When I first came to Les Roches in HO3 (Hotel Operations III), I remember the first thing our professors asked us on the first day. “What do you want to be in 10 years?” Most of us said we wanted to be managers. Even a few said they wanted to be General Managers (GMs). But what does it actually mean to be a manager, for a fresh graduate? Little did we know what that would entail…
LOOKING FOR MY DREAM COMPANY
Let’s backtrack a few steps. As I got through my last year of crazy school work in BBA 6 and 7, and my last internship in St. Thomas, it was scaring me more and more. The hunt for the first job. The job that will jumpstart my career, and pave the way for success. And then comes the question of “Which company?” We studied so much and so long about choosing a company with an organizational culture you believe in. How can you choose, when hotel career websites mainly don’t even reply to your online applications? I knew one thing though. It was going to be an amazing job. I just needed to find it.
THE ARABIAN TRAVEL MARKET EXHIBITION
The mindmapping was endless. I was terrified of not finding a good job that I could live and play on financially (we hoteliers like to work and play hard), that would appreciate my hard work and efforts and most importantly, give me room to grow. My dad urged me to attend the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) with him this year which is an annual exhibition housing the hospitality industry’s hotels and resorts, airline companies, tourism associations and other conglomerates involved with delivering travel.
I remember precisely how I felt entering the hotel hall. I almost can describe it as a hotel heart attack! All the major hotel brands were showcased in their fancy pavilions, and numerous Directors of Sales and Marketing (DOSMs) and GMs were basically chilling, connecting with people, and making business in a relaxed environment. This was the best place to get a job.
I started with the brands I did my internships with. The Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La. I casually approached ladies and gentlemen at the stalls, explained my intentions in one or two sentences and asked for a business card to which I could send an application. Many appreciated my “old-school” approach, but some almost immediately referred me to their online careers website, or Recruitment Day, which is the last day of the exhibition. These companies, I knew, were not the type I wanted to work with.
You may think that I overcomplicate things. I think so too sometimes. But it’s what you have to do when your profile is complicated. Many hotel students today have lived interesting lives… born here, grew up there, studied somewhere else,.. so interesting that it is impossible to summarize them into a one-page resume that could efficiently get you a job when scanned by an online careers website software. Sad but true.
WHEN SERENDIPITY HAPPENS
So I kept looking, and actually ended up with some interesting conversations with DOSMs. I had almost thirty business cards I could send my profile to. After getting a little tired of the hustle and bustle of this part of the exhibition, I decided to see the smaller, more quiet stalls on the sidelines of the exhibition hall. Running into a quaint little stall, I realized the name it held was one of the most distinguished brands in the luxury hotel business.
Surprised at the intimate size of the tent, I ended up sharing a conversation with the lady and gentleman sitting calmly in the stall for around 45 minutes, without even the intention of hunting for a job. About a month or so later, I find myself back here in the Caribbean, as an Assistant Guest Relations Manager for Amanyara. One of the most exclusive hotels in the world! It is truly surprising what life has in store for you, if you look in the right places with the right attitude, and actually make an effort. (I mostly thank my Dad for bringing me to the exhibition though. Thanks Baba!)
MY FIRST JOB AS A MANAGER
Stepping into a managerial position is a completely different level of maturity, where you have to step out of your comfort zone when you were once an hourly employee. You have to do the needful. And you have to figure out what that ‘needful’ is. At first it was a serious challenge to work 11 hours a day, or 12 days in a row. After almost 6 months, the hours fly. I actually want to stay longer. I feel like there is always so much more to be done.
It’s exciting in a way, and also highly motivating when guests and your colleagues also appreciate hard work. It’s fun because I also feel myself kind of flicking through my memory pages of what I learned in Management 101 and my HR class in HO3. It’s so important to understand your team individually and culturally, acknowledge their skills and potential and pour support into them, motivate them and then see your team grow (physically and organization wise).
What is wonderful is also that I am not on internship anymore, and really feel like part of the hotel family. There is a sense of longevity and a strong sense of belonging (again, part of HR class, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!) and it makes a genuine difference in making me happy at work. Being a new manager, it was also highly powerful to first keep humble, and adapt to be part of the team. Show that you did, and you can do the dirty work. Then respect comes in, and managing becomes possible.
LIVING IN THE CARIBBEAN
Now a little bit about island life. This is my second work destination in the Caribbean, and I must say it never ceases to fascinate me. These islands are so closely knit, but are completely different from each other! Of course the most significant distinction is the various territories such as American, Dutch and French, but coming from the US Virgin Islands to this British Territory, they are completely different by terrain.
Providenciales (Provo for short) is a limestone island (if you drive with the windows down on some dirt roads, you may end up with a light layer of white powder on your face) and completely flat and almost no vegetation except shrubbery, and St. Thomas was a very mountainous island with lots of greenery and flowers, with the road stooping up and down (made me dizzy a lot). The livelihood is also interesting. St. Thomas is a cruise ship destination and so the population is small, but almost triples with the visits of cruise ships! All the cabs held up to 12 people. On the other hand Provo is all about relaxation, and their motto is “Beautiful by Nature”.
At our property there is nothing to be heard but the crashing of waves. They take the Marine Reserves very seriously here and even observe a Lobster Season wherein no one on island can hunt or eat lobster. I love it. Coming from St. Thomas to Provo, it was indeed a shock for me at first because well.., there is only one bar and leisure is slightly more expensive (a local bottle of rum in St. Thomas was $7 and here it is $37), but when you know where to go, life is good. Yesterday, my GM asked me if I like my job. And I do!