DIVERSIFY your EXPERIENCE!
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
THERE IS TOO MUCH TO SEE AND TO LEARN TO STICK TO THE SAME THING.
La Cupola, Park Hyatt Milan
One thing that I have done with my life and career that I am very proud of, and that I always thought would be a great plus, is keeping my experience diversified.
And because I think it is a great plus I am writing about it to recommend it to you all.
First of all, know that it is not for everybody, only because it takes a certain personality type to do this. Therefore before you think if this is the right path for you, read this post and picture yourself doing what I did. It might sound good, but it also might sound insane.
What do I mean by experience?
My father, who is a man of vast knowledge and strong opinions (99% good ones), would disagree with me using the word experience. He does not like this word. He thinks most people refer to experience as something related to time, and that the amount of time you have dedicated to a certain subject determines how much you are an “expert” in that subject. In other words he does not like the concept that the more time you spend on something, the more you are knowledgeable about it.
He prefers the word competence.
Competence is a better indicator of what from those times and experiences you have kept in your bag because it was significant, and therefore defines your knowledge and abilities better. It is not related to time and to the past, but to the amount of energy you put into reaching your goal.
Fair enough dad, however, I like the word experience, because I see it related to anything that has happened in our past that has left a lesson usable in the present or in the future. If we think this way then, a negative experience can also constitute a positive experience. For example, poor service in a hotel or in a restaurant leads to a bad stay or to a bad meal, but from that you can learn what kind of service you do or do not want to accept in your next travels. Or dating a person with personality traits that do not match yours, could lead to a bad relationship, but it can teach you what kind of person you do or do not want to date next. So in some ways every experience matters and leaves something positive to put in your bag and bring with yourself.
What do I mean by diversifying?
Well, if you assume early on you already know what you enjoy or not enjoy before you try it, in my humble opinion you will remain limited. In super simple words: if you have never had broccoli, how do you know if you like it or not? And even if after you have tried it you don’t like it, does that mean it was not worth trying it?
Shall we avoid trying, and stick to the things we like because they are a safe choice, or shall we go ahead and expose ourselves to more, to make our bag fuller? When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, shall we regret doing it if the experience was not what we wanted or shall we take it all in and learn whatever there was to learn?
Diversifying is a great way to push your knowledge further, and an easy way to know what you do and don’t like.
There are many ways to make your experience diverse, and what I love about the hotel business is that it really gives you the chance to do so more than any other industry.
You can go for different functions, different departments, different divisions.
You can go for different types of hotel: budget, limited services, boutique, luxury; but also beach resort, ski resort, convention center, city hotel, extended stays, motel, bed&breakfast, casino hotel, agriturismo… (shall I continue?).
You can explore different ways to do the same thing in other cities, countries, continents, where the operations, level of service, efficiency and employee relations can vary quite a lot.
Why does it matter to know how they handle the service culture in Asia, if you work in the U.S.? Because it might be more successful than your way. Why should you know how they handle guest relations at a city hotel if you work in a resort? Because it might be more efficient than your way. Why would you care about revenue when you work in housekeeping? Because it will help you sooner or later.
So that’s what I did.
I started in an island resort, then moved on to a budget city hotel on the outskirts of London; from a 5 star property in the middle of fashion capital Milan, to a major traffic hub in midtown New York; from modern informal luxury to old school luxury; from a big corporate hotel company to a much smaller brand, to stand-alone, to family owned.
I went from 5 stars to 3 stars and back to 5; from a property of 68 rooms to one of 1300; from boutique to airport lounge, from white gloves to huge volume, from “we are all about service” to “we are all about revenue”.
I started with Sales & Marketing (not my cup of tea), tried Food & Beverage (loved it!), conference and events (so much fun!), Guest Relations and VIP Operations (fantastic network opportunities), Front office and Guest Services (probably the most significant experiences), Night Audit (zero sleep and social life for a year but totally worth it), Reservations and Revenue (reservations can be boring but revenue is absolutely fascinating), and Housekeeping (shouldn’t say this but hands down my favorite!).
After graduating college I went from Bologna to a Greek island, from there to Trieste, from Trieste to Milan, from Milan to Portofino, from there to London and back to Milan, from Milan to New York, from New York to Austin, from Austin to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to DC; I have basically been packing my bags and moving every 2-3 years since 2002. And believe it or not I am ready for the next move whenever and wherever that will be.
And now I know what I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy about my business. My past has helped me channel my future choices.
So going back to what I said earlier, it takes a certain personality to do this, because you need a high level of flexibility and adaptability; as much as moving to a new place and starting over is incredibly exciting, it also has some tough components and you need to know how to do it.
Some people say I am insane, some people say it’s my nomadic nature, some people say I don’t belong anywhere, some people say I should start my own moving business (I might as well).
I say it’s because there is too much to see and to learn to stay in one place or to work in one property or to stick to one role. And I do not want to limit myself. I want to see as much as I can, I want to observe, accept, elaborate, apply. Sometimes maybe reject, but always consider.
I want to put everything in my bag and pull it out later when it will be useful, because I know it will be.
An important point to consider, is that I had the luck of being able to do this within the same companies. This is a huge component, as jumping around on your own from company to company and from country to country is much more difficult, and does not look good on our resume, so make sure you have a strong support behind you when you decide to do this.
The moral of my story is simple: there is no right or wrong, and if you prefer to stay in your comfort zone I totally respect it. But if you are adventurous like me you might want to try and follow my steps. Or maybe you have already started, and in that case my advice is to continue!
The point is watching how others do things will always upgrade your mind. So I hope you start diversifying, and whatever you are watching make sure you take a moment to observe, let it sink, and put it in your bag.
Are you relocating and you want some tips? Contact me!
I am happy to help and give you recommendations on what to do
before you go and when you are there to make it as smooth as possible!