L ARUNA DHIR
Work life in a hotel is an over loaded zone – in respect to its impact on us, both physical and psychological. Once we become hoteliers there is little else that occupies our mindspace; it is that engulfing, in terms of job interest and inclination. On the flip side, it is an all-consuming role with its 24-hour, a place-that-never-goes-to-sleep nature.
With high levels of excitement, energy, challenges, commotion, frayed nerves and roller coaster days, it makes sense to be in an ever-ready position at all times, endeavouring to make the best of every situation and present the most competent ‘you’ to everybody and everything. Here follows a list of things that you should always keep around you at work. After all; opportunity, luck and success are the closest cousins of positive outlook, openmindedness, talent and hard work.
1. Toothpaste and Brush – When you work in hotels, you are forever entertaining. A breakfast meeting with the visiting dignitaries, a Press lunch, High Tea for a charity do, drinks with an artist you are planning an event with, dinner with the foreign FAM group. With this sort of agenda, you are also showcasing your specialty restaurants and bars to the invitees. So, what do you do, when in the need to promote your hotel, you have OD’ed on garlic, galangal, lemongrass, scallion, wine, mojito? You take cover in your two-minute dental routine, making yourself more liveable with yourself and more importantly others.
2. Mirror – I and my good looking French boss were alighting in the elevator from his third and a quarter mezzanine floor ivory tower to the Lobby to meet the internationally recognized hot shot Travel editor. Boss man stole a few quick glances in the elevator mirror to straighten his tie and neaten up his hair before we disembarked to meet the doyen. The man would not have had a hair out of place for this meeting or any other.
As hoteliers, we are constantly in the limelight, welcoming heads of state, movie stars, sporting legends, artists, media into our fold. In other walks of life too but much more so in the hospitality industry, one must always be spruced up and look the role at all times.
Therefore, get a mirror hung on the back of your office door. And if you still have some time to get an office of your own then keep a hand mirror in your bag or drawer.
3. Back scratcher – An itch is one thing that is not in your control. It could be started by an extraneous or internal trigger that you have no power over. And when the itch strikes you, you must attend to it. Here’s one situation that cannot be postponed even by the finest procrastinator. And there is that certain spot on your back that even the thinnest of us cannot reach.
That’s where a good, sturdy Back scratcher comes in handy. I picked a nice, wooden one with the hand shaped rather well from Singapore all those years back and it has stood me in good stead for a long long time, saving me from embarrassment and giving me instant relief.
4. Smile – This is the most important of all. Hotel jobs are amongst the most stressful, round-the-clock and drive-you-crazy jobs. And yes, thankless too. The boss, nay bosses will always be on your head, the peers and subordinates will make the road tough to negotiate and the customers – those demanding set who you will displease at your own peril – will want everything here and now. Hence, the best recourse is to have a bag full of smiles stashed away in your pocket, ready to be pulled out and plastered on your face regardless of how you feel within.
The best part of even fake smiles is that they soon become real sweeping both your demeanour and mind with a feel-good mental broom.
5. Outfit – As a hotelier, especially in all front-of-the-house functions, you invariably have an event to organize and attend several times in a month – from GM’s cocktails to formal dinners and events of larger scale. Keep a change of formal dress, pieces of jewellery and shoes close-at-hand for a quick turnaround. Also, mentioning ‘face repair’ kits and signature fragrance might seem redundant but it completes the picture.
In hotels, you don’t have the luxury of coming home to doll up and return. So keeping all this accessible will ensure that you stay looking like your high profile brand, your confidence level is on a high and that the entire evening goes smooth and glitch-free.
For the men too, a change of shirt, dressy cufflinks, jazzier tie take you a long way in becoming an impressive Brand Ambassador.
Also, in today’s times of SARS, H1N1 and what have you, you would be wise to keep an effective sanitizer conveniently tucked close by.
6. Shoes – A hotel job is double edged. You have to not only think and work sharp but also look your snazziest best, at all times. As most stylists have had us believe, from the pre-industrial revolution times, it is high heels that lend a lot of poise to your gait, which in turn spruces up your entire look and injects a lot of self-confidence. But constant use of heels and for all these long hours is akin to the torture of ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ proportions. The quick fix solution – change into comfy shoes as often as you can during the day; definitely in the confines of your office.
As for men, shoe bites and corns are a very man thing which can wipe the panache off the most suave hotelier.
7. First aid kit – It happened to me several years back. Thankfully, I was in my office and not in the Lobby, conference room or entertaining a VIP guest. Wonder what the agent or carrier was, but I was definitely the target of the allergy that broke out in me for the first time in my life. After frantic calls to the family physician and the Hotel doctor, I sent my very able aide to fetch me a couple of tablets of Allegra. At times, it has been an inexplicable bout of headache or the need to sooth down the digestive tract after an unwarranted onslaught.
Keep a little first aid kit with things that come in handy for sharp, stunning paper cuts, headache, stomachache, allergy, a soothing eye drop to bring relief from staring at the computer screen for all those long hours……….you get the drift!
This could also become a ‘force of attraction’ pulling other colleagues into your lair, if they want an easy solution and do not wish to trot down to the hotel infirmary.
8. Book of wisdom – Move over caffeine! This is the best pick-me-up that I can advocate for. Personal problems, professional woes, a creative low, feeling high-strung, rap from the boss, foul play by a colleague, a customer crisis, media behaving maniacally or plain boredom that strikes at that odd hour in the day – this little pocket book packed with gems from other people’s life and learning serves as the best antidote to lift up your spirits, pull up your fallen face and energize you instantly. It fosters all the composure and calm needed to handle a high pressure job. And yes, it makes you wiser too.
9. Rolodex – A rolodex or in today’s times, its virtual avatar, is the most important and trusted ally whilst you are combating all kinds of forces on your office battlefront. From vendors, consultants, media, guests, government, stakeholders to agencies and crisis handlers, you are all the time dealing with ladies and gentlemen of all shapes, sizes and walks of life in this extremely people-centric industry.
An updated, dynamic rolodex is your best friend and mate. Just as an old, outdated one will turn you into deadwood floating aimlessly on the stagnant, murky waters of no-growth and underdevelopment!
10. A step firmly on the fifth plank of Maslow’s Pyramid – Skip the Hollywood sham. In the world and working life, good guys do not finish last. It is quite on the contrary. It pays to be good, genuinely so; because what goes around does come around.
So, go ahead and self-actualize yourself by lending a hand to the boss, team member, junior, that fella from another department; lending a sympathetic ear, mentoring, training, helping meet the deadline, advising or whatever else it takes to make you the ‘good guy.’
Guess who picks up all the people points and gathers all the good wishes when you are that guy in the dock!