To those of you who think that working in the hospitality industry is somewhat a walk in the park, arriving in for work at 9:00 a.m., expecting to be home by 6:00p.m from Mondays to Fridays and lucratively paid at the same time, please stand up and leave this room. This course is definitely not for you. After such a bold statement made by the Director of the Hotel Management & Catering College during the pre-enrolment briefing, what started off with a room crowded with students soon became half empty. At that instant, it had dawned on me that I would be in for a ride and I hoped hard that it would be an exciting one as well.
The Hotel Management & Catering Diploma programme that I studied lasted 2.5 years, which included a compulsory 5-month practical training in all operative departments of a resort or hotel environment. The insights and experiences that I had gained throughout the entire programme were priceless, to say the least.
1. Seeing Beyond The Assigned Tasks.
“At times the worst jobs give you the best learning”
“What? I paid so much to be put through this during Industrial Training?” Technically, yes and there are good reasons for it. In one of the departments that I was assigned to during the training, the kitchen was probably one of the toughest. Yet, it was also the most rewarding one in terms of the skills and knowledge gained. There were fun days when I was assigned with tasks of assisting commis, occasionally helping out in the buffet line, poolside barbeque or pastry kitchen. I was feeling on top of the world as I was able to experience the various tasks of a functioning hotel kitchen. However, there were also the not-so-fun days when I was stuck for hours in a cold isolated kitchen room either peeling sack loads of onion skins, shallots, garlic or cleaning a whole chicken and butchering beef. In other words, there were times when I felt enthusiastic and motivated and times when I ended up smelling either like a vampire slayer au naturel or a nasty-smelling butcher at the end of my 8-hour shift.
Seeing these tasks for what they are on the surface will not enable you to understand the actual purpose of such training. Patience and resilience are what you need to help you get through. Realising that all these tasks, both easy and difficult, grooms you to be more knowledgeable, skillful and compassionate toward others working with or for you eventually. This essentially may come in handy when you have made it to a managerial level and are tasked with having to motivate your staff. Experience pays ladies and gents!
2. Sharpening Your People Skills.
“Everyone you meet is like a chapter of it’s own”
Throughout my Industrial Training, I have had the privilege of working with staff who were generous with sharing their knowledge and unsurprisingly, there were also the ones who were not. Appreciate and learn from the ones that are willing to teach and share. Nevertheless, do not be disheartened by the ones who seem to be holding back. Instead, challenge yourself to bridge the gap.
The training also gave me a good opportunity to improve my interpersonal skills. Being trained in the hotel operations divisions such as the kitchen, food and beverage, banquet, housekeeping and front office has definitely groomed me to be an all-rounder and an effective communicator due to daily work exposure of communicating with staff of various levels from different departments.
3. Overcoming Fear and Breaking The Barriers.
“The only way to overcome your phobia is to face it”
Suffering from pyrophobia, I was unable to conduct any task involving fire effectively. My condition worsened after witnessing a coursemate burn her eyebrows when she had a mishap with the industrial stove in our college’s functional kitchen. During restaurant practicals, having to learn and perfect the art of flambé was a real challenge to me. Flambé is a type of cooking method which you ignite food that has to be doused with liquor or liqueur.
It did not take long for the lecturer to spot my fear and I was made to practice the flambé technique after dinner service in front of my classmates. The first few times were a total disaster. Each time the flames lit up, my reactions would unfailingly serve as an entertainment. The flambé pan got flung out of my hands upon seeing the flames shoot up and the liquor in it fell onto my classmate’s pants and shoes, which subsequently got lighted too. Thankfully, all that were just minimal damage and no injuries. Despite the numerous setbacks, I was eventually able to grasp the correct flambé technique. Talk about persistence paying off!
There were several kitchen tasks assigned to me during the training, which I was totally uncomfortable with and was definitely irked out by. Among them were having to slip my hand into a chicken to remove its innards. The sliminess and gooeyness just sends chills down my spine, What more having to grab and give a pull at it! Oh my days, when I had more than a dozen of them! Nevertheless, it was part of the learning process. Changing my thought processes helped in psyching me up to it.
As Nelson Mandela once quoted of saying, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”. As the Hotel Management course covers a broad scope of subjects, there is a high possibility that you may stumble upon tasks during practical training that may pose a challenge to you. Rise up to it. Instead of limiting your challenges, challenge your limits instead.
4. Paper Qualification Doesn’t Give you Immediate Access To The Top.
“Your certificate is just a passport to the working world”
Sitting behind your desk, overseeing staff performances and having staff reporting to you will not be a scenario you will land yourself in instantly. Do not expect to be a holding a managerial or supervisorial position immediately after you graduate. Instead, be prepared to begin working your way up from the bottom of the ladder. Then, what is the point of a qualification in Hotel Management anyway?
For someone with the qualification, the chances are higher for you to move up the ladder quicker. At the end of the day, it still also depends on your work performance and progress. Although you may possess the necessary knowledge when you graduate, skills and experience remain relatively important in getting you promoted to the next level. Sounds like a lot of hard work? Yes, and with versatility, diligence and persistence, you will get there!
5. Working The Odd Hour Shifts.
“Best way to experience working around the clock”
Working the odd-hour shifts. Truth be told, a majority of the hotel staff work shift hours and more often than not, during the weekends too. Therefore, if you are expecting regular working hours with the weekends to yourself, you may need to reconsider your options. Quite frankly, there goes your social life unless your mood and energy levels have not been depleted by then.
Despite the challenges you may face, there is never a dull moment working in the hospitality industry and there are no two identical days. Depending on which side of the coin you choose to view, knowledge and skills can be acquired everywhere and anytime, if only you take the initiative to observe, learn and improve. This reminds me of an inspirational quote by Tony Robbins that I cannot agree with more, “The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is not what they have. It’s what they choose to see and do with their resources and their expertise of life”.
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