No, it’s not from Bill Marriott Jr.
If you’re looking for a feel-good story this week, look no further than The Washington Post story about Marriott’s longest-standing employee, a 79-year-old omelet station cook named Cecil Exum.
When Exum was 19, he took a job at Hot Shoppes, the root beer stand run by the Marriott family. The next year, when the Marriotts opened their first hotel in Arlington, Virginia, Exum was one of its first employees—he washed dishes for about $30 a week.
To put things in perspective, Exum started working for the company roughly at the same time its current chairman and patriarch, Bill Marriott Jr., did.
Exum’s story, as reported by The Post, is a living example of employment trends that reflect economic and social trends through the years. You might not remember what finding and keeping steady employment was like in the mid-1950s, but colleagues, parents or grandparents might. Of course it depended on the color of your skin, on your education or lack thereof and on bigger economic pressures.
Exum said in the article that job security was borne in him from his early years working, and it’s part of the advice he gives new employees at the hotel, the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.
“When someone new starts here, I tell them two things,” he told The Post. “One, sign up for the retirement plan. And two, don’t keep moving job to job.”
Sounds like pretty solid advice to me, even though today’s generation of people entering the hospitality workforce is a lot different than Exum’s generation was—and I’d venture to say the hospitality industry itself is a lot different as well, as companies do their best to hang on to profit margins and get by with sometimes the fewest expensive people as possible.
It’s a tough line to draw, and one of the biggest struggles hospitality companies have—how to balance the needs of modern business with the tenets of human-driven hospitality. That’s why it’s nice to see stories where the people side wins.
It’s also a nice reminder that steady employment is not something to mess around with. I met some recent hospitality program graduates earlier this year and asked them about their first jobs. They all had different types of positions, but one sentiment was the same. “It’s not like we’re going to be there forever,” they said. “This might just be a year, or maybe two years at most.”
Yes, that’s how a lot of people approach jobs now—it’s how I did it, too. Honestly, before I started covering the hotel industry, the longest I stayed at any job was two years at the most, so I’m not one to talk. And there are plenty of benefits to hopping around and trying new things.
But it’s also a good exercise to think about the possibilities of staying with a company and really developing there—seeing what’s to offer and reaping some longer-term benefits. I know that as I’ve gotten older and developed in my career, I think about those things a lot more than I did when I was 23.
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