Do you enjoy food, drink and, most importantly, dealing with humans? Perhaps hospitality is the right path for you to venture down?
Meet 27 year old Gilly Hayes, a Hotel Management Trainee from Scotland.
So, what does a hotel management trainee actually do?
Over the last 2 years I have worked for an amazing five star hotel brand and have had to work in every department which makes up a hotel; learning how to clean a room from top to bottom, run the pass in the kitchen, supervise the restaurant floor, get restaurant reservations for guests at London’s most popular restaurants and be duty manager for the entire hotel… to name but a few of the day to day tasks!
Did you always know that you wanted to work in hospitality?
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life whilst I was at school and university. I felt very lost when I finished my degree and doing some travelling really helped me take the time to figure out what I was good at and, more importantly, what I enjoyed doing.
Did you go to university?
What was your first job after graduating?
I worked for a hotel whilst at university and after doing some travelling I moved down to London to work for The Savoy in their American Bar. It was gruelling and I found London tough having spent the years prior in a little town in Scotland. However, I learnt an incredible amount from a team of wonderfully knowledgeable and skilled colleagues. Working for such an esteemed hotel ignited my love of the customer service industry and has driven my desire to succeed.
How did you end up in this role?
After a few different jobs in the food and beverage sector including behind the bar, managing a restaurant, in the kitchen and working in a bakery, I decided that I wanted a more well-rounded experience of hotel management. I had been to a few of the hotels in my current company before and decided that it was a company that I could see myself working with. I found the graduate programme through The Caterer website and – three interviews later – including an intense assessment centre, the job was mine!
What do you love about your job?
The team that surrounds me makes my job an absolute joy. This industry is filled with people from all over the world and they all bring with them amazing stories and experiences – learning from them brings me immense pleasure. Also, knowing that you have the capacity to make a guest’s stay into something extra special is a pretty good feeling – seeing guests come back to the hotel time after time and ask after you is extremely rewarding.
Any downsides to the job?
The hours are tough and working shifts means that it’s incredibly difficult to make plans and have a social life with friends who work Monday to Friday. Additionally, being consistently guest-facing means that you are constantly on show, which can be tough when you are dealing with a guest complaint. You have to learn to be extremely adaptable.
Where do you see yourself next?
I finish up my programme this month and will be moving into a permanent role within one of the hotels. The plan is to work extremely hard and be a Head of Department within the next nine months!
What has been the hardest thing about getting to your position?
It has taken me quite a while to get to where I am currently. I was unwell for a long time with Ulcerative Colitis; a very debilitating disease, which caused me to spend a number of years in and out of hospital before eventually having surgery. A few years ago I also started to suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, which means that I often have severe back pain. Sometimes it feels like I am fighting with my body to have the career that I love.
Has your job turned out to be what you expected?
Fortunately, I went into this position with no idea what to expect because when you are dealing with the public there will always be surprises! Maybe one day I’ll write a book about all the strange goings on in the world of hospitality…
What does a typical day at the office look like for you?
In this industry, there is no such thing as a typical day – thankfully! We start each day with a morning meeting, which discusses the duty manager and night manager reports from the previous day, before talking through our arrivals for the day, noting any VIP guests, special occasions or requests, before talking through the figures in relation to budget. I tend to make a list of what I need to achieve each day; which guests I need to follow up with, any specific training which needs to be carried out with the team and any meetings that will be taking place. The majority of my time revolves around the guests; checking that they are enjoying their stay with us, organising any special requests that they may have and dealing with complaints if they arise.
What’s the dress code at work?
Fortunately, I wear a uniform at work, which currently consists of a pencil skirt, shirt and a suit jacket. When I attend training sessions or external meetings the dress code is smart casual – my addiction to Zara A-lined skirts comes in handy for this!
Where to next?
I would very much like to be a Hotel General Manager in the next 10 years.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in the workplace?
I am very happy to work for a company with so many females in senior management roles; whereby 8 out of 9 of our general managers are females, as is our managing director. It’s great to have so many strong female leaders to look up to and learn from.
If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be?
A Penguin catcher in Antarctica.
No, I love travelling and discovering new places, especially those hard to find spots that serve the best local food and drink. My absolute dream would be to become some kind of Bill Bryson style travelling food writer.
What’s the best way to make a good impression?
Be yourself, always be prepared and ask questions.
What are two of the most likely interview questions you might get asked when going for your job?
In my company, we love a scenario-based question. As teamwork is such an important aspect of my job I would most definitely be asked a question regarding this. I would also probably be asked how to best handle guest complaints, as that is a key feature of my role.
And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?
Never stop learning, trust in your own abilities and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
And as the great F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, ‘Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.’
Questions for Gilly?
Let me know and I’ll put you in touch.