how lucky I was to have learned some very basic life lessons – and from some very amazing people. I never realized until recently that these lessons stayed with me throughout my life, lurking behind most of my daily decisions and definitely defining my work ethic. I’m not perfect, and I’m not always nice to people goodness knows. But I try. And I’m grateful I had the opportunity to learn these lessons while I was still young.

Now that I’m back in hospitality, I had forgotten how much I really did enjoy the culture and environment. I genuinely enjoy helping guests, and I’m fortunate to work for a great establishment who really does care about their guests and employees. I also work with some fantastic people and amazing management. It’s very satisfying to help a guest and they respond with gratitude and warmth. I realize now that’s basically all I want from everyone I meet up with. If I treat people warmly and show them that I genuinely care and regard them with value, I’m rewarded with a warm smile back. That’s not a lot to wish for, but you know what? It does make life that much nicer and makes the day go by a lot happier.

So, things I’m re-learning/re-visiting/remembering:

Look your best. Be neat, clean, clothes pressed, washed, smell pleasant without being overbearing with perfume or cologne. Stand up straight and attentive. Make eye contact with people. 

Use polite language. Don’t use words like “sure” and “ok” when you can say “It’s my pleasure” or “I would be happy to”. There really is a difference in how it’s presented and how you own it.

Teamwork. Be a part of the team, and pull together for the common goal. Sometimes you’re asked to do something outside of your job description, and sometimes let’s face it – it’s can be a real pain in the butt having to do something that’s not your job. But if everyone chips in, the job can get done quicker, and you all feel better in the long run that you all pulled together as one cohesive team.

Just try to be nice to everyone. You never know who’s having a crappy day and a nice smile and greeting can make a world a difference to them. It has for me, I can tell you.

Connect. Make eye contact, greet people, smile when they’re within 5 feet of you. Makes it nicer for everyone around you, and makes you feel better too. Again, this tactic works for me when I’m needing a little pick-me-up. And that person walks away feeling valued.

Try to make your environment neat. See a wrapper on the floor? Stop and pick it up and toss it in the garbage. Is that really a lot of effort? I know it’s someone else’s garbage, but it’s your environment too. You don’t have to go around cleaning up behind everyone, but if you see something out of place, it’s easier to just get rid of it than to have to live with it. Much more pleasant for everyone, including you.

Listen to others’ needs. Be empathetic. You don’t have to own their issues, but even if you can’t help, sometimes people just need to vent to and are looking for someone to hear them and validate their feelings.

Be courteous, be polite. Just like your mom or dad or grandparents told you – please and thank you do go a long way.

Be personal. Know someone’s name? Greet them with it, it really does make a difference. “Hi, Bob!” or “Hello, Mr. Jones” is lot better than just “Hi” (unless it’s your best friend, because then they’re going to think you’re being weird, lol). Don’t know their name? You can always introduce yourself first. Build relationships.

Be gracious and show gratitude. Doesn’t take a lot to thank someone. And be sincere. People generally can pick up on bull-crap and that’s worse than not thanking someone in the first place.

Know your product/service/job. Be able to answer questions, or assist the person in getting the answers they need. Don’t just say you don’t know and leave them. Who wants that? Would you like that if you were somewhere and asked someone for help?

Respect for others. You’re all equals – whether you’re in an office behind the scenes or working directly with customers, or outside working on the property – whatever your role is, you’re as important as everyone else. One team, one goal. Plenty of upper management people I’ve known over the years have had no issues rolling up their sleeves and helping out with grunt work when needed. Treat people with respect and you’ll get respect back.

Have pride in your workplace. Everything you do in front of guests represents your company. Being courteous, pleasant, polite and professional will leave an impression of warmth and welcome that guests will remember and will share with their friends and families. Same can be said for everything in life. Represent yourself as someone who genuinely cares about others, and you’ll be remembered that way. The way you represent yourself in your actions is worth more than just the words you say.

I’m a lucky person in many ways, and very grateful for the things I have and the people I care about. At this stage in my life, I just want to make the world a nicer place for everyone in any small way I can. These little lessons remind me of that.

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