The top 10 things I’ve learned working in hospitality
The top 10 things I’ve learned working in hospitality
23 JANUARY 2019 8:31 AM

A successful career in hospitality is built on vision, relationships, dedication and continuous education.

Over the past 10 years, helping fellow hoteliers manage their teams, I have discovered a few things to accelerate myself in the ever-changing hospitality industry.

Though not all are new or revolutionary, they did help me to get where I am today, and I want to share them with you. Here’s a list of the top 10 things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Have a crystal-clear vision
This is a basic. I learned this through management and leadership books—in particular, one of Stephen Covey’s, who preached a lot of good stuff, including ‘’begin with the end in mind.” I remember many years ago, at the beginning of my working life, I did not have a very clear vision, but I did have a dream. It was to travel the world.

As the time passed, I found what would become my calling: working in hotels. Yes, hospitality helped me achieve my dream, and now it is my passion.

The moment I understood it was my calling, it then became clear that I had to focus on it and master it. So I dedicated all my working life to give my best at it. Find your calling or your dream, focus on it and do all it takes to make it become a reality.

2. Prepare a great CV and stick to it
A lot of my colleagues and friends have asked me to advise them on their curriculum vitae. Personally, I have not changed my CV in nearly 15 years.

Most important is to make the content interesting, easy to read and view, and to place the most important information where it can be noticed. Then read it 1,000 times to check each and every single word, to ensure it is 100% correct. Then and only then, send it to the potential recruiter, whether an HR director, a corporate office or a head hunter.

3. Work hard
There is no success behind a 40-hours-per-week job. You have to put your hours in. Like it or not, this is a reality and not just in hospitality. At the end of the day, you will need to manage tasks (the easy part), manage a business (which may take some time to master the financial skills needed), and finally manage people (the most difficult and time-consuming).

You just cannot manage a relationship in few minutes. It takes time to build trust and once you do that, nearly anything can be achieved.

4. Build your reputation
Where I come from, we have a saying: “Build your reputation and go to sleep.” To sleep well, you need to work hard and a lot to spread the word out about who you are.

I remember my first job, I was fired after three days. The owner of the place told me to come back only when I learned how to hold a tray in my hands. I did, I mastered it and once the word spread out in my village, people were calling me to work.

Thanks to my resilience, continuous learning and focus on achieving better results all the time, and of course 25 years of hard work, now I do not need presentation. I know what I can deliver and provide to my employer and the people who know me also know about me.

5. Connect with relevant people
I laugh when people tell me that they have thousands of contacts. I urge you to triple-check all your contacts on all social media and your phone. Put aside your real friends and your family; if all the rest are not truly meaningful, relevant and can have an impact on your business or work/career, then delete, delete, delete.

6. Work for world-class companies
I learned from one of my former leaders that I always had a choice: Work for world-class hotels or for ‘’ping-pong’’ ones. Well, I not only chose to work for world-class hotels, but also for world-class people.

Who truly matter are companies that take care of people who take care of the business. Ensure you pick your jobs carefully, study well the company philosophy and check the company references (don’t just let them check yours). A job needs to be enjoyed each and every day, as you will spend a good deal of your life in it. Make sure it is the right one.

7. Choose your leaders and role models wisely
I get crazy when people tell me the reason why they are leaving their current job is because they are not learning anything anymore. That, to me, means we are limiting ourselves and missing an opportunity to learn from the best and worst.

Each leadership style will add value to your learning process; each leadership style will shape you as an individual; and if you are able to take the best from the people around you and master it, this will help you in becoming a stronger, more adaptable and open-minded individual. Flexing your style is essential to be able to lead people from different backgrounds, cultures and origins. A truly global hotelier will need that and more. Hence, choosing your leaders and role models will hone your leadership skills. So choose well, learn from everybody, observe, absorb and apply.

8. Share your knowledge and inspire others along the way
What is the point of learning and not sharing? First, sharing your knowledge will help you fix the information in your cerebral matter. When you train other people, you are training yourself at the same time. Knowledge matters more when it’s shared, and it helps inspire people within your circle of influence. Second, when we share what we know, we help people to develop and research in depth the topic as well as be challenged, questioned, which in turn will help us see things from different perspectives.

If you touch the soul of a person with that same care as, for example, your best teacher, you will then inspire that person and in return you will receive endless gratitude and will have turned a ‘’follower’’ into a disciple.

9. Keep investing in learning and development
You may invest financially or in time, but the moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.

See for example the guest experience in hotels and how it has changed over the course of the past 10 years. See also the UX for websites, social media and tech products like mobile phones. If companies would not invest in research and development, they would be dead by now or bought by other, larger companies.

As much as you think your product, service, or in this case your brain, is prepared with relevant information, if you don’t keep learning, you will definitely fail.

10. Stay relevant
Understanding the current trends and looking ahead to the future will be your life buoy to survive in this jungle that is called working life. The moment you enter is relatively easy and the right attitude will keep you going, but what will keep you afloat is relevance.

Hospitality, like any industry is fast-paced and in continuous change. Keep up with the trends, anticipate when and where to stir your career, network with people that matter, and that will impact what you do.

I have been living my life using top 10s, and it has helped me focus on few but important goals. I hope this will help you, too.

Good luck with your career in hospitality and remember you only have one life. Live it well.

Rocco Bova, an Italian-born hotelier, is a passionate, energetic and enthusiastic professional, with experience from classic hotels to cutting-edge design, from business city properties to resorts operations and from golf resorts to destination wellness with over 25 years of experience. Currently, Mr. Bova is the GM of Chable' Resort & SPA, a luxury wellness resort set in the Yucatan jungle of Mexico.

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