Vocation v Occupation

Many people have asked me what is the key to success in the hospitality industry. Is it training, study, experience, luck or something else?

Over thirty  years ago when I first walked into the kitchens of the Adelaide Hilton on the overnight shift and started scrubbing pots, I knew this industry resounded with me on a different level. Even at the “entry level” of all “entry levels”, I felt straight away what I did was part of a bigger picture and I felt part of it. In the dark depths of the giant brat pan I was scrubbing I was excited about the stories I heard from the overnight room service waiter who shared events and gossip occurring in the guests world. I had taken this job as a way of making money, an occupation to get by, but very quickly I became part of it, I was infected and affected.

Not long after I made the move to the dizzy heights of night porter at what was the old Adelaide Travelodge on South Terrace. Here I cooked room service, cleaned the public areas and the toilets. But what quickly became apparent was how natural it was for me to want to sort out that difficult guests problem, to  clean up after that guest that had too much of a good time and to cook meals for the thirty or so cast of a theatre company that had finished their show late. In my first six months, I saw and handled wedding proposals, fights, robberies, end of season footy trips and deaths. It was like life on overdrive and I loved every minute, no matter how tough and hard it was.

Very quickly this industry (no one called it “hospo” then) had become a part of my life and part of me. I didn’t do it for the money, which is lucky! I embraced it fully and enjoyed the hard times as much as the good times and before I knew it had become a more than an occupation. As it has been for countless other people,  it had become my vocation.

As I became a young manager I quickly began to recognise the people who embraced the industry the same way. They tended to have an ability to be in the right place at the right time, to turn difficult situations around and to effortlessly make sure guest experiences were exceptional. Like me, these people seemed to steadily, sometimes very quickly, rise up the ladder.

That’s not to say training, study and good dose of luck are not important, but without passion and embracing this industry as a vocation not just an occupation, people will always hang on the edge of success.

As your career develops, the passion must keep bubbling away just below the surface. When the weight of corporate expectation starts to sit heavily, it is very easy to forget what got you to where you are in the first place. It is also vital that you engage your passion in your dealings with the staff that now report to you. The same attitude of going above and beyond that got you to the managers role should now be used to find, train and motivate your team. Treat them as you want them to treat your guests. They are now the ones that can provide amazing guest experiences on your behalf.



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